Munster secure top spot
PRO12 ROUND 22 WRAP: Munster secured top spot in the table courtesy of a dominant final-day win over Connacht at Thomond Park.
The home side ran in seven tries, four in the second half, as Connacht had no answer to their power and pace in a far-from-perfect end to their regular season campaign. Keath Earls, Jack O'Donoghue and Andrew Conway scored a try apiece in the first half, with Conway adding a second after the break, with Conor Oliver, James Cronin and Francis Saili completing the rout.
Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors secured the 1872 Cup for the first time in three years but were given an almighty scare after Edinburgh produced a stunning 29-18 victory at Scotstoun. Gregor Townsend signed off as Warriors boss with a defeat after Edinburgh rallied in the second half with tries from Damien Hoyland and Glenn Bryce that trimmed the aggregate score to just two points.
But a classy try from Stuart Hogg on his 100th club appearance and captain Jonny Gray's first-half try ensured Warriors snatched the Cup away from Edinburgh in the final match.
Elsewhere, A superb performance from Willis Halaholo helped Cardiff Blues edge to a 26-24 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons to end their campaign on a high. Inside centre Halaholo thrilled, scoring a try and making big yards with almost every carry.
Carl Meyer crossed early on for the Dragons but scores from Wales international Matthew Morgan and Halaholo put the visitors in control, while Gareth Anscombe's boot also kept the scoreboard ticking over, meaning Sam Beard's late score was no more than a consolation.
*Two tries just before the interval were key for Scarlets, as they ran out convincing 40-17 winners over the Ospreys to seal third place in the standings. A home semi-final was always going to be out of the region's reach heading into the final round, but that did not stop Scarlets putting in an imperious performance against their Welsh rivals.
They led 23-10 at the break despite Keelan Giles grabbing the first try of the day, as the boot of Rhys Patchell kept them in touch before Will Boyde and Steff Evans crossed the whitewash while Rhys Webb was in the sin bin.
And two more tries after the interval from Aaron Shingler, Johnny McNicholl, and the superb Jonathan Davies put the hosts out of sight, and regardless of Dan Baker's consolation score, Scarlets will travel to Leinster for their semi-final full of heart.
*Ulster gave club legend Ruan Pienaar a winning send off at Kingspan with a 17-13 victory over Leinster but it wasn't enough for them to sneak into the semi-finals. The home side needed a bonus point victory at least but were unable to get the four tries against a Leinster side who slipped to second after Munster's victory.
Roger Wilson, on his 221st and last Ulster appearance, and Andrew Trimble got the vital scores for Ulster while Leinster responded with a penalty try. An emotional Pienaar led out the Ulster side with his son Jean Luc in what was in final appearance for the club.
*Benetton Treviso rounded their season off on a high by defeating Italian rivals Zebre 19-3 and secure a spot in the Champions Cup next season. With both sides tied on 19 points going into Round 22, a victory for either would have earned a spot playing among the continent's best sides in the next campaign.
And it proved to be Treviso who came out on top as Marco Fuser's early try set them on the way before a faultless kicking display from Ian McKinley secured the win.
All the scores and scorers!
Glasgow Warriors 18-29 Edinburgh
In front of a sell-out Scotstoun crowd, it appeared Glasgow would have an easy afternoon as Finn Russell converted a penalty after just 90 seconds. But City, who have had a difficult season, showed a great deal of resolve in the opening stages.
Duncan Weir traded penalties with Russell as Edinburgh looked to cut the 13 point aggregate deficit from the first leg. Yet Edinburgh let themselves down again as first Ross Ford and then Sam Hidalgo-Clyne were given yellow cards by referee Mike Adams.
The Warriors eventually broke down a resilient Edinburgh defence with little over 30 minutes on the clock. A fine move which saw Scott Cummings produce a neat pass to skipper Gray who was able to bundle the ball over the line and give the Glaswegians the halftime advantage.
Lee Jones thought he had given Glasgow the lead again early in the second half after a Weir penalty but the wing was adjudged to have put his foot in touch by the finest of margins. Edinburgh gave themselves a glimmer of hope after Hoyland powered over the line as he evaded Lions centre Hogg with neat footwork.
But the game was put beyond the reach of Duncan Hodge's side when Hogg showed his class to break a dogged Edinburgh defensive line. The ball was passed out to the 24-year-old from the scrum who was able to find a gap and power the ball home.
Bryce's late try, almost on the 80-minute mark, and Weir's brilliant kicking in difficult windy conditions was not quite enough to give the capital city side an unlikely cup triumph. Yet the result can be a small positive to take for Hodge's team going into the summer break.
For Glasgow Warriors:
Tries: Gray, Hogg
Pens: Russell 2
Tries: Hoyland, Bryce
Cons: Weir 2
Pens: Weir 5
Glasgow: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray (captain), 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Adam Ashe, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Nick Grigg, 23 Sean Lamont.
Edinburgh: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Murray McCallum, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 George Turner, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Junior Rasolea, 23 Rory Scholes.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White (Scotland), Keith Allen (Scotland)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)
Munster 50-14 Connacht
Munster took an early lead as Earls touched down in the seventh minute as Dan Goggin's line allowed him to offload to the supporting runner, who crashed over for the score - converted by Ian Keatley.
Connacht tried to hit back before the quarter hour mark, but Munster turned the ball over following a clever crossfield kick and the home side cleared their lines. And Munster extended their lead 10 minutes later when Connacht was penalised at the breakdown and Keatley kicked the penalty to give his side a 10-point advantage.
A second try soon followed as Jack O'Donoghue finished off a fine move involving Cronin and Conway running the ball back into danger after Connacht thought they had cleared - Keatley again converting.
And two soon became three just after the half hour mark as Conway produced a fine finish to cross in the right corner following a clever offload from Keatley, who made it four from four in the first half on his 150th Munster appearance.
The home side's domination continued early in the second half, with Alex Wootton jinking through the Connacht defence, before being brought to the ground and the recycled ball finding Cronin, who drove over from close range - Keatley staying perfect from the tee.
That try secured the Munster bonus point and gave the home side a 31-0 lead with 35 minutes still to play at Thomond Park. Connacht did not roll over, though, and they hit back with half an hour to play as Kian Kelleher expertly caught a high cross-field kick from Jack Carty to touch down - Craig Ronaldson converting well from the right sideline.
Conor Murray was then introduced for his first action since the Six Nations and made an immediate impact as his quick ball led to fullback Conway skipping over for his second of the game, again converted by Keatley.
Connacht kept going, though, and got on the board again as Naulia Dawai powered over from the back of a rolling maul with a little more than 15 minutes to play - Ronaldson again converting to reduce their deficit to 24 points.
But Munster continued to press and replacement Saili picked up a loose ball in the Connacht 22 to touch down in the 69th minute and give Keatley a simple conversion for a 45-15 lead.
While the 50-point barrier was broken with an Oliver try in the right corner as the clock ticked into the red, Keatley was unable to maintain his 100 percent kicking record as he was off target from the right touchline.
But it made no difference as Munster ensured it would be Ospreys they faced in the playoffs.
Tries: Earls, O'Donoghue, Conway 2, Cronin, Saili, Oliver
Cons: Keatley 6
Tries: Kelleher, Dawai
Cons: Ronaldson 2
Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Alex Wootton, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Angus Lloyd, 8 Jack O'Donoghue, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Jean Deysel, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Darren O'Shea, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Peter O'Mahony, 20 Tommy O'Donnell, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Francis Saili.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Cian Kelleher, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 James Connolly, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Conor Carey, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 JP Cooney, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Sean O'Brien, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 John Cooney, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Darragh Leader.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Mark Patton (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Newport Gwent Dragons 24-26 Cardiff Blues
In what was their first game in Caerphilly for over 14 years, it took the Dragons just one minute to trouble the scoreboard. Angus O'Brien produced an exquisite chip into the corner and Meyer was on hand to dot down, although O'Brien's conversion attempt was unsuccessful in the swirling wind.
Having had success with the tactic once, O'Brien continued to lean on the cross-field kick and although it didn't produce immediate dividends, the flyhalf did stretch the lead to 8-0 with a penalty off the inside of the post.
However, kicking was soon to prove fruitful for the Blues as Meyer failed to gather Morgan's low grubber, Alex Cuthbert booted the loose ball ahead and Morgan pounced to touch down, Anscombe's conversion narrowing the deficit to one point.
O'Brien slotted a second penalty but some magic from Halaholo conjured up the third try of the game just before the half-hour mark, as his no-look pass started the move and the New Zealander duly finished it off by blazing past four defenders. Anscombe's conversion took the score to 14-11 at half-time.
The lead became six points after the break when Anscombe took advantage of a scrum penalty by bisecting the uprights and when Thomas Rhys Thomas was shown a yellow card midway through the second period, the visitors had a real chance to ram home their advantage.
They dominated territory during that period but the Dragons held firm until good work at the breakdown from Nick Williams won the Blues a penalty, which Anscombe converted for a 20-11 lead. Looking for a first win since January, the Dragons got themselves within three points with just eight minutes remaining thanks to a pair of long-range penalties from the boot of Meyer.
But another Anscombe three-pointer when the hosts were pinged at the breakdown eased any nerves and the nine-cap Wales international then added a fourth penalty with two minutes remaining. There was still time for Beard to grab a try in the corner for the Dragons right at the death and although O'Brien nailed the tricky conversion, they still went down by two points.
For Newport Dragons:
Tries: Meyer, Beard
Pens: O'Brien 2, Meyer 2
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Morgan, Halaholo
Cons: Anscombe 2
Pens: Anscombe 4
Yellow card: Thomas Rhys Thomas (Newport Dragons, 57)
Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Sam Beard, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Angus O'Brien, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans (captain), 5 Cory Hill, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Rhys Thomas, 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Phil Price, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Rynard Landman, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Geraint Rhys Jones, 23 Jack Dixon.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Rhun Williams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins (captain), 6 Sion Bennett, 5 Macauley Cook, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Anton Peikrishvili, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Kirby Myhill, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Tom James.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)
Scarlets 40-17 Ospreys
It was the Ospreys who flew out of the blocks, winning a penalty which was dispatched by Dan Biggar with just a minute played. And while Scarlets thought they had immediately hit back with a try, the TMO ruled out Ken Owens' effort on five minutes, with the hooker adjudged to have just been tackled into touch before dotting down.
Rhys Patchell struck a penalty of his own just a minute later to level the scores, with Biggar the man penalised. The flyhalf soon made amends as Ospreys scored from Biggar's offload; Giles still had a lot of work to do to wriggle out of Owens' tackle, and somehow the youngster stretched over the line to complete a brilliant finish.
Biggar made no mistake with the routine conversion from the left, and it was 10-3 to the visitors on 12 minutes. Successive Patchell penalties on 17 and 23 minutes pegged the Ospreys back, however, and the warning signs were there for the visitors as Davies made a bulldozing break up the field.
And there was a huge moment in the game on 28 minutes as Rhys Webb saw yellow for a high tackle on Owens with the Scarlets bearing down on the line. The hosts looked to make their numerical advantage count immediately, and as they put the ball through the hands it looked like McNicholl had scored in the left corner, but again they were denied by the TMO, who spotted a knock-on at the breakdown in the build-up.
But while Webb was still off the field, Boyde went over on the right as the Scarlets once again put the ball through the hands and made use of the space. And a sublime break from scrumhalf Gareth Davies paved the way for a sucker-punch try just before half time for the Scarlets, as he offloaded to Jonathan Davies who in turn found Evans to finish off the brilliant breakaway under the posts.
And while the Ospreys kept their hosts at bay for the first 20 minutes of the second period, when Shingler went over on the hour mark the floodgates opened. It was Liam Williams who made the initial break and offload, with the effervescent Jonathan Davies there to collect his pass, and Scarlets were lining up in support with Shingler eventually the benefactor to score under the posts.
Two more tries in the final 10 minutes put the gloss on the win; first Evans' sublime offload out the back of his hand released the rapid McNicholl around the outside before the wing was again provider as he collected Jonathan Davies' kick and offloaded for the onrushing centre to complete the rout.
There was still time for Baker to burrow over with a minute remaining, but the nature of this derby victory will have left Wayne Pivac purring ahead of the semi-finals.
Tries: Boyde, S Evans, Shingler, McNicholl, Davies
Cons: Patchell 3
Pens: Patchell 3
Tries: Giles, Baker
Cons: Biggar, D Evans
Yellow card: Rhys Webb (Ospreys, 27)
Scarlets: 15 Johnny Mcnicholl, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Will Boyde, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 David Bulbring, 20 Tom Price, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Hadleigh Parkes, 23 DTH van der Merwe.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Tom Habberfield, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 James King, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Underhill, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Paul James, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Brendon Leonard, 22 Jonathan Spratt, 23 Dafydd Howells.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)
Ulster 17-13 Leinster
Joey Carbery put the visitors ahead with two minutes gone after Ulster were penalised for a high tackle before Josh van der Flier made a try-saving tackle on wing Trimble. The danger wasn't averted though and a five-metre scrum for Ulster and Roger Wilson managed to force his way over from close range to give his side the lead with Paddy Jackson adding the extras.
Flyhalf Carbery was able to reduce the deficit to 6-7 with a 22nd-minute penalty following a strong Garry Ringrose break for Leinster. Piutau was a continuous threat to the Leinster line and although the visitors enjoyed spells of pressure themselves, it was Ulster who got the final points of the first 40.
Jackson added his second successful kick in the final minute to give Ulster a 10-6 lead at the half-way point.
And after numerous reset scrums, the visitors had the try they were after as referee Andrew Brace awarded them the penalty try and Carbery added the extra to reduce the arrears to 13-17. Pienaar was replaced to a massive standing ovation with just over 10 minutes left to go and Carbery kicked Leinster deep into Munster territory from a penalty with six minutes remaining.
But the visitors, who already had a home semi-final secured, were unable to force their way through a stubborn Ulster defence and will now face Scarlets in the semi-finals.
Tries: Wilson, Trimble
Cons: Jackson 2
Try: Penalty try
Pens: Carbery 2
Ulster: 15 Craig Gilroy, 14 Andrew Trimble (captain), 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Alan O'Connor, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Chris Henry, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Jacob Stockdale.
Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa (captain), 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 James Tracy, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Rory O'Loughlin.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Eddie Hogan-O'Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Zebre 3-19 Benetton Treviso
Any hopes of Zebre winning a third successive home game for the first time ever took an early blow when Fuser opened the scoring for the visitors with McKinley adding the extras for a 7-0 lead. The pouring rain was making playing conditions difficult but Zebre was able to reduce the deficit through Carlo Canna's penalty on 16 minutes.
There was another chance for Zebre to add to their tally five minutes later but Canna's penalty came back off the posts. Mistakes were creeping in from both sides but McKinley was able to hold his nerve from 22-metres out on 34 minutes to take the lead out to 10-3.
They were dealt a blow two minutes before the break though when Fuser was shown a yellow for an illegal tackle. But the hosts were unable to add to their tally before the interval, with Canna off target with his penalty.
And it was Treviso who pulled further in front early in the second half as two penalties from McKinley within seven minutes of each other took the score out to 16-3. Zebre rang the changes to try and bring about a reversal in fortunes but a third second-half McKinley penalty added another three points to the visitors lead on 53 minutes.
Zebre were not giving up without a fight and kept pressing, with the pressure telling when Treviso's Tiziano Pasquali received a yellow on 74 minutes. But the visitors' defence held firm to record the win and ensure they finish the season in 10th place, with Zebre 12th.
For Benetton Treviso:
Pens: McKinley 4
Yellow cards: Marco Fuser (Benetton Treviso, 38); Tiziano Pasquali (Benetton Treviso, 74)
Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Kurt Baker, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Kayle van Zyl, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Jacopo Sarto, 6 Maxime Mbanda, 5 George Biagi (captain), 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Guillermo Roan, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Johan Meyer, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Tommaso Boni, 23 Mattia Bellini
Treviso: 15 David Odiete, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Tommaso Benvenuti, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Dean Budd (captain), 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Alberto Porolli, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Teofilo Paulo, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Andrea Pratichetti.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Emanuele Tomo (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)