Round 11 of the Guinness PRO12 kicked off on Friday night and ended with the final fixture on Sunday, with big derby matches being played between the teams from all four countries who have teams in the competition. South African players made a big impact during the Round, earning Player Of The Match accolades in 3 out of the 6 fixtures.
Rynard ‘Ligtoring’ Landman started it off with a Man Of The Match performance for Newport Gwent Dragons against Cardiff Blues at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday afternoon. CJ Stander added a Man Of The Match accolade in a comfortably victorious Munster effort against Leinster, while Rob Herring completed the trio of South African Man Of The Match performances on Friday for Ulster who scraped home against Connacht. Josh Strauss was pipped to the award by skipper Alastair Kellock for Glasgow Warriors against Edinburgh, but Strauss put in a fine performance for the Scotstoun-based outfit outshining his opposite number David Denton and scored the only try of the match, late in the first half.
Head coach Marius Goosen’s Benetton Treviso picked up their first win of the season in the competition in their Italian derby match away to Zebre.
Munster returned to winnings ways in the Guinness PRO12 as they secured their first league double over Leinster in 6 years with a 28-13 triumph at Thomond Park.
The hosts had lost 3 straight games in all competitions, including a narrow defeat to Glasgow Warriors in Round 10en, but exerted their dominance in the derby through tries from CJ Stander, Andrew Conway and Dave O’Callaghan.
Flyhalf Ian Keatley also booted 13 points for Anthony Foley’s side to ensure Leinster dropped out of the top 4 in the Guinness PRO12 table, despite Shane Jennings’ late score for the visitors.
Matt O’Connor’s men were overtaken by their rivals, Ulster, after Craig Gilroy’s sublime finish inspired his side to a hard-fought 13-10 victory in the provincial derby against Connacht at the Kingspan Stadium.
The Irish international winger danced through the Connacht defence to touch down before the break, with Paddy Jackson converting and adding 2 penalties as the hosts led 13-3 going into the final stages.
And although Pat Lam’s side came back into contention through Aly Muldowney’s converted try, the visitors ultimately had to settle for the losing bonus point.
Ospreys secured back-to-back victories over the festive period to remain top of the Guinness PRO12 table after they downed rivals Scarlets 17-15 in a tight encounter at the Liberty Stadium.
Steve Tandy’s side threatened to surge clear as Aisea Natoga dived over after Hanno Dirksen’s scything break and Dan Lydiate dotted down at the back of a maul in his first start for the Ospreys.
Scarlets kept in contention through the boot of Steve Shingler, on for the injured Rhys Priestland, but the hosts kept their cool late on to secure a narrow victory ahead of the return fixture next weekend.
Round 12 will also see the conclusion of the 1872 Cup and Glasgow Warriors have one hand on the trophy after they saw off rivals Edinburgh 16-6 at Scotstoun.
With the hosts leading 6-3, a superbly executed set-piece move saw Josh Strauss score the game’s only try before the interval after excellent work from Sean Lamont and Pete Horne.
Tom Heathcote landed a penalty after the break before Warriors fly-half Duncan Weir kicked his fourth kick of the tie to restore his side’s 10-point advantage ahead of next week’s clash at BT Murrayfield.
Newport Gwent Dragons maintained their perfect record in all competitions in December by claiming bragging rights with a 23-17 win against rivals Cardiff Blues at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.
Elliot Dee barged over at the back of a driving maul before the interval, with the hooker also crossing over in the second half, only for referee Leighton Hodges to have already awarded the penalty try.
Tom Prydie landed 13 points for the visitors and despite a late rally by the Blues that saw Jarrad Hoeata and Tavis Knoyle dive over, the Dragons held firm to secure an unbeaten month.
And in the Italian derby, Benetton Treviso recorded their first Guinness PRO12 win of the season with a 26-16 triumph over Zebre at the Stadio XXV Aprile.
Giovanbattista Venditti scored early on for the hosts before Treviso responded through Henry Seniloli as Kelly Haimona and Jayden Hayward exchanged penalties to leave the game poised at 19-16 in the visitors’ favour at half time.
But on 73 minutes, Treviso flanker Francesco Minto was on hand to finish off a flowing move as Hayward took his tally to 16 points to stun their rivals ahead of next weekend’s return leg.
TRY OF THE WEEKEND:
In an error-strewn contest between Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh, Josh Strauss’ neatly-worked try shone as a moment of exquisite quality from the hosts.
Duncan Weir found an unmarked Sean Lamont on the right flank with a delicate chip, before the winger barged off Tom Brown’s tackle to offload to Peter Horne, who fed Strauss on his inside shoulder to dive over.
BREAK OF THE WEEKEND:
With the derby clash between Munster and Leinster still in the balance at the break, Andrew Conway broke the visitors’ resistance with a scything break for his side’s second try.
Quick ball from the base of a ruck allowed Duncan Williams to feed Ian Keatley, with the fly-half showing deft hands to find Conway as the winger burst past three defenders to touch down.
PLAY OF THE WEEKEND:
After a tense opening 20 minutes, the Irish derby between Ulster and Connacht burst into life with a stunning finish from Craig Gilroy to set Neil Doak’s side on course for victory.
Flyhalf Paddy Jackson produced a neat inside flick to find Gilroy surging through the gain line, before the winger produced two rapid pirouettes to spin away from the Connact defence and touch down.
PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND:
CJ Stander may have been awarded Man Of The Match, but flyhalf Ian Keatley demonstrated once again how vital he is to Munster’s cause this season with an impressive all-round performance against Leinster.
Keatley booted 13 points in a near-impeccable display off the tee and also set up Andrew Conway for a decisive try just after the interval.
Table after 11 Rounds:
|10||Newport Gwent Dragons||11||3||0||8||176||239||-63||13||26||1||3||16|
Cardiff Blues vs Newport Gwent Dragons
Munster vs Leinster
Ulster vs Connacht
Glasgow Warriors vs Edinburgh
Ospreys vs Scarlets