The Toyota Cheetahs, Leinster and Scarlets all maintained their perfect start to the Guinness Pro 14 rugby competition with victories over Munster, Edinburgh and Zebre respectively. The Cheetahs and Leinster remain locked on 15 points each at the top of Conference A, four points ahead of Ulster while the Scarlets lead Conference B with 13 points, three ahead of Connacht and Munster.
The third round began on Friday evening in Bloemfontein where the home side handed outgoing coach Franco Smith the perfect parting gift with a dominant 40-16 (halftime 12-9) victory over Irish side Munster at the Toyota Stadium. The home side ran in six tries with the forwards contributing four of the five-pointers. Ruan Pienaar, who is on standby for the Springboks in Japan, landed four conversions.
The visitors could only manage three penalties in the first half through flyhalf Tyler Bleyendaal, and despite a late try from centre Dan Goggin, the men from Ireland were simply just not good enough on the night. The send-off for Smith, who takes over the reins of the Italian national side, was all the more special as this was the first time the South African side had tasted victory over Munster in the Pro 14.
Leinster maintained the deadlock at the top of Conference A with a commanding seven-try 40-14 (halftime 12-7) mauling of Edinburgh at the RDS Arena in Dublin. Edinburgh’s perfect start to the season with victories over Zebre and the Blues, came to a crashing halt with a brace from tighthead prop Michael Bent contributed to a full house of log points. Flyhalf Ross Byrne landed five conversions before his replacement, Harry Byrne slotted the sixth for a near perfect evening with the boot.
Edinburgh, despite playing against 13 men late in the first half, could only manage a solitary try through wing Jamie Ferndale as Bent and centre Joseph Tomane were sent to the sin-bin within three minutes of each other. Edinburgh managed just one more score nine minutes from time when replacement scrumhalf Charlie Shiel, who replaced former Stormers scrumhalf Nic Groom, crossed the whitewash.
The Scarlets registered their biggest victory of the season to date, thumping Zebre 54-10 (halftime 26-10) at the Parc Y Scarlets in Wales. Scrumhalf Kieran Hardy and fullback Johnny McNicholl both landed a brace as the home side ran in eight tries, all of which were converted to a solitary response from the Italian side.
The men from Parma have not had the best of starts to the season, conceding 50 or more points in all three of their matches to date after having lost to Edinburgh 50-15 in the opening round before going down 52-28 to the Dragons last weekend. The Scarlets, who have won the competition twice, registered their first bonus-point victory, scoring their fourth try after just 28 minutes.
Connacht made it two wins from two with a five-try bonus-point 38-14 (halftime 17-7) victory over the Dragons at Rodney Parade in South Wales after having lost their opening encounter to the Scarlets. The Dragons, who have not beaten and Irish side since beating Connacht two years ago, fell apart in the second half after a bright start to the match. The men from South Wales also failed to take advantage of the extra man after Connacht had a man sin-binned shortly before halftime and then again at the end of the match.
Ulster bounced back from their 63-26 mauling at the hands of the Cheetahs last weekend to condemn the Isuzu Southern Kings to their third-straight defeat, handing the South African side a 42-17 (halftime 35-10) beating. Despite a brace from centre Tertius Kruger at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizebeth, the Irish side ran in six tries with scrumhalf John Cooney crossing the whitewash twice.
Ulster’s victory leaves them third in Conference A while the Kings remain bottom of the pile in Conference B with a solitary point from three starts and despite a trip to Treviso in two weeks time, the Kings will fancy their chances of picking up their first victory when they face-off against Benetton who sit just above them on two points.
A hat-trick of tries from hooker Sam Parry helped Ospreys clinch a narrow 24-20 (halftime 17-6) victory over Benetton at the Liberty Stadium in Wales. A late fightback from the Italian side, with two tries in the final 10 minutes, was not enough to clinch victory but it did help the men from Treviso to pick up their second point of the season for losing within seven points.
After having lost both their opening encounters, first to the Cheetahs and then to rivals the Scarlets, the Glasgow Warriors picked up their first win of the season with a narrow and hard-fought 17-13 (halftime 14-10) victory over the Cardiff Blues at the Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow.
Tries from Callum Gibbins and Nick Frisby gave the hosts an early 14-0 lead after just eight minutes but the men from Wales fought back to trail by just four at the break. Both sides slotted a penalty in the second stanza and had it not been for the yellow card handed out to Rory Thornton 12 minutes from time, the result might just have been otherwise.
Cheetahs 40 Munster 16
Dragons 14 Connacht 38
Leinster 40 Edinburgh 14
Scarlets 54 Zebre 10
Kings 17 Ulster 42
Glasgow 17 Blues 13
Ospreys 24 Benetton 20.