Munster Leinster and Ulster maintain winning starts

Munster Leinster Ulster maintain winning starts
16 September 2017; Jaco Taute of Munster makes a break during the Guinness PRO14 Round 3 match between Ospreys and Munster at Liberty Stadium in Swansea. Photo by Ben Evans/Sportsfile

By Phil Rice

Irish rugby is alive and flourishing in the new Pro14 league. Munster, Leinster and Ulster registered wins for the third week running.

Connacht were disappointing losers in Newport to the Dragons. Leinster travelled to Port Elizabeth to take on the Southern Kings, who have yet to gain a point in the league.

The home team began brightly and it was against the run of play when Noel Reid scored a well worked try for Leinster.

For all their efforts the Kings only had a penalty to their credit at half time but they showed much improved form.

As often happens when a team is low on confidence, after Rory O’Loughlin scored early in the second half, the Kings lost their self belief and their effort subsided, and Leinster scored a further three tries from Jack Conan, Joey Carbery and David Kearney, to run out 31-10 winners.

The Cheetahs finally recorded a win for the South African teams in a high scoring game when they beat Zebre 54-39. Leinster take on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this Friday.

Munster Leinster Ulster maintain winning starts
15 September 2017; John Andrew of Ulster celebtates after scoring his side’s second try with teammate Andrew Trimble, right, during the Guinness PRO14 Round 3 match between Ulster and Scarlets at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Although they have yet to field anything like their strongest team, Leinster have recorded three bonus point wins, the only team in the league to do so.

Leinster top the B Conference with Ulster in second place after their creditable win over champions Scarlets.

This was a terrific match with Ulster showing how capable they can be. Scarlets suffered their first defeat in 10 league matches.

The defending champions looked like they might have snatched it thanks to a try by returning British and Irish Lion Jonathan Davies late in the second half, but Ulster, who had dominated for most of the opening hour, held their nerve, with a try by replacement hooker John Andrew three minutes from time sealing the victory.

One of the eye-catching players for the Scarlets was ex-Leinster academy player Tadhg Beirne. He must have appeared on Joe Schmidt’s radar after playing a key role in the Scarlets championship victory last season.

Considerable challenge

With the retirement of Paul O’Connell and Mike Mc- Carthy and the exile of Donnacha Ryan, the second row cupboard is looking bare and Beirne and the recently capped James Ryan will be vying with Devin Toner to join Iain Henderson in the boiler house of the national team.

Munster travelled to Swansea to take on the considerable challenge of the Ospreys. Constant driving rain prevented both teams from playing flowing rugby, but it was a tense affair that was only settled by a late penalty from Munster captain Tyler Bleyendaal. The final score of 21-16 maintained Munster’s position at the top of the A Conference.

They have another tricky away tie this Friday evening against Glasgow. Bernard Jackman will take great comfort from his Dragons team’s victory over Connacht. The final result of 21-8 just about reflected the Welsh team’s superiority.

Connacht started slowly and only imposed themselves on the opposition during the second half. Quinn Roux scored early in the second half after an impressive forward drive.

15 September 2017; Bundee Aki of Connacht in action against Sarel Pretorius of Dragons of Dragons during the Guinness PRO14 Round 3 match between Dragons and Connacht at Rodney Parade in Newport, Wales. Photo by Gareth Everett

The Dragons are looking a much more capable side since Jackman took over the coaching duties but Connacht are still lying third in the

A Conference and victory at home this week over the lowly Cardiff Blues would consolidate their position.

With Munster and Leinster topping the two conferences, the forthcoming match between the two teams at the Aviva Stadium on 7th October looks like being another momentous tie between the perennial protagonists.

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