Diack double keeps Ulster on top
Diack double keeps Ulster on topSHARE
Two tries from Robbie Diack and one each for Rob Herring and Ricky Andrew earned Ulster a bonus-point victory over Zebre to keep their spot on the top of the Pro12 log.
Zebre could respond just once through a Daniel Halangahu penalty, leaving the Italians still without a win and bottom of the table.
Eager to atone from defeat in Belfast against Ospreys last time out, Ulster were quick out of the traps and at the first breakdown Luke Marshall put pressure on Paolo Buso's kick and charged it down, but the ball ran over the deadball line just before Darren Cave could reach it.
It appeared early pressure had paid off for the Northern Irishmen when in the eighth minute Andrew Trimble showed fine creativity with a one-handed pass around the tackle of Buso to find fellow wing Chris Cochrane in the left corner. Cochrane grounded the ball over the try-line but official Neil Paterson called for help from video referee Peter Ferguson who ruled Cochrane's trailing leg had gone into touch.
The hosts' disappointment was short-lived however, as from the resulting Zebre line-out Andrea Mancini's over-throw was quickly pounced on by hooker Herring who showed good strength to force his way over for the opening try under pressure from three visiting defenders, Pienaar landing the conversion.
This seemed to spark Zebre into life and they had the chance to get their first points on the board when Duncan Fitzpatrick gave away a penalty, but Halangahu's kick lacked power and fell short of the bar.
Ulster were playing with plenty of width as they attempted to bring Cochrane and Trimble into the game at every opportunity, but the intensity of Zebre's defending kept the league leaders at bay.
In the 34th minute Halangahu made no mistake with his second penalty opportunity of the game to reduce the score to 7-3.
Flank Iain Henderson looked likely to score Ulster's second try shortly after before falling into touch, while Zebre wing Sinoti Sinoti showed promising signs for the visitors with a quick break.
Ulster finally got their second try just five minutes before the break, ensuring the ideal start and finish to the first half. Pienaar and Trimble combined effectively before Cave took over, the centre switching back inside to Diack for the No.8 to increase the lead to 12-3 at the interval, with Pienaar having missed the conversion.
With centre Gordon D'Arcy ruled out of the remainder of the Six Nations for Ireland, the performances of Cave and Marshall in the midfield were of particular focus, and Cave was again involved as his side increased their lead to 17-3 in the 57th minute.
Trimble darted around the outside with a smart dummy before Pienaar cleverly recycled possession to find Cave who waited for Diack's run before releasing the South African to go over under the posts, Pienaar making no mistake with a simple conversion to earn a 19-3 lead.
This came after a try had been ruled out by the video referee when it was found that Henderson hadn't touched the posts with the ball when under pressure from Filippo Cristiano and Marco Bortolami, resulting in a five-metre scrum in the hosts' favour.
With seven minutes remaining Andrew's pace and power ensured a bonus point as he burst through to score his first of the season, Pienaar making it 26-3 from the boot.
Tries: Herring, Diack 2, Andrew
Cons: Pienaar 3
Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Chris Cochrane, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Lewis Stevenson, 4 Johann Muller (captain), 3 Declan Fitzpatrick, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Calum Black, 18 John Afoa, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Stuart Olding, 23 Neil Walsh.
Zebre: 15 Paolo Buso, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Alberto Benettin, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Josh Sole, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Filippo Cristiano, 5 Marco Bortolami (captain), 4 Michael van Vuren, 3 Luca Redolfini, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Andrea de Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Carlo Fazzari, 18 Matias Aguero, 19 Dries van Schalkwyk, 20 Nicola Belardo, 21 Alberto Chiesa, 22 Matteo Pratichetti, 23 David Odiete.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), Barry O'Keeffe (Ireland)
TMO: Peter Ferguson (Ireland)
Glasgow Warriors 60-3 Newport Gwent Dragons
Glasgow Warriors centre Mark Bennett grabbed a try on his debut as Gregor Townsend's side made it five wins from their last five games with an impressive 60-3 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.
Tim Swinson scored two of Glasgow's eight tries in an emphatic win that condemns the Welsh side to their 11th loss this season, leaving them one place off PRO12 bottom side Zebre.
Scotland Under-20s player Bennett, who made one first team appearance for Glasgow in 2011 against Leinster, has returned on loan from current club Clermont Auvergne and marked his comeback with a strong performance.
The Warriors hadn't won at Rodney Parade since 2008, but the bonus-point win keeps them within touching distance of Ulster at the top of the table.
The Dragons got on the scoreboard early through winger Tom Prydie's penalty after two minutes. But from the kick-off the Welsh side immediately conceded a penalty – Jonathan Evans coming into a ruck from the side. Duncan Weir levelled it up at 3-3.
Another penalty followed after Glasgow pulled down a Dragons maul, but 20-year-old Prydie hooked his attempt wide.
With fifteen minutes played the Warriors started to batter the Dragons line. After a patient build-up the ball was spun wide and debutant 20-year-old centre Bennett side-stepped a defender to go in under the posts. Weir converted and it was 10-3 to the visitors.
Glasgow extended their lead four minutes later. Henry Pyrgos nudged a kick over the top of the ruck and the chasing Nikola Matawalu found the ball bouncing straight into his hands, going over for a try. Weir again added the extras and the Dragons were 17-3 down after 20 minutes.
Fullback Dan Evans knocked on in his own 22 and from the resulting scrum Townsend's side went in at half-time 27-3 up. Alex Dunbar scored after a switch with Weir, completing a good half for the visitors.
The Dragons came bursting out of the blocks at the start of the second half but they failed to come away with points when in the Glasgow 22. But Glasgow had one chance and took it. Again from first-phase ball Alex Dunbar slipped through several tackles and offloaded to substitute Taylor Paris for a bonus point try.
Glasgow proceeded to turn on the style. Swinson went over following a line-out maul, and Josh Strauss finished off a good handling move to extend the lead. Swinson crossed again for his second and substitute Scott Wight added yet more points right at the death with a try of his own, which he converted himself, to end the game huge victors with a 60-3 away win.
For Newport Gwent Dragons:
Tries: Bennett, Matawalu, Dunbar, Paris, Swinson 2, Strauss, Wight
Cons: Weir 5, Wight 2
Pens: Weir 2
Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Will Harries, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Owen Evans, 7 Hugh Gustafson, 6 Nathan Buck, 5 Ian Nimmo, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Lewis Evans (captain), 2 Nic Cudd, 1 Ieuan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Nathan Williams, 19 Josh Tyler, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Adam Hughes, 23 Hallam Amos.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 DTH Van Der Merwe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Henry Prygos, 8 Ryan Wilson (captain), 7 John Barclay, 6 James Eddie, 5 Tom Ryder, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Gerwyn Price, 17 Ofa Fainga'anuku, 18 Moray Low, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Scott Wight, 23 Fraser Thomson
Referee: Claudio Blessano (Italy)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Rhys Thomas (Wales)
TMO: Neil Ballard (Wales)
Connacht 22-10 Ospreys
Dan Parks continues to produce his consistent kicking when it matters most as his 17-point haul inspired Connacht to a first victory over PRO12 play-off chasing Ospreys since 2008.
Kahn Fotuali'i and Willie Faloon exchanged early first-half tries but ill-discipline from the Welsh side was punished throughout the 80 minutes by the in-form flyhalf.
Ospreys welcomed back Welsh stars Alun-Wyn Jones and James King who formed a strong second row, as part of a starting line-up which still only boasted four internationals.
But an outstanding kick from Parks put their line-out under early pressure, the flyhalf finding touch six metres from the Ospreys line inside the opening ten minutes.
And after the resulting throw wasn't straight, Brett Wilkinson earned his side a penalty in the scrum and Parks made no mistake from the tee, sending the ball between the posts for an early 3-0 lead.
In response, Ospreys produced a powerful scrum of their own and in winning a penalty Matthew Morgan found the corner five metres from the Connacht line.
The Welsh region claimed the line-out with ease and forced another penalty, from which a quick tap and go from scrumhalf Fotuali'i resulted in the game's first try on 11 minutes as the Samoan dived for the line.
Morgan added the conversion for a 7-3 lead but five minutes later the hosts were in front once more as Faloon touched down after a sweeping move.
A good offload from John Muldoon was followed by good play from Michael Swift, with the ball eventually finding Faloon's hard line. Parks kicking the extras from a tough angle to take the score onto 10-7.
The confident flyhalf then attempted a penalty on halfway in the 19th minute and although his effort had the distance against the wind, his effort sailed just wide.
More impressive scrummaging from the Connacht front five driving the visitors back, resulted in another opportunity for Parks who extended the lead to 13-7 from 30 metres with his third kick from four.
More poor discipline from Ospreys early in the second half allowed the Irish side the opportunity to gain the upper hand and Parks slotted the ball over for a two-score lead at 16-7.
Great vision from the former-Scottish international put the Ospreys backs under immense pressure and although a speculative drop-goal from the flyhalf on 53 minutes went wide, Connacht were the dominant force.
There was still fight in the visitors, who were looking to remain in a play-off position, as 20-year-old Morgan kicked a penalty to cut the lead to just six points with ten minutes remaining.
But minutes later an outstanding chase from Robbie Henshaw, Eoin Griffin and Danie Poolman, after Parks hung up a great kick, put Richard Fussell under serious pressure and forced him to concede a penalty.
Parks was successful once again but he wasn't finished there as three minutes later he added a drop-goal to take his tally to 17 points and seal the victory by 22-10.
There was still time for King to be sin-binned in the last action before the final whistle for a spear tackle, summing up a disappointing evening for the Ospreys.
Pens: Parks 4
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Kyle Tonetti, 11 Danie Poolman, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White (captain), 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Andrew Browne, 20 Johnny O'Connor, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Gavin Duffy.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Tom Habberfield, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Jonathan Spratt, 11 Ben John, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Morgan Allen, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Joe Bearman, 5 James King, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Cai Griffiths, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Lloyd Peers, 20 Jonathan Thomas, 21 Arthur Ellis/Sam Davies, 22 Rhys Webb, 23 Ross Jones.
Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
Assistant referees: Michael Black (Ireland), Will O'Connor (Ireland)
TMO: Jude Quinn (Ireland)
Edinburgh 16-17 Cardiff Blues
Rhys Patchell added to his burgeoning reputation with a fine display at flyhalf as Cardiff Blues edged out Edinburgh 17-16.
Cardiff were in control on the scoreboard at the break, leading 14-6, but despite Mike Paterson's try it was a fairly even opening 40 minutes.
Edinburgh flew out of the traps in the second half and replacement prop WP Nel burrowed over for a converted score before replacement flyhalf Harry Leonard booted the hosts ahead.
But fittingly it was Patchell who settled the contest, the 19-year-old converting a penalty after a fine break from wing Harry Robinson to deliver the Blues their third win in four PRO12 games.
Edinburgh had the chance to take an early lead when Blues loose forward Josh Navidi was penalised for hands in the ruck but Gregor Hunter was wide with his penalty attempt.
Young Blues flyhalf Patchell punished the miss on five minutes when he kicked the visitors into a 3-0 lead after a penalty at the scrum.
That triggered a spell of Cardiff pressure and while Edinburgh prevented the Blues from crossing the whitewash they gave Patchell a second penalty that he sent over on 13 minutes.
Fine play from centre Ben Atiga took Edinburgh into Cardiff territory but Hunter was unable to kick the penalty after the visitors were penalised.
A great step from Nick De Luca, returning from injury, opened up the Blues' defence but after the ball was recycled David Denton failed to find Dougie Fife with the try line in sight.
Edinburgh were on the board in the 25th minute when Hunter made it third time lucky but Patchell immediately added his third penalty of the game to make the score 9-3 to the visitors.
Hunter then failed with a long-range attempt but converted a more straightforward kick on 34 minutes.
However the Blues had the last word on the half when Patchell dropped the shoulder to beat his man and feed Paterson who crossed for the first try of the game, and while the flyhalf missed the conversion, they led 14-6 at the break.
Prop Nel was one of two replacements made by Edinburgh at the break and the 26-year-old burrowed over from short-range ten minutes into the second half to put the hosts right back in the game.
Hunter slotted the conversion to put Edinburgh within a point of the visitors and his replacement Leonard kicked the home side ahead after the Blues were penalised at the scrum.
Both sides began searching for the crucial next score and after a fine break from Robinson it was a penalty from the boot of Patchell that edged Cardiff back ahead.
Leonard's missed pass looked to have put Edinburgh in only for replacement wing Tom Brown to knock on with the try-line gaping as Cardiff held on to win.
Pens: Hunter 2, Leonard
For Cardiff Blues:
Pens: Patchell 4
Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Gregor Hunter, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Stuart McInally, 6 David Denton, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Steven Lawrie (captain), 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 Allan Jacobsen, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Sean Cox, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Chris Leck, 22 Harry Leonard, 23 Tom Brown
Cardiff Blues: 15 Jason Tovey, 14 Owen Williams, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 James Down, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Marc Breeze, 1 Taufa'ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Andries Pretorius, 21 Alex Walker, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Chris Czekaj.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: David Changleng (Scotland), Bob Nevins (Scotland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)