Ospreys secure home semi-final
April 22, 2012
Connacht celebrate Mathew Jarvis' late matchwinner against Aironi © Getty Images
The RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs continue to take shape with the Ospreys the latest side to book a home semi-final and Munster also assured of a place in the play-offs. They will be joined by either Glasgow, Scarlets or Ulster with the last round of the regular season set to decide which of those sides progress.
League leaders Leinster, who booked a home tie in the post-season last time out, warmed up for their Heineken Cup semi-final showdown with Clermont Auvergne next weekend with a 16-8 victory over Ulster at Ravenhill. Kevin McLaughlin grabbed the visitors' only try with fly-half Jonathan Sexton notching 11 points with the boot. The defeat leaves Ulster's play-off hopes hanging by a thread with the Irish province not only needing a bonus point win at Munster next time out but also other results to go their way.
Elsewhere, retiring Ospreys star Shane Williams grabbed a last gasp try in what was billed as maybe his last appearance at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night to propel his side to a 31-12 victory over the Dragons. After a storming start, the home side made hard work of putting away a gutsy Dragons side, scoring four tries in all - two of which were penalty tries from their much-vaunted scrum following Ryan Jones' 20th-minute score.
However, Munster's draw with the Scarlets means that the Ospreys faithful will have at least one more chance to bid their hero goodbye in their play-off semi-final. The Scarlets ended a 14-match losing run against Munster in all competitions with a 20-20 draw at Parc Y Scarlets on Saturday night. A Rhys Priestland penalty nine minutes from time ensured the Scarlets claimed a share of the spoils but realistically the hosts needed a victory to keep alive their hopes of securing a play-off place for the first time.
The draw consolidates Munster's third place and while they trail the Ospreys by five points, not even a bonus point in their final regular season fixture against Ulster will lift them above their Welsh rivals due to their greater number of victories.
Scarlets trail 4th-placed Glasgow by four points going into the final round of matches and the Scottish side also boast a much healthier points difference. As a result the Scarlets must claim a big win against the Blues in their final game and hope Glasgow come away from their clash with Connacht empty-handed - and even that may not be enough if Ulster secure a bonus point win thanks to the Irish side's larger number of victories.
Glasgow cemented their place in the top four with a narrow 13-8 vicotry at Treviso but they needed a late from Canadian international DTH van der Merwe try to make sure of the win having trailed throughout the contest.
In Saturday's other game, Matthew Jarvis landed a monster penalty with the last kick of the game to guide Connacht to a smash and grab 19-16 win over Italian side Aironi. Connacht were below par for much of this tie at the Sportsground, trailing 16-3 at one stage due to a Quintin Geldenhuys try and some fine place kicking from Luciano Orquera. Aironi were gunning for their first ever away victory, but Connacht tallied up 16 points in the final quarter to boost their hopes of a best ever league finish of eighth.
And in the weekend's other game, transfer target Alex Cuthbert grabbed a hat-trick of tries as Cardiff Blues hammered Edinburgh 38-13. It was hardly the perfect preparation for Edinburgh's Heineken Cup semi-final with Ulster next weekend but was a perfect send-off for retiring Blues veteran Martyn Williams.
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