Defending champions Leinster impress in opener
September 7, 2013
Dave Kearney crossed for one of Leinster's five tries against Scarlets © PA Photos
Leinster kicked off the defence of their RaboDirect PRO12 title with a 42-19 victory over Scarlets in Llanelli on Friday night.
Five tries from prop Martin Moore, number eight Jordy Murphy, replacement Darren Hudson, Dave Kearney and outside-half Jimmy Gopperth, who supplied a total of 22 points, saw Leinster recover from being 13-0 down. For the Scarlets centre Steven Shingler provided 14 points with their one try coming from captain Rob McCusker. Under-strength Leinster won despite having Kearney, Hudson and Jack McGrath all yellow-carded.
Munster kept pace with their Irish rivals with a 34-23 victory over Edinburgh at Musgrave Park on Saturday night. Rob Penney's men took a firm grip on proceedings with first half-tries from Denis Hurley, captain James Coughlan and new prop James Cronin. Edinburgh had a lengthy injury list for Alan Solomons' first league match in charge, the absentees for this Musgrave Park clash including regular skipper Greig Laidlaw, Tim Visser and Ross Rennie.
They were 22-6 adrift at half-time with Piers Francis converting two of his four penalty chances. A Nick De Luca try raised hopes of a comeback from the Scots and while centre Ivan Dineen grabbed Munster's fourth of the night, the visitors remained competitive throughout. Replacement Harry Leonard kicked a penalty and converted Lee Jones' 70th-minute try, but a losing bonus point was out of their reach with Munster replacement JJ Hanrahan also touching down.
On Saturday, Pat Lam's stewardship of Connacht began on a positive note as they beat Zebre 25-16 at the Sportsground. Prop Nathan White, who turned 32 on Wednesday, accepted a belated birthday present in the form of an intercept try as he sent Connacht ahead in the fourth minute. Luciano Orquera replied with a penalty but Connacht pushed 12-3 in front when Matt Healy - one of the province's best performers in pre-season - scored a classy converted try on the half hour.
Elsewhere on Friday night, Glasgow notched a hard-fought 22-15 win against Cardiff Blues. Glasgow rallied when they were losing 19-15 early in the third quarter thanks to an outstanding try from wing substitute Tommy Seymour. That score was converted by another sub Ruaridh Jackson, who added a penalty. Earlier penalties were kicked by Scott Wight (2) and Mark Bennett (2). Cardiff stand-off Rhys Patchell contributed his side's points with four penalties and a drop goal.
The Dragons battled back from a half-time deficit to claim an impressive 15-8 victory over last season's runners-up Ulster at Rodney Parade. Four penalties and a drop goal from fly-half Jason Tovey and a momentous rearguard action in the closing moments were the key points to the Dragons' victory. No.8 Roger Wilson got an Ulster try in the first half while outside-half Paddy Jackson landed the solitary penalty for the Irishmen.
Ospreys began their season with a hard-fought 24-19 victory over Benetton Treviso, whose run of five successive home wins against Welsh sides came to an end at Stadio Monigo. Tries from Scott Baldwin and Ben John plus 14 points from the boot of Dan Biggar sealed an important victory for the Ospreys, who were made to work hard for their victory by a determined Treviso outfit. The hosts led 12-10 at the start of the second half following four penalties from Alberto di Bernardo, while they then reduced the deficit to two points heading into the final quarter of an hour through Simone Favaro's try but Biggar's penalty effectively settled matters.
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They came to Murrayfield looking to put down a marker, but Scotland were sent home with their tails between their legs, writes Tristan Barclay