The Cheetahs and Southern Kings got their PRO14 seasons off to a disappointing start this weekend as their best efforts left them short on the scoreboard against Munster and Zebre Rugby Club respectively.
Both teams started off their clashes competitively, but they fell off the pace as the opposition made better use of their try-scoring opportunities.
The Cheetahs tried hard to make their presence felt against Munster in Limerick, but their limited possession and turnovers at crucial times cost them dearly with the team suffering a 38-0 defeat.
Munster attacked at will throughout the match, and although the Free Stater’s did well to shut them out early on, they were unable to continue this for the full 80 minutes, which saw the hosts and 2017 Semi-finalists run in six tries to none after holding a slender 12-0 halftime lead.
The Southern Kings also delivered a determined display against Zebre Rugby Club in Parma, where they found themselves trailing 10-7 after 15 minutes as Mikey Botha scored a try to cancel out the one by Zebre’s Oliviero Fabiani.
The home team, however, scored another try shortly before the break to hand them a 17-7 lead and they added two more after the break, while the men from Port Elizabeth opted for three second-half penalty goals by Masixole Banda as they battled to breach the defence, which saw them go down 34-16.
In the other matches, defending champions, Leinster, pipped the Cardiff Blues 33-32 at Cardiff Arms Park and Ospreys held on for a 17-13 victory against Edinburgh in Swansea on Friday.
In Saturday’s matches Connacht Rugby suffered a heart-breaking 27-26 defeat against the Glasgow Warriors in Galway, Ulster best the Scarlets 15-13 in Belfast, and the Dragons went down 17-21 against Benetton Rugby in Newport.
PRO14 Round 1 results and scorers (click on the hyperlink for the full scoresheet):
Munster 38 (12) Cheetahs 0 (0)
Munster – Tries: Dave Kilcoyne, Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy
Zebre Rugby Club 34 (17) Southern Kings 16 (7)
Zebre Rugby Club – Tries: Oliviero Fabiani, Mattia Bellini, Apisai Tauyavuca, Jimmy Tuivaiti. Conversions: Carlo Canna (4). Penalty Goals: Carlo Canna, Giovanbattista Venditti.
Southern Kings – Tries: Mikey Botha. Conversion: Masixole Banda. Penalty Goals: Masixole Banda (3).
All three sides kicked off their campaigns on a winning note in the second round of the tournament last week, and they continued their fine form for a full house of points.
Defending champions Western Province proved too skilful for the Pumas in Nelspruit as they outscored the hosts eight tries to four for a rewarding 57-28 victory. Such was their dominance, the Capetonians secured their bonus-point try in the 26th minute.
SP Marais was a key figure, scoring a try, seven conversions and a penalty goal for 22 points, while Sergeal Petersen also made his presence felt as he touched down twice.
A hat-trick by Blue Bulls flanker Ruan Steenkamp was not enough in Pretoria as the team went down 38-31 against the Golden Lions in a fast-paced Gauteng derby.
Hacjivah Dayimani was in solid form for the visitors once again as he touched down twice, while Shaun Reynolds also made a vital contribution with his try, five conversions and a penalty goal for a personal total of 18 points. That penalty goal proved to be the difference on the scoreboard as both sides scored five converted tries.
The Sharks had to work hard for their narrow 33-29 victory against the young Free State Cheetahs side in Bloemfontein, with three of their five tries being compliments of rolling mauls.
Their skipper, Chiliboy Ralepelle, scored two of these five-pointers, while the Free Stater’s flyhalf, Louis Fouche, was their go-to-man as he scored two of their four tries, two conversions and a penalty goal to keep them in the game.
Currie Cup Round 3 results and scorers
Blue Bulls 35 (28) Golden Lions 38 (21)
Blue Bulls – Tries: Andre Warner, Ruan Steenkamp (3), Johnny Kotze. Conversions: Manie Libbok (5).
Golden Lions – Tries: Shaun Reynolds, James Venter, Dillon Smit, Hacjivah Dayimani (2). Conversions: Shaun Reynolds (5). Penalty Goal: Shaun Reynolds.
Free State Cheetahs 29 (15) Sharks 33 (19)
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Louis Fouche (2), Lloyd Greeff, Penalty Try. Conversions: Louis Fouche (2). Penalty Goal: Louis Fouche.
Sharks – Tries: Chiliboy Ralepelle (2), Wian Vosloo, Dan Du Preez, Lwazi Mvovo. Conversions: Robert Du Preez (3), Curwin Bosch.
Pumas 28 (14) Western Province 57 (29)
Pumas – Tries: JP Lewis, Chris Smith, Le Roux Roets, Jerome Pretorius. Conversions: Chris Smith (4).
Western Province – Tries: Kobus van Dyk, SP Marais, Sergeal Petersen (2), Ruhan Nel, Ernst Van Rhyn, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Herschel Jantjies. Conversions: SP Marais (7). Penalty Goal: SP Marais.
Currie Cup First Division
The Valke and Leopards continued to stamp their authority in the Currie Cup First Division as they continued their winning ways to remain the only unbeaten teams after the second pool round.
The Valke’s Friedle Olivier was the hero of the day in Welkom as his second try on the stroke of fulltime handed the team a nail-biting 56-52 victory against defending champions, the Griffons, in a thrilling encounter in which a whopping 108 points were scored.
A strong first half by the SWD Eagles and braces by Marlo Weich and Ruben Schoeman, meanwhile, nudged them to a 37-22 victory in East London against the Border Bulldogs, who delivered a strong second-half showing but were unable to undo the damage caused by their porous first-half defence.
In Potchefstroom the Leopards were dominant from the outset against the Boland Cavaliers, which earned them a convincing 35-12 victory. The host scored five tries to Boland’s two after racing to a confidence-boosting 28-0 halftime lead.
Currie Cup First Division Round 2 results and scorers ((click on the hyperlink for the full score sheet):
Griffons 52 (38) Valke 56 (21)
Griffons – Tries: Danie van der Merwe (3), Cody-Anthony Basson, Shirwin Cupido, Niel Stannard, Rodney Damons, Nkululeko Marwana. Conversions: Duan Pretoruis (6).
Valke – Tries: Friedle Olivier (2), Shane Kirkwood, Etienne Taljaard (2), Grant Donavon Janke, Don Mlondobozi, Penalty Try. Conversions: Anrich Richter (5), Errol Jaggers (2).
Border Bulldogs 22 (8) SWD Eagles 37 (32)
Border Bulldogs – Tries: Somila Jho, Soso Mqalo (2).Conversions: Dilolo Mapuko, Aphiwe Stemele. Penalty Goal: Bangi Kobese.
SWD Eagles – Tries: Alshaun Bock, Marlo Weich (2), Ruben Schoeman (2). Conversions: Divan Nel (3). Penalty Goals: Divan Nel (2).
Leopards 35 (28) Boland Cavaliers 12 (0)
Leopards – Tries: Marius Stander, Gerhard Nortier, Akhona Nela, Bradley Moolman, Jimmy Mpailane. Conversions: Gerhard Nortier (4), DP de Lange.
Boland Cavaliers – Tries: Clemen Lewis, Tapiwa Tsomondo. Conversion: Jacquin Jansen.
On a day in which Ulster and Glasgow sealed dramatic late wins, there were some excellent individual displays in both the Premiership and PRO14 leagues.
From a superb attacking display from Gloucester’s Danny Cipriani to a flawless performance by Darren Sweetnam, we’ve picked out the top performers from the latest round of fixtures.
DANNY CIPRIANI (Gloucester)
The 30-year-old shone in front of England boss Eddie Jones, creating a superb try for winger Charlie Sharples and generally being at the centre of his team’s attacking exploits in their convincing 27-16 victory over Northampton.
The fly-half was in stunning form on his home debut, and looked to have an extra spring in his step as he orchestrated the game at Kingsholm.
He kicked positively all afternoon and showed serious vision to put Gloucester on the front foot, with the sharpness of his play leading to a string of penalties that Billy Twelvetrees converted.
A class act.
MARCUS SMITH (Harlequins)
Life under new boss Paul Gustard got off to a fizzing start for Harlequins with a commanding 51-23 win over Sale at the Twickenham Stoop.
Ben Tapuai may have caught the eye with this two sizzling tries, but it was fly-half Smith who shone under the bright lights, kicking 26 points.
The 19-year-old scored a try, kicked six conversions and posted three penalties in an impressive display.
His general game management was superb and he looked to give the pass at each opportunity in an effort to put the squeeze on a gallant Sale side.
NATHAN HUGHES (Wasps)
The England international proved why he is considered one of the most promising back-rows in the Premiership with a dominant performance in Wasps’ 21-20 come-from-behind win over Worcester.
The Fijian-born No8 made 85 metres, beat six defenders and completed eight successful tackles as Dai Young’s side edged out a spirited Worcester at Sixways.
After an injury plagued 12 months, this performance should be the hallmark for Hughes to kick on and gather some momentum coming into a crucial World Cup year.
TOMMY O’DONNELL (Munster)
The Ireland international was a titanic presence in Munster’s comprehensive 38-0 over the Cheetahs.
The 28-year-old was solid in the line-out, superb on the ground and showed his serious work-rate with 20 successful tackles.
DARREN SWEETNAM (Munster)
A five star performance from the Cork man.
O’Donnell will surely steal the limelight for his virtuous display at No7 but it was Sweetnam who looked a real jewel, taking possession at every opportunity in an attempt to put his side in formidable attacking positions.
The 25-year-old winger scored a try and set up two more, as well as making 134 metres and beating six defenders.
JOHN COONEY (Ulster)
The 28-year-old produced a man-of-the-match performance in Ulster’s thrilling 15-13 win over Scarlets.
Trailing by one point deep into injury time, Cooney nailed the vital kick after being tackled without the ball by Scarlets’ second row David Bulbring.
The former Leinster scrum-half was instrumental throughout the contest, showing good speed, nimble footwork and a razor-like passing ability at Kingspan Stadium.
Incredibly, the elusive Cooney made 101 passes – nearly three times as many as his opposite number Samuel Hidalgo-Clyne.