Davies saves Blues' bacon
Davies saves Blues' baconSHARE
Gareth Davies' flawless kicking display ensured Cardiff Blues emerged with something to show for their efforts in a bruising clash with Benetton Treviso.
The flyhalf's late penalty sealed a 26-26 draw.
* In other action on Saturday Brendan Macken's early try set the tone as a rampant Leinster held off a spirited second-half showing to down Scarlets 36-19.
* Paddy Jackson proved his kicking isn't his only asset with a hand in a wonderful try, as well as contributing 14 points with his boot, to ensure Ulster kept their play-off aspirations on track with a 19-11 victory away to Zebre.
We look at all Saturday's action!
Treviso 26-26 Cardiff Blues
Gareth Davies' flawless kicking display ensured Cardiff Blues emerged with something to show for their efforts in a bruising clash with Benetton Treviso as the fly-half's late penalty sealed a 26-26 draw.
Tries from Chris Czekaj and Robin Copeland had the Blues in a commanding position at the break, 20-9 to the good, but a spirited fight-back from Treviso saw them edge into a 26-23 lead with 12 minutes to go.
But Davies, who scored 16 points with four penalties and two conversions, drew his side level with four minutes to go as neither side were able to seal the victory.
Treviso were first on the scoreboard in what was a lively opening through Mat Berquist, who himself had an excellent day from the kicking tee, on three minutes but Cardiff responded and took the lead with a try from Czekaj – Davies with the conversion.
It then turned into somewhat of a kicking contest between the two fly-halves with Davies and Berquist both adding two penalties each as the score moved on to 13-9 to the visitors.
But the Blues proved to be more clinical with ball in hand and were able to score a second try, this time through No.8 Copeland on the half-hour, which gave them a 20-9 lead at the break.
Despite the deficit it was the home side that came out with more urgency in the second-half and although Berquist missed with a penalty on 47 minutes it wasn't long before Treviso were back in the game.
In fact just two minutes later flanker Alessandro Zanni grabbed a try, allowing Berquist to add the extras, which brought the Italians to within four points of their Welsh opponents.
And Treviso completed the turnaround just before the hour when Edoardo Gori, a second-half substitute on for Tobias Botes, touched down with Berquist successful with his conversion to make it 23-20.
Just three minutes later though and Treviso were down to 14 men as Michele Rizzo was sent to the sin bin and from the resulting penalty Davies maintained his perfect form from the kicking tee to even things up.
With 12 minutes remaining Berquist again edged Treviso into the lead with another penalty and the Italian outfit were looking in a strong position when Cardiff's Samoan lock Filo Paulo was sent to the sin bin for the remainder of the encounter.
But Davies kept his nerve with four minutes remaining to score yet another penalty, his fourth of the match, to secure a draw at the Stadio Monigo.
Tries: Zanni, Gori
Cons: Berquist 2
Pens: Berquist 4
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Czekaj, Copeland
Cons: Davies 2
Pens: Davies 4
Yellow cards: Michele Rizzo (Benetton Treviso, 60), Filo Paulo (Cardiff Blues, 71)
Benetton Treviso: 15 Brendan Williams, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Christian Loamanu, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Mat Berquist, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Dean Budd, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Corniel Van Zyl, 4 Mark Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), 1 Alberto De Marchi
Replacements: 16 Enrico Ceccato, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 19 Robert Barbieri, 20 Marco Filippucci, 21 Alberto Sgarbi, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 James Ambrosini
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 James Down, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Rhys Williams, 1 Sam Hobbs (captain)
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Rory Watts-Jones, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Thomas Young, 22 Tomos Williams, 23 Simon Humberstone.
Referee: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Claudio Blessano (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Leinster 36-19 Scarlets
Brendan Macken's early try set the tone as a rampant Leinster held off a spirited second-half showing to down Scarlets 36-19.
A penalty try and a Jack McGrath score followed in quick succession after Macken dived over, as Ian Madigan added 11 points in a fine showing from the tee.
Scarlets threatened to mount a comeback after the interval – Gareth Davies and Gareth Maule touching down for the visitors – but Leinster secured both the win and a bonus point with Eoin Reddan's effort.
Zane Kirchner added the gloss late on, before the visitors secured another consolation try through Adam Warren.
Scarlets welcomed Scotland flanker John Barclay back into the fray, while five Ireland players – returning after an agonising defeat at the hands of New Zealand last week – bolstered reigning champions Leinster's starting line-up.
Leinster were in formidable form having won their last five matches in all competitions, but Scarlets enjoyed a bout of early pressure at the RDS.
However, following a knock-on by the Welsh region eight minutes in, Madigan had the opportunity to drill a penalty between the posts – and duly delivered.
And it was Leinster who were successful in turning the screw again moments later as Macken got on the end of a sweeping move to touch down, but the match continued to fizz at a high tempo.
Leinster's quick scores had rattled Scarlets however and they looked like buckling under more pressure as livewire Kirchner crashed over in the corner.
The TMO adjudged that the ball had been held up short of the try-line – but it didn't take long for Leinster to be awarded a penalty try for their troubles after tormenting Scarlets' defensive line just shy of the whitewash.
Madigan kicked over the extras before McGrath capped his dream November – after receiving full international honours with Ireland – to drive over under the posts in the 27th minute, Madigan stepping up with a successful conversion once more.
With a Leo Cullen sin bin just before the break Scarlets had a chance to rack up their first points of the night, but monstrous defending from the hosts ensured the Welsh outfit suffered a first-half shut-out.
At 22-0 it was going to take a mammoth effort for Simon Easterby's side to drag themselves back in it – and they did make their man advantage count early in the second half.
Scrumhalf Davies bundled through Leinster lines to dot down though the much-needed conversion was skewed wide.
However, the sirens were well and truly sounding for Leinster after breathtaking backs play from Scarlets secured a second try in the 58th minute.
Replacement Jordan Williams pulled off a fantastic break from his own 22 and after a flurry of pretty passes Gareth Maule stormed over, with Aled Thomas making no mistake with the conversion.
The reigning champions were not to be outdone however and bagged their bonus point in style on the hour-mark as Reddan squeezed through in the corner.
Madigan nailed a troublesome conversion and though Scarlets probed away for an opening, man of the match Kirchner rounded off a special Saturday night for Matt O'Connor's men with a thrilling try, despite Warren's late score.
Tries: Macken, Penalty try, McGrath, Reddan, Kirchner
Cons: Madigan 4
Tries: G Davies, Maule, Warren
Cons: Thomas 2
Yellow cards: Leo Cullen (Leinster, 39), Sione Timani (Scarlets, 51), Brendan Macken (Leinster, 79)
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Lote Tuqiri, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Shane Jennings (captain), 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Aaron Dundon, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Michael Bent, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Darragh Fanning.
Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Nick Reynolds, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Nic Reynolds, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Timani, 7 John Barclay, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Johan Snyman, 4; Jake Ball, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Phil John (captain).
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Horatiu Pungea, 19 Richard Kelly, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Jordan Williams.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffkin (Ireland), S Douglas (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
Zebre 11-19 Ulster
Paddy Jackson proved his kicking isn't his only asset with a hand in a wonderful try, as well as contributing 14 points with his boot, to ensure Ulster kept their play-off aspirations on track with a 19-11 victory away to Zebre.
After a rather lacklustre start Ulster were soon in the ascendency against their Italian opposition and a great score from Darren Cave alongside Jackson's accurate kicking made sure of a second straight Pro12 victory.
The Ulster scrum were getting the better of the earlier exchanges, driving their Italian opponents back at every opportunity, but in the tenth minute Zebre were awarded a penalty at the scrum and Gonzalo Garcia put his side into a 3-0 lead.
Ulster responded almost immediately and drew level on 12 minutes, earning a penalty of their own right in front of the posts that Jackson was never going to miss.
Some desperate defending from Ulster prevented the hosts from getting the game's first try on 15 minutes but when they knocked on Garcia was able to come back for an earlier infringement and kick Zebre 6-3 ahead.
The Ulstermen came even closer to the try-line after some nice offloading from Cave, and Roger Wilson was felled just short as the recycled possession led to nothing.
Garcia then made no attempt to roll away from the tackle and was penalised when Zebre were under pressure once again – Jackson responding with the simplest of penalties on 23 minutes to again level things up.
The move of the match then allowed Ulster to score the game's first try with Jackson, Craig Gilroy and Cave all involved.
Jackson invited the challenge from the Zebre defence and produced a fantastic offload to Gilroy on his shoulder, who in turn was able to offload once more to the advancing Cave who then finished the move off under the posts – Jackson again with the conversion.
That's how it stayed until the end of the first-half but after the break Jackson picked up where he left off with two penalties to give Ulster a 19-6 advantage.
Zebre however did come storming back with a try of their own through Guglielmo Palazzani – the full-back going over in the corner with the Ulster defence stretching following multiple phases of play.
The hosts didn't help themselves moments later, however, as they were offside and again Jackson was presented with a straightforward penalty but this time the Irishman missed, the ball hitting the post.
With time running out Zebre's Mauro Bergamasco made a superb break to set up a try-scoring opportunity but frustratingly with a kick in behind the Italians were guilty of being offside and the chance went begging.
A high tackle from Dan Tuohy gave Zebre a chance to give themselves good field position in the Ulster half with four minutes remaining and after collecting the successful line-out they were on the attack.
But some fantastic defending from Ulster earned the Irish side the put in at the scrum and they held onto possession to see out the result which helps them keep pace with the sides above them.
Pens: Garcia 2
Pens: Jackson 4
Zebre: 15 Ruggero Trevisan, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Kameli Ratuvou, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Tommaso Iannone, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Nicola Cattina, 6 Mauro Bergamasco, 5 Marco Bortolami (captain), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 David Ryan, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Matias Aguero
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Salvatore Perugini, 18 Luciano Leibson, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 Alberto Chilloni, 22 Luciano Orquera, 23 Roberto Quartaroli
Ulster: 15 R Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Mike McComish, 6 Robbie Diack (captain), 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Neil McComb, 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Callum Black, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Craig Joyce, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 James McKinney, 23 Michael Allen.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Stefano Pennè (Italy), Stefano Roscini (Italy)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)