LEINSTER WIN TOP-OF-TABLE CLASH DESPITE RED CARD
Leinster made it nine wins out of nine in the BKT United Rugby Championship with a 38-29 victory in their top-of-the-table clash with Ulster despite being down to 14 men for an hour.
They had 121-cap Ireland prop Cian Healy red carded on 20 minutes for head-on-head contact in a tackle and trailed 22-3 just before the break at the RDS. But they hit back to claim a stirring bonus point triumph, with skipper Garry Ringrose claiming two of their five tries.
International centre Ringrose said: “The red card kind of galvanised us and tightened up our game. It forced us to really roll our sleeves up. I am really proud of the lads. We have massive respect for Ulster, so we are delighted with that win. We are unbelievably grateful for the people who turned out. They got right behind us and we definitely needed that. It 100 per cent helped us.”
SPRINGBOKS SENSATION STRIKES AGAIN
Springboks sensation Kurt-Lee Arendse carried on where he left off in the autumn internationals as he played a key role in the Vodacom Bulls beating Cardiff 45-9 at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld.
Having scored five tries on South Africa’s European tour, including a stunner against England at Twickenham, he was over the whitewash again on his return to the URC, while also setting up two touchdowns for fellow ‘Boks back three man Canan Moodie.
Cardiff boss Dai Young said: “We certainly didn’t come in under the radar after winning last week (35-0 against the Sharks). It put the Bulls on red alert and we knew we would be in for a bit of an onslaught.
“I thought we handled it pretty well for 38 minutes. We were really competitive, we matched their physicality and we were in the game, but once they got two scores in front there was only going to be one winner really. They are a real quality team, with a good balance between strength, power and size up front and some real pace behind.
“We have had a successful tour. The Bulls were a bit too much for us, but we had a good win last week, we are going back with five points and we have blooded a lot of youngsters and they will only learn and benefit from that.”
CARBERY COMES UP WITH THE POINTS
Munster rattled up 31 unanswered points as they came from behind to claim a notable 38-17 bonus point win away to Edinburgh.
They went 12-0 down early on and trailed 17-7 just prior to the interval, but took charge in the second half, with fly-half Joey Carbery among their five try scorers as he finished with an 18 point haul.
After a difficult start to the season, Munster have now won three games on the bounce, including the triumph over South Africa A. Head coach Graham Rowntree said: “There has been a lot of change at the club, change in personnel, change in coaches, change in the way we are playing. We have had a lot of moving parts as well, we have used over 56 players so far this season because of injuries and guys being unavailable.
“But I’ve seen how hard we’ve worked, particularly on our fitness so we can stay in games, and it’s coming through. We have worked on our attacking game, we are kicking less, but you always need a power game to go back to. Physicality and set-piece, that’s Munster, that has to be us going forward.”
DRAGONS DIG DEEP AGAINST CHAMPIONS
Dragons coach Dai Flanagan said he was “super proud” of his players after they fought back to claim a four-try bonus point in a 34-26 defeat to the DHL Stormers in Gqeberha.
They were trailing 28-0 just before the break against the reigning champions, but responded with touchdowns from wing Jordan Williams, fly-half JJ Hanrahan and props Aki Seiuli and Josh Reynolds.
Flanagan said: “The Stormers are as good as it gets in this league away from home. They had seven out of nine internationals back and they came with intent and I think it shocked us.
“We left ourselves too much to do and were probably out of the fight by half-time, but you can’t question the character and the effort of the team. It was pleasing how we corrected things in the second half and it takes a tough group of people to do that. You can’t help but be super proud of the group.”
Adding his thoughts, DHL Stormers coach John Dobson said: “Maybe towards the back end of last season, the Dragons would have disappeared. Their fight, their body language, their energy wasn’t something we would associate with the Dragons for the last year or two. We were holding on at the end. Dai Flanagan can be very proud of his team.”
CELL C SHARKS BOUNCE BACK AMID WIND OF CHANGE
After a turbulent week, the Cell C Sharks claimed a much-needed 25-10 victory over the Ospreys at a windswept Kings Park Stadium in Durban.
The humiliating 35-0 defeat they suffered at home to Cardiff in the previous round had seen head coach Sean Everitt step down from his post.
It looked as though the Sharks were in danger of losing to another Welsh side when the Ospreys cut the deficit to 11-10 in the final quarter following tries from winger Luke Morgan and excellent No 8 Morgan Morris.
But late touchdowns from 15-point Player of the Match Curwin Bosch and replacement back row James Venter saw them pull clear.
Fly-half Bosch, making his first appearance of the season after recovering from a hand fracture, said: “We have obviously had a tough week, but this is a place we will fight for. There are still people that come out and support us and we know there are still people at home watching us, supporting us.
“I know it wasn’t pretty out there, but that performance was just to get the belief back into the team. We just love this place.”
Despite being decimated by injury, unavailability and illness in their camp, the Ospreys put in a hugely spirited display, but left South Africa empty handed having lost 43-26 to the Vodacom Bulls the week before.
Head coach Toby Booth, who was among those to be struck down by illness, said: “There’s a lot of frustration, but a lot of pride in what the guys have put into the shirt over the couple of weeks, dealing with the diversions and the influences that are detracting from performance.
“We have a very large number of players that are out of contract, we contribute loads of players to the Welsh squad. None of those were able to come out due to the fixture list and the Welsh programme.
“We also had illness to deal with this week, myself included, but we have come out here with what we’ve got and got on with it and pushed two teams hard. We fought tooth and nail against a lot of factors.”
REST OF THE ACTION
Glasgow bounced back from last week’s heavy defeat to Leinster by running in six tries during a 45-17 victory over Zebre out in Parma, with hooker Johnny Matthews helping himself to a brace after coming off the bench.
Meanwhile, in Galway, try-scoring No 8 Paul Boyle picked up the Player of the Match award as Connacht claimed maximum points in beating Benetton 38-19. The visitors from Treviso had Kiwi second row Scott Scrafton red carded for head on head contact in a tackle just before the hosts sealed the bonus point through scrum-half Caolin Blade.
In the final game of the weekend, the Emirates Lions defeated the Scarlets 32-15 in the heat of Johannesburg to move up to fifth in the URC table.
A superb weaving finish from wing Rabz Maxwane was the highlight of the contest, while talented young No 8 Emmanuel Tshituka crossed twice, with his second sealing the bonus point.
Flanker Dan Davis, winger Tom Rogers and lock Sam Lousi went over for the Welsh visitors, who, like the Ospreys, still have just the one league win to their name this season.