Round 13 in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 proved unlucky for some, with one or two unexpected results throwing the curve, and some pure entertainment thrown in for good measure.
Dragons 21 – Ospreys 20
Kicking off the weekend’s action was the unexpected match of the round, with a real nail-biter from the leading Welsh side the Ospreys playing away against the perennial regional underdogs, the Dragons. Even though the first half was fiercely contested it came to nothing more than trading penalties, and each team losing a player to the bin either side of the half time whistle. What came afterwards however were a pair of beauties from the Dragons, with the first try coming from a great step inside and back outside again on the 5m line from their fullback Martyn Thomas, quickly followed up by a stunning intercept try from the halfway line by Lewis Robling. With Lydiate playing a solid game and Faletau having an immense game, both sides stepped it up a gear. This paid off for the Ospreys eventually, scoring a try off what admittedly looked like two forward passes, but with a lovely finish by Tommy Bowe. However Dan Biggar failed to convert, and with the scoreline at 21-20, had a last move drop goal come off the post which was then cleared to finish the game. With ten changes having been made to the Ospreys lineup from their last match due to a short turnaround, they were made to pay the price of underestimating the opposition.
Moment of the match: Faletau’s whole game at Blindside. Guaranteed starter for Wales in the Six Nations, and he also gets my Player of the Round.
Edinburgh 20 – Ulster 42
Ulster looked confident throughout this match as they sliced through Edinburgh on their home turf in this four try whitewash. Edinburgh really only managed to get on the scoreboard through two gifted tries, one off the back of a loose ball in the Ulster 22 due to a fumble by the otherwise reliable Ruan Pienaar, and another off of a stolen ball off the back of a botched lineout. Stephen “Super Fez” Ferris was immense as ever in carrying and at the breakdown, with at least one try assist to add to his tally. With some great performances from the centres, and from man of the match Paul Marshall, a comfortable win seemed inevitable, whilst the thirteen changes to the Edinburgh side from their previous loss to Glasgow seem to have been fruitless.
Moment of the match: The superbly worked bonus point try between Marshall, Trimble and Cave from their own 22. From 1:52:
Aironi 20 – Connacht 6
You might expect from a bottom of the table clash that you wouldn’t get much rugby for your money, and this proved true. It was not only awful, but the worst performance from Connacht I have ever seen. It was scrappy from both sides throughout, but Connacht seemed determined to throw this away from the outset. Consistent infringements led to Aironi kicking a 9 – 0 lead and an eventual binning for prop Dylan Rogers for the accumulation of infringements by the forwards. Fourteen men and loose defending let Sinoti Sinoti through for a soft home side try. They traded kicks until Connacht were handed an opportunity to close he margin when Aironi went down to fourteen for one of their props throwing a punch, but despite camping out in the opposition 22 they were unable to finish and merely eked out a penalty score. A match best forgotten by the men from the west, and another home scalp for Aironi to add to Edinburgh and Treviso.
Moment of the match: The full time whistle.
Cardiff Blues 19 – Leinster 23
A quick start from Leinster with a try worked by Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip off a quickly taken scrum penalty through a bewildered and static looking Cardiff defense was quickly followed up by Rob Kearney carving straight through the defensive line off of an inside pass. However a team of the Blues calibre wouldn’t be turned aside as easily as that, and quickly regrouped and tightened their lines. Several well placed penalty kicks put them back within reach at 17-9 at the halfway mark. A controversial TMO allowed try by the prop Gethin Jenkins in the second half pushed the score to 20-19, but two missed penalties from Leigh Halfpenny left the score at that until Fergus McFadden put one over himself before the end for the table toppers to finish 19-23.
Moment of the Match: The puzzled but pleased look on the face of unexpectant Gethin Jenkins when he was awarded the try.
Scarlets 16 – Warriors 14
In a scrappy match throughout, this may be a game both sides would rather forget. An early try by was hacked out by Low from a botched Scarlets lineout near their own line, but they then lost Ruaridh Jackson to injury within the first 15 minutes. The Warriors then conceded two yellows before half time, which was capitalised upon by Gareth Davies going over the line in first half injury time. The Scarlets were held scoreless in the uneventful second half, but the job had been done at that stage, with the final score standing at 16-14. The coaches for both sides will have had plenty to discuss with their charges afterwards, and injuries to Jackson and Low are causing concern for Scotland’s upcoming Six Nations campaign.
Moment of the Match: Four defenders being needed to bundle wunderkind George North into touch just shy of the tryline.
Munster 29 – Treviso 11
Treviso came into this game with high hopes, having put away wins in over Connacht and Ulster already this season. While the first half was scrappy, with a 10-6 scoreline and a single try by Niall Ronan, any doubts over Munster’s win fell away quickly in the second half. Earls went over, and showed great form paired with pace at centre, whilst deserving man of the match James Coughlan’s try showcased his strong direct running and a right shoulder you don’t want to be on the receiving end of. Simon Zebo had a mixed bag of a game, but managed good late try to secure the bonus point for the Thomond faithful, leaving them third in the table a mere point behind Ospreys.
Rabo Highlight of the Round: Goes to referee Nigel Owens, whose choice words for scrum half Tobias Botes have spawned a new one-liner to add to the Celtic league’s lexicon; “This is not soccer”.
So, with the current round complete this is how the table currently stands:
Leinster now have a commanding 9 point lead at the top of the table, and Munster are a threatening single point behind Ospreys for the second home semifinal spot. With only eight points in total separating the sides from second to seventh any of them could still be looking at one of the four playoff spots. Whether their results were good bad or indifferent in this round, they’ll all have to make their own luck in the next few rounds looking to make a play for some silverware as the competition heats up.
@RugbyKino will be reporting on the next round after they finish on the 12th of February.