Glasgow march to the top
Glasgow march to the topSHARE
Three tries in eight second-half minutes were enough for Glasgow Warriors to take advantage of Ulster's draw with Treviso – beating Cardiff Blues 29-12 to move top of the Pro12 table.
Dean Budd went over in the last second to complete his hat-trick as Treviso grabbed a 29-29 draw at Ravenhill to dent Ulster's hopes of finishing top.
* In other action on Friday Leinster consolidated their position in the top four of the Pro12 table securing a bonus point in a 26-19 win at Newport Gwent Dragons despite a spirited comeback by the hosts at Rodney Parade.
* Simon Easterby's Scarlets survived a host of missed kicks at goal to continue their pursuit of a top-four finish this season with a 14-13 win against a spirited Edinburgh.
* Zebre were again denied an historic first-ever Pro12 win at the death as the boot of Dan Parks squeezed Connacht to a 23-19 victory.
We look at all Friday's action!
Newport Gwent Dragons 19-26 Leinster
Leinster consolidated their position in the top four of the Pro12 table securing a bonus point in a 26-19 win at Newport Gwent Dragons despite a spirited comeback by the hosts at Rodney Parade.
A first-half brace from Ireland hooker Sean Cronin and one in each half for wing Dave Kearney kept the visitors ahead throughout, though the Dragons had closed to within five points after 50 minutes with Ieuan Jones' try shortly after the break.
It took less than a minute for Leinster to register their first score, and by 67 seconds the visitors held a 7-0 advantage, a lead they would never relinquish.
From the kick-off Kearney confidently claimed the high ball and set about the Dragons defence. His kick and chase had the hosts scampering backwards but it was a Leinster man who got to the ball to touch down for the game's first try through Cronin, converted by Ian Madigan.
Cronin, one of five Ireland internationals who returned to Leinster from Six Nations duty this week, is in something of a rich vein of form after also scoring two tries on his last club outing against Treviso, though once more a hat-trick evaded him.
At first, the Dragons offered an immediate response, Steffan Jones kicking a penalty from 35 metres out to close to within three points of Leinster after four minutes.
But that lead was soon extended as Cronin again earned a second try after fine play by the visitors who were keen to stretch the Dragons and use the width at Rodney Parade, though Madigan was this time unsuccessful with the conversion, leaving his side 12-3 ahead.
The hosts once again fought to close the deficit immediately, attacking their visitors from a successful lineout and breaking into Leinster's 22 to no avail.
After a series of scrums from which Leinster had the upper hand, Kearney increased their lead to 17-3 after strong work by the Irish province's pack, Madigan converting in the 20th minute as the game already appeared to be beyond the Dragons.
But it was from here that the hosts started to gain more possession. Around the half-hour mark Steffan Jones stood up to a big hit, and after playing advantage referee David Wilkinson took play back and Jones kicked three points from the resulting penalty.
Two minutes later, Steffan Jones and his teammates were dealt a blow when centre Jack Dixon was penalised and sent to the sin bin but Leinster failed to take advantage of their extra man as Jones played on when given another advantage and succeeded with a superb drop goal to move ten points behind at 19-9 adrift as the half-time whistle sounded.
Clearly buoyed from how they ended the first half, the Welsh region started the second with equal promise, and were soon back to within five points of Leinster as good work from the returned Dixon saw him hand the ball back inside to No.8 Ieuan Jones for the latter to touch down, though Steffan Jones blotted his personal copy book by missing the penalty.
Approaching the hour mark neither side could seize control with the visitors leading 19-14, but the hosts right back in it.
But third-place Leinster eased any nerves with their fourth try of the match when fine handling play in the Dragons 22 led to Kearney crossing for his second try of the match in the 65th minute, Madigan converting to move his side 26-14 ahead.
The hosts kept fighting until the end and Steffan Jones scored a deserved try of his own with a minute remaining, though he missed the conversion.
For Newport Gwent Dragons:
Tries: I Jones, S Jones
Pens: S Jones 2
DG: S Jones
Tries: Cronin 2, Kearney 2
Cons: Madigan 3
Yellow card: Jack Dixon (Newport Gwent Dragon, 32)
Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Phil Price, 7 Sam Parry, 6 Nathan Buck, 5 Ian Nimmo, 4 Jevon Groves, 3 Lewis Evans (captain), 2 Nic Cudd, 1 Ieuan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Dan Way, 19 Rob Sidoli, 20 Adam Jones, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Tom Prydie, 23 Will Harries.
Leinster: 15 Luke Fitzgerald, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Shane Jennings (captain), 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Mark Flanagan, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack O'Connell.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Andrew Goodman, 23 Eoin O'Malley.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Leighton Hodges, Sean Brickell (both Wales)
Scarlets 14-13 Edinburgh
Simon Easterby's Scarlets survived a host of missed kicks at goal to continue their pursuit of a top-four finish this season with a 14-13 win against a spirited Edinburgh.
After Andy Fenby had gone over early for the Scarlets, it seemed as though the floodgates would open but Edinburgh battled back thanks to the kicking of Harry Leonard and a try from Dougie Fife.
Aled Thomas and his replacement Owen Williams were wasteful with the boot in the second-half, spurning an avalanche of three-pointers as Edinburgh bravely hung to a narrow lead.
However, in the final quarter, after missing his first three attempts at goal, Owen Williams redeemed himself with a simple penalty in front of the posts to give the Scarlets the narrowest of wins.
Scarlets dominated possession and territory in the opening ten minutes, with Edinburgh, who are on a disastrous run of ten consecutive defeats in all competitions, unable to get their hands on the ball.
Easterby's men were eventually rewarded for their early dominance as Thomas struck the first points of the game with a penalty after the Scottish side were penalised for offside inside their own 22.
Scarlets didn't have to wait long for their first try of the evening as wing Fenby broke a tackle in midfield to score his eighth touchdown of the season in the corner on 14 minutes after a lovely offload by Thomas.
Unfortunately the No.10 was unable to replicate his earlier effort with the boot as he missed the subsequent conversion.
For all of their early dominance, a mistake from Thomas off the restart saw Edinburgh build pressure and with their first visit into the Scarlets 22, Edinburgh No.8 Dave Denton was held up on the line.
Edinburgh continued to press and Liam Williams was penalised for not rolling away, allowing Harry Leonard a simple penalty to get the Scottish outfit on the scoreboard.
Williams was again at fault on 23 minutes as he came charging out of the line, giving space for Leonard to pick out Fife out wide to touch down for a score, with the Edinburgh No.10 adding the conversion to make the game 10-8.
After their early domination, Scarlets seemed to implode as another error at the breakdown gave Leonard a shot at goal but this time the No.10 was left frustrated as his kick fell short.
Scarlets suffered a disastrous start to the second-half as replacement scrum half Gareth Davies saw his kick charged down by Edinburgh's Richie Rees in his own 22, forcing the home side into a mistake in front of their posts, which Leonard punished with a penalty.
Ten minutes after the break Denton was penalised for offside, allowing Thomas a simple penalty kick to drag Scarlets back into the game after a period of sustained pressure from the home side.
After replacing Thomas, Owen Williams missed with his first shot at goal, the ball struck the woodwork from distance after Leonard was penalised at the breakdown.
And the Scarlets were again frustrated minutes later as Jonathan Edwards was held up over the try line at the behest of the television match official.
Denton was again penalised on 59 minutes for not rolling away at the tackle, giving Owen Williams a shot at goal but again the replacement failed to add the three points.
Edinburgh didn't learn from their indiscipline at the breakdown and after persistent offending as team; wing Fife was the unfortunate recipient of a yellow card but again Owen Williams missed his shot at goal.
At the fourth time of asking Owen Williams eventually managed to land three points from in front of the Edinburgh posts to nudge the home side 14-13 in front with just 13 minutes to play.
Scarlets again dominated the final ten minutes but they were unable to turn their dominance into points as Edinburgh held firm.
For the Scarlets:
Pens: Thomas 2, Williams
Pens: Leonard 2
Yellow card: Dougie Fife (Edinburgh, 61)
Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Nick Reynolds, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Rob McCusker (captain), 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Sione Timani, 20 Kieran Murphy, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Kristian Phillips.
Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Ben Cairns, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Richie Rees, 8 David Denton, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Stuart McInally, 5 Sean Cox (captain), 4 Perry Parker, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Steven Lawrie, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 John Yapp, 18 Alex Allan, 19 Robert McAlpine, 20 Netani Talei, 21 Chris Leck, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Tom Brown.
Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Tim Hayes, Greg Morgan (both Wales)
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)
Ulster 29-29 Benetton Treviso
Dean Budd went over in the last second to complete his hat-trick as Treviso grabbed a 29-29 draw at Ravenhill to dent Ulster's hopes of finishing top of the Pro12.
Visiting flyhalf Alberto Di Bernardo missed touchline conversion that would have won the game after his side put in a superb display to come away with a draw from fortress Ravenhill.
With Leinster victorious against the Dragons, Mark Anscombe's side now hold a two point lead over their Irish rivals, with Glasgow also in action on Friday, but will feel that they should have wrapped this game up before South African flanker Budd's late heroics.
Treviso started well with full-back Brendan Williams looking dangerous and Di Bernardo notched a penalty after four minutes to put the visitors ahead.
Ulster upped the tempo after that scare and began to spread the ball wide, being rewarded with a penalty but Paddy Jackson continued his kicking woes by missing the target.
Ulster were first to cross the whitewash from first phase lineout ball. Andrew Trimble received a pass from his scrum-half Ruan Pienaar and stepped around the Treviso defence for his eighth try of the season. With Jackson's conversion the league leaders were 7-3 up after 20 minutes.
Jackson extended the Ulstermen's lead with 13 minutes of the half left, slotting a confidence-boosting kick to take the score to 10-3.
Zebre replacement Tommaso Iannone was then sin-binned with eight minutes of the half left for pulling Trimble's shirt and 19-year-old centre Stuart Olding took full advantage of the extra man.
The youngster scored a superb individual try by side-stepping his way past the first line of Treviso's defence and then stepped Fabio Semenzato too for the finish.
Jackson again converted to give the hosts a comfortable 17-3 lead. But then Treviso came on the attack with Williams once again the danger man.
Ulster's Iain Henderson was sin-binned after he kicked the ball out of scrum-half Semenzato's hands as Treviso recycled the ball quickly and the visitors began to batter the Ulster line.
Despite heroic defence from the hosts, flanker Budd got a try before half-time for the Italians which Di Bernardo converted to take the sides in at 17-10.
At the start of the second half, try scorer Budd broke his bind on a scrum and from the resulting penalty Jackson made it 20-10.
Ulster's Lewis Stevenson was yellow-carded for a second high tackle and Robert Barbieri immediately punished Mark Anscombe's side, peeling off the back of a maul for a simple score.
At 20-17, Treviso were within touching distance but Ulster kept it tight and earned a penalty which Jackson converted to take the gap back to six points.
Disaster then struck for Ulster as Ricky Andrew's clearance kick was charged down by Budd.
Paddy Jackson was beaten to the ball by the flanker and he touched down for his second try. With the conversion an upset was on the cards at 23-24.
Jackson edged his team in front with two penalties in the final ten minutes but Ulster lost possession from a kick-off three minutes from time and Budd crashed over for his third try to tie the game in dramatic fashion.
Tries: Trimble, Olding
Cons: Jackson 2
Pens: Jackson 5
For Benetton Treviso:
Tries: Budd 3, Barbieri
Cons: Di Bernardo 3
Pen: Di Bernardo
Yellow cards: Tommaso Iannone (Benetton Treviso, 33), Iain Henderson (Ulster, 37), Lewis Stevenson (Ulster, 51)
Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Michael Allen, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Mike McComish, 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Declan Fitzpatrick, 2 Rob Herring, 1 John Afoa.
Replacements: 16 Neil Brady, 17 Calum Black, 18 Ricky Lutton, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Ali Birch, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Niall O'Connor, 23 Chris Cochrane.
Benetton Treviso: 15 Brendan Williams, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Andrea Pratichetti, 12 Gideon La Grange, 11 Giulio Toniolatti, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Christian Loamanu, 7 Filippo Giusti, 6 Dean Budd, 5 Corniel Van Zyl (captain), 4 Valerio Bernabò, 3 Jacobus Roux, 2 Giovanni Maistri, 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Matteo Muccignat, 18 Pedro Di Santo, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Marco Filippucci, 21 James Ambrosini, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Tommaso Iannone.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Paul Haycock, David Keane (both Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Glasgow Warriors 29-13 Cardiff Blues
Three tries in eight second-half minutes were enough for Glasgow Warriors to take advantage of Ulster's draw with Treviso – beating Cardiff Blues 29-12 to move top of the Pro12 table.
Nikola Matawalu's double, along with a try each for Peter Horne and Duncan Weir, who also chipped in with nine points from the boot, were enough for the Warriors after a slow first half.
Glasgow came into the game fresh from a bonus-point success over league leaders Ulster, but well-aware of the threat of European champions Leinster.
Gregor Townsend's side had won six straight Pro12 to put themselves in an ideal position to push for a home semi-final, but knew they could not afford to slip up at home to the Blues.
Phil Davies' team slumped to a 26-22 home defeat to Connacht on their last outing, but enjoyed success in Scotland a week earlier in Edinburgh.
But it was the home side who should have taken the early lead with a penalty from Duncan Weir – back from international duty – missing a third-minute penalty from halfway.
However the respite was only temporary for the Blues with Horne running in the first home try. The centre endured a difficult evening in the Ulster success, missing every kick he attempted, including an eminently kickable late conversion.
That appeared to have no impact on him in this encounter though, with the 23-year-old scoring a stunning solo effort to put the Warriors in front. Weir added the conversion as Glasgow led 7-0 after a quarter of an hour.
The Blues responded well, and ten minutes later they were level when openside flanker Josh Navidi, playing in the absence of Sam Warburton, went over.
Rhys Patchell slotted the conversion to level things, and he was on target again just after the half-hour with a penalty to put the Blues 10-7 up.
Weir responded immediately with a penalty of his own, but Patchell had the final say of the half as the Blues led 13-10 at the break.
Whatever Townsend said at half-time clearly worked as the Warriors came out a completely different team, giving their visitors no chance in the second 40.
It took them 15 minutes, but eventually they found a way over, and almost inevitably it was their inspirational scrum-half Nikola Matawalu who scored.
The Fijian's fourth try in five Pro12 matches put the home side back in front, Weir converting to make it 17-13.
Three minutes later Weir added Glasgow's third try, converting it himself to put the result beyond doubt.
And it took just four more minutes for Glasgow to secure the bonus point, Matawalu again proving the difference in a sensational recent run.
Scott Wight, who had just come on for Weir, missed the conversion and a later penalty but it made little difference for Glasgow.
For Glasgow Warriors:
Tries: Horne, Matawalu 2, Weir
Cons: Weir 3
For Cardiff Blues:
Pens: Patchell 2
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Peter Horne, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Niko Matawalu, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 John Barclay, 6 Josh Strauss, 5 Al Kellock (captain), 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Ofa Fainga'anuku, 18 Moray Low, 19 Tom Ryder, 20 James Eddie, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Scott Wight, 23 Graeme Morrison.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Chris Czekaj, 14 Owen Williams, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Alex Walker, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Rory Watts-Jones, 5 James Down, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Benoit Bourrust, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Taufa'ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Tamba Petru, 19 Maauley Cook, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Cory Allen.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Andy Macpherson, Graeme Marshall, (both Scotland)
Connacht 23-19 Zebre
Zebre were again denied an historic first-ever Pro12 win at the death as the boot of Dan Parks squeezed Connacht to a 23-19 victory.
The Italians led by two points with ten minutes remaining after Gonzalo Garcia's superb long-range penalty, but Parks' drop goal and a final-minute penalty gave Connacht a fourth straight home win in all competitions at the Sportsground.
Eoin McKeon's first try of the season had got Eric Elwood's men off to the perfect start, with Gavin Duffy also going over, but the boot of Paolo Buso and Leonardo Sarto's try kept the Italians in contention throughout.
It didn't take long for Connacht to take the lead as No.8 McKeon raced clear to touch down following a brilliant pass by Duffy with barely two minutes on the clock, the in-form Parks adding the extras.
In the twelfth minute the hosts were penalised for not rolling away but Zebre's Buso, playing at flyhalf, missed his penalty attempt, skewing well wide to the right of the posts from a good kicking position.
Four minutes later Buso had the chance to make amends and did just that, bringing his side back to within four points of Connacht after good visiting pressure at the breakdown led to another Zebre penalty.
It had been an entertaining start to the match, with both sides playing on the front foot, and Connacht soon had their second try of the match with 20 minutes played, winger Duffy the man to go over.
Receiving a flat pass from Parks, captain Duffy skipped inside two defenders to score, Parks again converting to increase his side's lead to 14-3.
Buso kicked his second penalty from his third attempt after Connacht were penalised at the scrum for losing their binding.
And two minutes later they moved just a point behind their hosts when winger Sarto got in behind the Connacht defence for his first-ever Pro12 try, with Buso, now finding his range, adding the extras from the conversion for 14-13.
Buso could have given the visitors a half-time lead, but he kicked a 40th-minute penalty wide.
Five minutes after the break, Connacht were relieved to extend their small lead to 17-13 when former Scotland international Parks kept up his perfect record by coolly slotting home a penalty awarded when the visitors were penalised in the scrum.
The Italians continued to frustrate the Irish province though, and there was once again just a point in it at 17-16 when from a Zebre lineout the visitors secured a penalty, which Buso comfortably sent through the posts.
On the hour mark a nervy Connacht sent on prop Ronan Loughney and back row George Naoupu but just three minutes later the former was sent to the sin bin. Loughney had attempted to engineer space for scrum-half Kieran Marmion by pulling a jersey but succeeded only in giving away a penalty.
With ten minutes remaining Zebre took the lead for the first time in the game as centre Garcia assumed kicking duties and knocked over a superb penalty from distance to earn a 19-17 advantage.
Minutes later, Connacht were back to their full complement of players as Loughney returned and Elwood's men immediately made a concerted spell of pressure tell following a lineout, a spirited Zebre resistance forcing Parks to kick a drop goal and put his side back into the lead at 20-19 with five minutes remaining.
Zebre's hopes of getting back into the lead were dealt a blow when flanker Mauro Bergamasco was yellow-carded, ending his involvement in the match, and Parks ensured he had the final say kicking home another penalty for the last act of an enthralling encounter.
Tries: McKeon, Duffy
Cons: Parks 2
Pens: Parks 2
Pens: Buso 3, Garcia
Yellow cards: Ronan Loughney (Connacht, 63), Mauro Bergamasco (Zebre, 75)
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Brian Murphy, 11 Gavin Duffy (captain), 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Nathan White, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 TJ Anderson, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Fetu'u Vainikolo.
Zebre: 15 Alberto Benettin, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Matteo Pratichetti, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Sinoti , 10 Paolo Buso, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Andries van Schalkwyk, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Josh Sole, 3 David Ryan, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Andrea De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Luciano Leibson, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Nicola Belardo, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Alberto Chiesa, 23 Samuele Pace.
Referee: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Michael Black, Ed Kenny (both Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)