Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Ulster victorious on emotional night

A minute's silence was held before the game in rememberance of Nevin Spence

Ulster returned to the top of the RaboDirect Pro 12 with a 48-19 victory over Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park which will have served as a worthy tribute to young centre Nevin Spence, who died in an accident on the family farm.

The Irish pack provided the platform and their backs ran riot in the second half. It was always going to be an emotional occasion, the first Ulster game since the tragedy - marked by a minute's silence and Spence's initials on the visitors' shirts - and that may have contributed to them dropping the Blues kick-off and conceding a simple penalty, which Jason Tovey slotted over.

But the visitors stormed back and ultimately claimed a dominant victory, with Nick Williams and Tommy Bowe grabbing two tries apiece to help them on their way.

Connacht gave their season a big boost with a comprehensive 34-6 win over Heineken Cup champions Leinster at the Sportsground.

First-half tries from David McSharry, Fetu'u Vainikolo and Tiernan O'Halloran fired the hosts into a 22-6 half-time lead, with debutant Dan Park pulling the strings at fly-half. Leinster were unable to wrest back control of the game and Eric Elwood's men secured a memorable bonus-point success with closing tries from George Naoupu and Ronan Loughney.

An experimental Glasgow line-up featuring a host of debutants made it three wins in a row for new coach Gregor Townsend with a 22-19 victory over Zebre - but not before home nerves were shredded against the battling Italian side.

Zebre, the new Italian franchise in the RaboDirect PRO12, got a deserved first bonus point for a spirited performance throughout, but in the end the home side did just enough to earn the victory.

In a high-scoring first half, Zebre took a shock 13-0 lead that they extended to 16-7 as half-time approached. However, Glasgow scored two quick tries to go in 19-16 ahead. A tense second half saw the scores soon tied and for all their pressure Glasgow could not get the fourth try and had to settle for a penalty from substitute Peter Horne in the 73rd minute to seal a narrow win.

Glasgow scored their three tries through Tim Swinson, DTH van der Merwe and Graeme Morrison, with Ruaridh Jackson converting two.

Six penalties from Tom Prydie helped Newport Gwent Dragons claim their second league win of the season as they beat Edinburgh 32-12. It was not all good news for the victors, though, as Wales flanker Dan Lydiate was helped off the pitch with an ankle injury within the first two minutes.

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