Ulster demolish Zebre 33-13 in Guinness Pro12 clash - Munster and Connacht notch up victories against Treviso and Edinburgh
Ulster racked up the first win of their Guinness PRO12 campaign on their home debut by putting Zebre to the sword with some ease despite a shaky first half for interim coach Les Kiss' side.
Ulster crossed the Italians' line five times, with Nick Williams, Craig Gilroy, Robbie Diack, Andrew Trimble and Dan Tuohy all touching down, which gave them their second consecutive try bonus point.
Samuela Vunisa scored Zebre's try but they were ultimately outclassed by the Irish side, who drew 32-32 at Scarlets last week.
Ulster hit the ground running after four minutes when, after Rory Best had knocked on on the Zebre line from Darren Cave's pass, the home side stole the scrum and Williams powered over. Ian Humphreys converted and Ulster were 7-0 up.
But the visitors hit back when sub Vunisa charged over after eight minutes and Kelly Haimona converted. The latter then added a penalty four minutes later to give Zebre the lead.
Ulster's cause was not helped by Humphreys missing a head-on penalty shot on 14 minutes but three minutes later, Trimble began a move which ended up with Gilroy scoring on the left and Humphreys' wonderful conversion put Ulster four points ahead at 14-10.
That became 19-10 nine minutes later when Ricky Andrew's pass put Diack clear to score, though Humphreys failed to convert.
Haimona then had a chance to narrow Ulster's lead but missed a long-range penalty and then Ulster were denied a try from substitute Louis Ludik - on for the injured Cave - after the scoring pass was adjudged forward.
Shortly afterwards, Luke Marshall lost the ball on the line for a try which would not have stood in any case as Ulster had infringed at the scrum.
The Italians survived another late Ulster onslaught and the half ended with the home side leading 19-10.
Ulster began the second half defending their line and then had to make do with 14 men in the 55th minute after Andrew was yellow-carded for hitting Brendon Leonard when the Zebre scrum-half was in mid-air.
Still, Ulster had the wherewithal to score when, off a scrum, Paul Marshall broke right and fed Trimble, who stormed in at the right corner for Ulster's bonus-point score. Humphreys added a superb conversion to take the score to 26-10.
Just before Andrew returned came the score of the night when Humphreys superbly gathered a ball on the touchline and launched Trimble through the middle. He linked with Best and with the ball recycled, Humphreys chipped for Tuohy to score.
Humphreys added yet another excellent conversion to take Ulster's lead to 33-10, which became 33-13 with 10 minutes to go as Haimona kicked a second penalty.
Ulster: R Andrew, A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy; I Humphreys, P Marshall; A Warwick, R Best (cpt), W Herbst, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, R Diack, C Henry, N Williams.
Replacements: R Herring, R Murphy, B Ross, F van der Merwe, R Wilson, M Heaney, S Olding, L Ludik.
Zebre: H Daniller; D Odiete, G Bisegni, G Garcia, G Toniolatti; K Haimona, B Leonard; A De Marchi, A Manici, D Chistolini; A Ferreira, G Biagi; M Bergamasco, F Cristiano, A Van Schalkwyk.
Replacements: O Fabiani, A Lovotti, L Leibson, V Bernabo, Q Geldenhuys, S Vunisa, G Palazzani, E Padovani.
Munster hit back to beat Treviso 21-10
Munster bounced back from their opening day defeat to Edinburgh in the Guinness Pro12 last week by coming from behind to claim a hard-fought 21-10 victory in Treviso.
The home side took a 7-3 lead in the 19th minute courtesy of Simone Ragusi's converted try, but the Irish side seized the initiative through tries either side of the interval from CJ Stander and Simon Zebo while Ian Keatley added 11 points with his boot.
Anthony Foley's men opened their campaign with a shock defeat at home to Edinburgh, but they took an early lead through Keatley's penalty after the Treviso defence had strayed offside.
Yet the northern Italian team, who were looking for an improved performance after a 44-13 mauling by Ospreys last Friday, hit back when Ragusi crashed over in the corner following good work from Ludovico Nitoglia and Cornelius van Zyl.
Joe Carlisle added the extras but Munster narrowed the deficit to a solitary point soon after following Keatley's second penalty.
The visitors then crossed the whitewash for the first time on the half hour, with Stander going over.
Keatley converted the try, while Zebo furthered Munster's advantage in the 51st minute following a fluid counter-attack down the wing after Treviso had lost possession.
Treviso cut the deficit following a Carlisle penalty but Keatley added his third three-pointer to re-establish Munster's 11-point lead and ultimately victory.
Edinburgh 13 Connacht 14
Connacht left it late against Edinburgh at Murrayfield but Willie Faloon's try made it two wins from two games in the Guinness PRO12.
Following their opening success over Newport, this time they slugged it out to win 14-13 in a poor game that rarely came to life due to a large number of injury stoppages.
Edinburgh took an early lead with a couple of penalties by number 10 Tom Heathcote, before Connacht full-back Darragh Leader levelled up with a pair of kicks of his own.
Edinburgh produced the best rugby of the game at the end of the first half, capped by a try from number eight Cornell Du Preez that Heathcote converted to help the hosts to a 13-6 interval lead.
Leader pulled back three points midway through the second half before in typical Connacht fashion the visitors put in a late burst, and the winning try by Willie Faloon came from a driven line-out five minutes from time.
On duty for his second PRO12 game, in the first match on the brand new Murrayfield pitch, referee Gary Conway awarded two penalties in the opening six minutes.
The first was struck home by Edinburgh fly-half Heathcote, whereas Leader missed his from tight to the touchline.
Heathcote stuck over a second in eight minutes and Leader missed his second kick nine minutes later.
In between, Edinburgh had seized a grip on the game but the closest they came to capitalising was when left winger Nick McLennan could not quite reach a side-footed kick from full-back Jack Cuthbert before it rolled dead.
Profiting from Connacht's first notable spell of possession, Leader got his side on the board with a simple penalty in 23 minutes.
Connacht were then handed a chance when McLennan and Cuthbert messed up a quickly-taken line-out, but from the scrum-five stand-off Jack Carty's prodded kick was touched down by the home side.
However the pressure pendulum had swung the Irish way and when a scrum collapsed after 36 minutes Leader struck the equalising penalty home.
However there was time for Edinburgh to put in some ferocious pick-and-go before a long pass by Sam Beard found number eight Du Preez on the left wing, and he dived over in the corner. The conversion by Heathcote saw Edinburgh go in leading 13-6.
Edinburgh's scrum problems continued into the second half and 15 minutes after the restart, prop WP Nel, who had replaced John Andress at the break, was shown a yellow card at the set-piece and Leader kicked the penalty.
Just as Nel's time-out was ending, Connacht were reduced themselves, when television evidence saw flanker Faloon sin-binned for stamping.
As the game stumbled towards its end, it came alive when Du Preez hoisted a loose ball upfield and isolated Niyi Adeolokun was forced to concede a scrum five. Du Preez was denied a try off the back of it by TV evidence.
Connacht got upfield and put a penalty into the corner from where the pack mauled over with Faloon touching down. Stand-off Jack Carty failed to convert but Connacht had taken the lead, and they clung to it.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS 15 OSPREYS 17
The Ospreys made it two Guinness Pro12 victories in successive weekends but they came close to losing in the Welsh derby at Newport Gwent Dragons.
Wing Eli Walker and scrum-half Rhys Webb grabbed tries for the Ospreys, with fly-half Dan Biggar kicking a penalty and two conversions.
The Dragons had a penalty from fly-half Jason Tovey and four from his second-half replacement Angus O'Brien - who narrowly missed with a late drop-goal attempt which would have won the match.
The Ospreys' captain for the night Lloyd Peers pulled out with injury before kick-off. In came Wales star Alun-Wyn Jones to start his new season and also take over the leadership reigns.
The Ospreys topped the table after a comfortable first league game at home to Benetton Treviso last week but were in no doubt that the first Welsh derby of the new Pro12 season, against a re-designed Dragons under ex-Ospreys coach Lyn Jones, would be a much sterner test.
And it proved to be just that as both sides looked to gain the early advantage in an intense and exciting match.
A dream scrummage for the Dragons that saw former Leicester loose-head Boris Stankovich pile-drive Ospreys tight-head Aaron Jarvis backwards gave the Gwent side a penalty from 25 metres that Tovey booted.
The Ospreys then had the Dragons on their own line at an attacking scrum with a chance to go over but another big shove from the home team saw Ospreys number eight Dan Baker knock-on as he tried to pick up.
Dragons tight-head prop Lloyd Fairbrother and Ospreys loose-head Nicky Smith were sent to the sin-bin, while tempers boiled when ex-Ospreys lock Ian Gough gave Welsh cap Biggar a heavy push, leading to a penalty that Biggar kicked.
And the Ospreys went into the break ahead when Webb chipped over the head of home full-back Lee Byrne for Walker to race in and grab a try that Biggar converted from the touchline.
Tovey came off at half-time for 19-year-old O'Brien and the youngster nearly turned the match on its head towards the end.
O'Brien landed a penalty from 35 metres to reduce the arrears to 10-6 but the Ospreys began to click, especially through the number eight and half-back areas.
And their territorial advantage saw Webb grab an easy try when he saw a gap in the home defence 10 metres from the line and dived past the static defence to score under the posts, making Biggar's conversion simple.
O'Brien again reduced the deficit with a twenty-metre shot after the Opsreys infringed and the tide turned again when Walker, who was outstanding throughout the game, turned villain when he jumped up from the ground after receiving treatment to high-tackle home centre Tyler Morgan and earn himself 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
That could have been decisive as it left the Ospreys with 14 men for the last 10 minutes - and the Dragons tried their hardest to make the advantage pay.
O'Brien kicked two more penalties to draw the Dragons back to two points behind and tried to land a winning drop-goal from 40 metres with seconds to go, but agonisingly saw it drift left to the relief of the Ospreys.
Belfast Telegraph Digital