CARDIFF STUN THE SHARKS IN HISTORIC DURBAN VICTORY
Cardiff became the first Welsh team to win a United Rugby Championship match in South Africa as they recorded a stunning 35-0 bonus point victory over the Sharks in Durban.
Going into the game, there had been 11 successive defeats for Wales’ four sides out in the Rainbow Nation in the expanded 16-team tournament. But Dai Young’s men proceeded to make history with a comprehensive triumph at Kings Park Stadium where their tactical kicking game in the wet conditions and breakdown work over the ball reaped rich reward.
There were two touchdowns from director of rugby Young’s son, flanker Thomas Young, who also earned a penalty try with a superb kick and chase in a Man of the Match display, while full-back Ben Thomas went over to secure the maximum points
Earlier on Sunday there were three tries apiece in Johannesburg, but it was the boot of 21-point Jaden Hendrikse that proved decisive in the Lions’ 33-25 victory over the Dragons.
Fly-half Hendrikse added a touchdown to his six successful shots at goal, while wing Sio Tompkinson, hooker James Benjamin and scrum-half Che Hope went over for the visitors, who will rue a couple of missed chances and failing to fully capitalise on two yellow cards for their opponents.
However, Dai Flanagan’s team did spend much of the game on the back foot, having to do a lot of defending in the face of the Lions’ relentless carrying.
All four Welsh sides are currently on tour in South Africa and it was Scarlets and Ospreys who played in the opening fixtures of the round on Friday and Saturday.
It was the Scarlets who kicked things off against the league champions in Cape Town, going down to a 36-19 defeat at the hands of the Stormers, despite two tries from in-form winger Ryan Conbeer.
The home side crossed five times to claim a bonus point victory that puts them fourth in the table, with centre Dan du Plessis among the men to touch down amid a Man of the Match display.
Scarlets coach Dwayne Peel commented: “I am disappointed, to be honest, after coming here off a good block of training. At times, we were really good and we scored some lovely tries, but it needs to be more of a rounded performance.
“Our skill execution let us down at crucial moments. We had opportunities to score tries and we didn’t do that. We need to put sides away when we get to those moments because it is hurting us not doing that. We also made errors that gave them the ball and they executed every time in the first half.”
The Ospreys were beaten 43-26 by the Bulls in Pretoria, but did have the consolation of a four-try bonus point, with fly-half Jack Walsh, prop Rhys Henry and centres Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler and Kieran Williams crossing.
There were seven tries in all from the hosts who were 31-14 up at the break, with winger David Kriel claiming a brace as they moved up to third spot. Giving his thoughts, Ospreys captain Rhys Webb said: “We knew it was going to be a massive test coming here to play a strong side like the Bulls. We had an inexperienced team, but we are not using that as an excuse. All I asked them to bring is their energy and physicality and, to be fair, they did that for large periods of the game.
“It’s our own mistakes that let the Bulls score simple tries. We know when we play big teams like this we need to be on the money for the 80 minutes. We are pretty happy with the bonus point try, but we need to be on the money all the time.”
BEIRNE’S LANDMARK PERFORMANCE
Ireland star Tadhg Beirne marked his 50th appearance for Munster with a Player of the Match display as they beat Connacht 24-17 in a titanic tussle at Limerick’s Thomond Park.
It was all square 10-10 at the interval, but Graham Rowntree’s side got the job done in the second half, adding a bonus point thanks to finishing up with four tries.
This was their first league win over Irish opposition in six attempts and has seen them take big strides up the table, having started the game down in 14th place.
Second row Beirne, who was named in the World Rugby Men’s 15s Team of the Year last week, joined the likes of Peter O’Mahony, Joey Carbery and Craig Casey in returning to URC action after being away on international duty.
“We watched the boys put in a massive performance against South Africa A a couple of weeks ago, so we were chomping at the bit to get back in here and be involved in it,” he said. “With the position we were in, we needed all hands on deck to help the team get back to winning ways in the league because we didn’t want to be where we were. Thankfully we have done that. Connacht always make it a dog fight. It’s always a tight game and it was no different this time.”
HENDERSON’S HAPPY RETURN
Another Irish international lock, Iain Henderson, put the frustrations of the past few months behind him as he made his first appearance of the season and shared in Ulster’s 36-15 victory over Zebre.
Henderson hadn’t played since damaging his knee during training on Ireland’s summer trip to New Zealand, an injury that saw him head home before the first tour match and consigned to a lengthy lay-off.
But now’s he back and made an immediate impact on coming on as a replacement against Zebre, winning a lineout to set up one of his team’s six tries at the Kingspan Stadium.
Speaking about his spell out of the game, he said: “We have had a plan between me, the coaches and physios and stuck to the plan. Frustrating as that has been at times, we’ve got here now, so I can put all those worries to bed.”
Next up for second-placed Ulster is a top-of-the-table BKT URC clash with leaders Leinster at the RDS. “Down the road to Dublin, that’s as big as any game of the season and then we’ve got two big back-to-back European games after that, so we’ve got our work cut out definitely,” said Henderson.
It was a bad weekend for the two Scottish sides. Edinburgh were beaten 24-17 by Benetton out in Treviso, even though the Italians had international back Matteo Minozzi red carded for dangerous play after just ten minutes on his debut following a move from Wasps.
Two South Africans were central figures in the contest. There was a try double from the visitors’ full-back Henry Immelman, but it was his countryman, scrum-half Dewaldt Duvenage, who was named Player of the Match after setting up a couple of tries, including the clincher in a bonus point win.
As for Glasgow Warriors, they were thumped 40-5 by table-topping Leinster who made it eight wins out of eight in the league, with winger Rob Russell crossing for a hat-trick of tries. All eyes will now be on the RDS next Saturday evening as first plays second, with Leinster entertaining Ulster.