With it being a break week in the Six Nations eyes could return to league action. The four provinces were in action with the Pro14 getting towards the business stages. Each Irish team are on course for Champions Cup qualification, and a place in the knockout rounds of the Pro14.
Leinster were run away leaders in Conference A, with that gap widening over the weekend. Ulster remain favourites to finish 2nd and secure a home quarter final. Cheetahs and Glasgow also look to be contenders for the top 3, with Dragons sitting in 5th, which would be a Champions Cup Play-Off place as South African teams are not eligible for European competition.
Leinster 36 – 12 Cheetahs
In the midst of a storm that hampered soccer coverage over the weekend (the Dublin Derby could not be televised) almost 8,000 braved the weather to get to the RDS. They were rewarded with a comfortable win in ugly conditions.
Leinster are yet to lose a game this season, and have only lost once at home in the last two seasons.
Cheetahs on the other hand have only won two away games this season. One was in South Africa against Southern Kings, the other was against a struggling Ospreys who we’ll get to later.
Leinster started the better and banged on the door. They would break through in the 20th minute with Connors scoring the first of his two tries. Frawley converted and kicked a penalty to extend the lead to 10 points. The boys in blue found their form after some handling errors caused by rain, Bent and Kelleher crossed the line with Frawley adding one conversion. Leinster lead 22 – 0.
Ruddock and Connors touched down early in the 2nd half to put the game well beyond the reach of the South Africans, with Frawley converting both tries.
Cheetahs got late consolations between de Bruin and Davis, with Pienaar kicking two points. There were 3 yellow cards, Cronin went to the bin from Leinster, while Cheetahs had Marais and Janse van Rensburg sent off for 10 minutes.
Ospreys 26 – 24 Ulster
Shock of the round came at the expense of the Ulstermen. Ulster had been flying this season but were outplayed by an Ospreys side that have been largely terrible.
The first 2 minutes saw 3 tries, 2 of which were for Ospreys. Price kicked an early penalty for the Welsh, before Baloucoune got over the line for Ulster, with Burns converting.
Ospreys responded with tries from Watkin and Otten, both efforts convertd by Price. Price then kicked a penalty to give Ospreys an 8-point lead. Burns got 3 points back for Ulster, who trailed 18 – 10 at the break.
Otten got his 2nd shortly after halftime, with Price converting. Ulster rallied with Faddes and McCloskey touching down, two conversions from Johnston saw them in front. A late penalty from Price sealed the win for Ospreys, despite an 80th minute drop goal attempt by Johnston.
Edinburgh sit top of Conference B, with Munster closing the gap. Scarlets and Connacht lurk just behind. Cardiff Blues and Benetton have lost place in recent weeks.
Connacht 29 – 0 Cardiff Blues
In what will likely be a crucial game in the run-in Jack Carty stole the show. Connacht got the job done within the first hour against a hapless Cardiff.
Carty kicked a penalty early on, and from then on the men from the West would push on. Tries from Heffernan and Robb, with a conversion from Carty, would give Connacht a comfortable lead.
2nd half touch downs from Porch and Godwin had Connacht out of reach, who are looking to qualify for the Heineken Champions Cup through league position for the 2nd year in a row.
Munster 68 – 3 Southern Kings
Surely it’s time to discuss turning the pro14 into a tiered league system with the inclusion of teams from other European countries such as Russia, Georgia, Spain, not to mention more Italian teams.
Munster scored 10 tries with Hanrahan kicking 9 conversions in an absolute thumping. Botha touched down early before Catrakilis responded with a penalty. Kings were twice down to 14 with Loubser and Badiyana both being yellow carded.
Munster run away with two further tries from Botha, two from Daly and O’Donoghue, and one each for Nash, Cronin, and Goggin.
They won’t come much easier than this.
This weeks games:
Ospreys V Leinster 19:35 (Eir Sport & TG4)
Edinburgh V Connacht 19:35 (Eir Sport)
Zebre V Munster 19:35 (Eir Sport)
Ulster V Cheetahs 19:35
Reminder that Irelands women’s and mens Six Nations games against England will be shown on RTÉ and Virgin Media respectively from Sunday morning.