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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 16 September, 2014

As it happened: Irish provinces fight for Pro12 play-off pecking order

We kept an eye on Munster, Ulster, Connacht and Leinster on the final day of the regular season.

Sean O'Brien was back in action for Leinster in the RDS.
Sean O'Brien was back in action for Leinster in the RDS.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THAT’S IT; THE final round of the RaboDirect Pro12 regular season action has been played.

Leinster looked good for top spot ahead of the play-offs as they welcomed Edinburgh to the RDS, while Munster needed a win at home to a weakened Ulster to stand a chance of claiming a home semi-final.

Meanwhile, Connacht had the chance to finish the season in eighth spot if they could secure a win away to the Ospreys.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the game. E-mail murray@thescore.ie, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Munster 17 – 19 Ulster

Leinster 15 – 13 Edinburgh

Ospreys 45 – 20 Connacht

18.06 – Hi and welcome along to our liveblog of the final round of regular season fixtures. Here’s the line-up of games taking place this evening, with all six of them kicking off a 6.30pm:

  • Glasgow Warriors v Zebre [Scotstoun]
  • Leinster v Edinburgh [RDS]
  • Munster v Ulster [Thomond Park]
  • Dragons v Treviso [Rodney Parade]
  • Ospreys v Connacht [Liberty Stadium]
  • Scarlets v Cardiff [Parc y Scarlets]

18.12 – Let’s start at the RDS, where the late team news is that Zane Kirchner has dropped out injured, meaning Rob Kearney starts and Brendan Macken comes onto the bench.

General view of the RDS before the game

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

18.15 – That leaves the Leinster starting team looking like this:

Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden. Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Isaac Boss; Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt.), Mike McCarthy; Sean O’Brien, Jordi Murphy, Jamie Heaslip.

18.17 – Meanwhile, down in Thomond Park, the starting XVs look this way:

Munster: Felix Jones, Gerhard Van Den Heever, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley (capt.), John Ryan; Dave Foley, Paul O’Connell; Paddy Butler, Sean Dougall, James Coughlan.

Ulster: Craig Gilroy; David McIlwaine, Mike Allen, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes; James McKinney, Michael Heaney; Callum Black, Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick; Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy (capt.); Mike McComish, Sean Doyle, Nick Williams.

18.18 – Mark Anscombe and Anthony Foley were in friendly form a little earlier. How do you see this inter-pro going?

Anthony Foley and Mark Anscombe

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

18.21 – Finally, the Connacht team that will face the Ospreys over in the Liberty Stadium:

Darragh Leader; Danie Poolman, Eoin Griffin, Dave McSharry, Matt Healy; Miah Nikora, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Aly Muldowney, Mick Kearney; Andrew Browne, Conor Gilsenan, John Muldoon (c).

18.24 – Well worth keeping a close eye on the action in Scotstoun, where an unlikely defeat for the in-form Glasgow against Zebre would mean a Munster win versus Ulster would earn Rob Penney’s men a home semi-final.

However, Gregor Townsend’s Warriors side will have their sights set on a big win in the equally unlikely event that Leinster slip up at home to Edinburgh.

18.27BBC Wales are highlighting this pair as the players most likely to do damage to Connacht’s chances against the Ospreys.

Screen shot 2014-05-10 at 18.25.04

18.28 – We’re entirely in agreement with TheScore.ie reader Dave Fingleton on this front:

Great to see Sean O’Brien back..lets all hope that the shoulder is 100% and we can all look forward to Seanie being back to his barrelling best..what a massive loss he has been..

18.29 – The teams are arriving out on the pitch now in most venues, last chance for predictions as to how the provinces will get on. We’re going with wins for Munster and Leinster, with a narrow loss for Connacht away from home.

18.31And we’re off! The action is underway for Connacht and Munster v Ulster, with Leinster just about to kick off.

18.32 – Big linebreak from Casey Laulala for Munster! The ball finds its way to van den Heever wide on the right but he’s tackled into touch. Great start for Penney’s men against Ulster!

18.33Connacht have won an early scrum penalty against the Ospreys and will have a shot at goal from around 23 metres out, on the left-hand side. Nikora preparing himself at Liberty Stadium…

18.34 – In Thomond Park, Munster’s period of pressure lets up as they concede a penalty for coming on the side of a ruck. McKinney takes the chance to kick clear.

18.34PENALTY! Ospreys 0-3 Connacht (Nikora ’4)

18.35 – Glasgow have scored an early try against Zebre, with Stuart Hogg crossing. Not good for Munster!

18.36Leinster still 0-0 at the RDS after 3 minutes of action in the Edinburgh half of the field.

18.38 – And now Edinburgh have won a penalty on the Leinster 22-metre line, out on the left. Laidlaw is standing over this one…

18.38PENALTY! Leinster 0-3 Edinburgh (Laidlaw ’6)

18.40 – A lovely kick out of hand by Ian Keatley brings Munster deep into Ulster territory, just as Sean O’Brien goes on the rampage for Leinster. Defenders dragging off the powerful back row, a great sight!

18.41 – Oooh! The Ospreys go close against Connachtbursting down the left-hand side of the pitch through Tipuric. However, the flanker’s pass doesn’t go to hand and it’s a let off for Lam’s men.

18.42 – There’s been another try for Glasgow over in Scotstoun as Ryan Grant scores under the sticks. Duncan Weir converts and the Scots lead Zebre 14-0.

18.43TRY! Leinster 5-3 Edinburgh (Jordi Murphy ’10)

The flanker bursts over after excellent Leinster attack!

18.43TRY! Ospreys 5-3 Connacht (Hassler ’12)

18.45CONVERSION! Ospreys 7-3 Connacht (Biggar ’13)

18.46 – Hassler broke away down that same left-hand side to score for the Ospreys against Connacht, all stemming from a wonderful steal on the deck from Dan Biggar. Meanwhile, some interlinking attacking play from Leinster saw their solid start topped off with Murphy’s try.

18.47TRY! Munster 8-0 Ulster (Williams ’14)

Brilliant score as Downey, Coughlan, Laulala and Williams are all involved, ending with the scrum-half dotting down in the left-hand corner!

18.48CONVERSION! Munster 10-0 Ulster (Keatley ’15)

18.49TRY! Ospreys 7-8 Connacht (Leader ’17)

Superb stuff as Nikora’s cross-field kick is passed back inside by Poolman for Leader to dive over. Wonderful creativity and invention with the boot!

18.50 – A shot of BOD in action at the RDS against Edinburgh, where Leinster are still 5-3 up.

Andries Strauss and Tomas Leonardi with Brian O'Driscoll

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

18.51TRY! Munster 10-5 Ulster (Heaney ’18)

The scrum-half darts down the right, exchanges passes with Allen and bounces over!

18.51CONVERSION! Munster 10-7 Ulster (McKinney ’18)

18.53 – We’re with the TMO at the RDS, after Edinburgh cross in the right-hand corner… No try! There was a forward pass to Matt Scott in the build-up and Leinster stay in front.

18.54 – Another try for Glasgow, this time through Kellock. They now lead 21-0, so no favours there for Munster.

18.55 – And another try for Glasgow as Hogg scores again. That’s the bonus point wrapped up for Townsend’s men already. They really are an impressive side. Not going to be an easy test for Munster away from home.

18.56 – Here’s Duncan Williams crossing after that excellent Munster attack…

Duncan Williams scores a try

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

18.57Leinster are on the attack at the RDS, with D’Arcy carrying strongly. Over in the Liberty Stadium, Connacht are under pressure inside their own half as Hassler breaks again…

18.57TRY! Ospreys 12-8 Connacht (Beck ’27)

18.59CONVERSION! Ospreys 14-8 Connacht (Biggar ’27)

That all came from the running ability of Hassler again, as he cut through some weak Connacht tackles inside the Irish province’s 22 and then when the ball was recycled, Beck scooted over untouched in the right-hand corner. Nice conversion from Biggar.

19.00 – Here’s the try that has Leinster in the lead at the RDS. They’re looking less than sharp at the moment as Edinburgh have grown into the game.


19.01 – A big break from Michael Allen allowed Ulster to break out of their own 22, but Munster are back on the attack now through Felix Jones on the counter…

19.03 – At the RDS, Dave Denton is coming off for Edinburgh. That’s a real blow for Alan Solomons’ men, such a focal ball carrying presence. Leinster still looking to fire into top attacking gear there…

19.04 – A great sight for all Irish rugby fans; Sean O’Brien back on the pitch and looking strong.

Sean O'Brien and Dave Denton

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

19.04Glasgow are 33-0 up against Zebre at this stage…

19.05 – A hugely dominant scrum from the Ospreys sees them win a penalty right in front of the Connacht posts. Dan Biggar calls for the tee…

19.07CONVERSION! Ospreys 17-8 Connacht (Biggar ’34)

19.08 – Brilliant work from Paul O’Connell for Musnter! The inspirational lock makes a wonderful steal just metres out from the home side’s tryline. Brilliant defence…

19.09TRY! Ospreys 22-8 Connacht (Alun-Wyn Jones ’37)

The big lock barges over from close range after yet another wave of Ospreys attack!

19.09CONVERSION! Ospreys 24-8 Connacht (Biggar ’37)

19.11 – Matawalu has scored for Glasgow and with Weir converting, they’re out to 40-0 against Zebre.

19.12 – Long injury delay at Thomond Park ends with Nick Williams being carted off. Fingers crossed the Ulster No.8 will be ok. 33 minutes gone in Limerick and still Munster lead.

19.13TRY! Ospreys 24-13 Connacht (Buckley ’40)

19.14CONVERSION! Ospreys 24-15 Connacht (Nikora ’40)

The Connacht forwards powered their way over after starting the attack with a strong maul then coming around the corner aggressively. Lam’s men still in the game!

19.15HALF TIME! Ospreys 24-15 Connacht

19.16Leinster are under real pressure from Edinburgh just metres from their own tryline. Not a good performance at all so far for Matt O’Connor’s side.

19.16PENALTY! Munster 10-10 Ulster (McKinney ’37)

All even at Thomond as Ulster have fought for everything.

19.17 – Here’s the video of Duncan Williams’ try for Munster earlier in this first-half:


19.18PENALTY! Leinster 5-6 Edinburgh (Laidlaw ’39)

Leinster deservedly behind you would have to say. Sustained pressure from the Scots ends with three points.

19.19HALF TIME! Leinster 5-6 Edinburgh

Possibly not the scoreline most at the RDS were expecting at the break. What did you make of that first 40 minutes?

19.20 – This was the try Heaney scored for Ulster in this first half, combining well with Allen:


19.21HALF TIME! Munster 10-10 Ulster

All even at Thomond Park at the interval. What’s your impression of that game?

19.22 – Tempting…

19.23TheScore.ie reader Eamonn Coughlan not beating around the bush here:

Munster are septic first half!

19.25 – As things stand, Glasgow would finish top of the table, pushing Leinster into second position. That would mean Matt O’Connor’s men would welcome Munster to the RDS in the semi-finals, while Ulster would travel to play the Warriors.

What would you think of those pairings?

19.26 – This photo sums up some of the Ospreys attack in the first half against Connacht as proceedings get back underway at Liberty Stadium. Nikora restarts that game…

Jeff Hassler brushes off Eoin Griffin on his way to scoring a try

Source: Huw Evans/INPHO

19.29Connacht attack down the left-side of the pitch through the lively Leader, but then Heffernan spills the ball forward in contact. Disappointing end to that attack, although the Irish hooker feels he was tackled before catching the ball…

19.31 – Word from Thomond Park is that Nick Williams has damaged medial ligaments in his knee. Big loss for Ulster ahead of the semi-finals if that is confirmed by the province.

19.32 – Odd moment over in Glasgow at the end of this try. Hogg’s reaction is not something we’ve seen a whole lot of before…


19.33TRY! Ospreys 29-15 Connacht (Beck ’45)

The Welsh international bursts right through the middle of Connacht’s defence and rushes past Marmion to score.

19.34CONVERSION! Ospreys 31-15 Connacht (Biggar ’46)

19.34Leinster are back underway at the RDS and look a lot more fired up as they start on the attack. A knock-on in the Scots’ 22 ends the first wave of attack though. We’re also back in action at Thomond Park…

19.36Leinster back on the front foot and looking dangerous!

19.38 – Ah frustrating end to that passage again! O’Driscoll attempts the pass between the legs, but it shouldn’t have come to that. Kearney knocks on as he attempts to gather down low. Simple execution of draw and pass has let Leinster down repeatedly in recent times.

19.39 – Robbie Henshaw is on in the centre for Connacht and they’ll look for an attacking spark from the Ireland international. What can he create with his power and direct running?

19.40 – O’Connell goes off his feet in Thomond Park, leading to a penalty for Ulster around 45 metres out. McKinney is confident enough to call for the tee here…

19.40PENALTY! Munster 10-13 Ulster (McKinney ’47)

Booming effort and Ulster lead for the first time in Limerick!

19.41Leinster continue to pile pressure on the Edinburgh defence, with Kearney going close this time. The fullback is held up though, so they’ll have to go again…

19.42TRY! Munster 15-13 Ulster (Dougall ’48)

Turnover ball from the restart, then Keatley grubbers through and Dougall pounces with the ball bouncing around the in-goal area!

19.43CONVERSION! Munster 17-13 Ulster (Keatley ’48)

Lovely strike from wide on the left, kept it nice and low.

19.45 – Finally Leinster win a penalty as their pressure tells and Edinburgh infringe at the ruck. Gopperth lining up the penalty in front of the posts…

19.45PENALTY! Leinster 8-6 Edinburgh (Gopperth ’52)

And with that, Sean O’Brien’s evening is over. Great to see him back and looking strong.

19.46PENALTY! Munster 17-16 Ulster (McKinney ’53)

Another excellent strike from the young out-half, who is off to Rotherham next season. Zebo goes off for Munster, looked in a little pain there.

19.47 – Best video of the evening so far?


19.48 – Nice half-break from JJ Hanrahan, who is on at 10 for Munster. Leads to nothing though, as his offload goes to Ulster hands. Marty Moore is on the pitch for Leinster, replacing Mike Ross.

19.49 – Fantastic reception for Leo Cullen as he leave the RDS pitch. An incredible contributor for Leinster in recent years.

19.50TRY! Ospreys 36-15 Connacht (’61)

A close-range try for Nicky Smith, who dives over the top of a ruck!

19.50CONVERSION! Ospreys 38-15 Connacht (Biggar ’62)

19.52TRY! Leinster 13-6 Edinburgh (Dave Kearney ’58)

A simple screen pass from Gopperth releases Kearney into a midfield hole and Leinster have their first try!

19.53CONVERSION! Leinster 15-6 Edinburgh (Gopperth ’58)

Let’s hope this kick-starts their attacking play, with Edinburgh tiring.

19.53TRY! Ospreys 38-20 Connacht (Gilsenan ’63)

The on-loan flanker scores at the back of a maul on his final appearance for the province!

19.55 – Oooh, the Ospreys go close in immediate response after the missed conversion! Superb covering work from Henshaw and Marmion rescues the situation, but it’s a scrum five metres out for the home team.

19.56 – First though, it’s time for the Lotto draw on RTÉ One.

It could be us! And if it is, and the Liveblog ends abruptly, we apologise in advance. We’ll send you pictures of our hot dogs/legs from the beach in the Bahamas.

19.55 – Here’s the try Sean Dougall scored for Munster a little earlier:


19.56Leinster’s latest attack has ended with a knock-on in contact off the hands of Dave Kearney. They are building so much pressure, but handling errors are just halting them…

20.00 – It’s time, it’s time. There’s Marty talking to us live from Copenhagen.

HIYA MARTY!

19.57TRY! Ospreys 43-20 Connacht (’68 Baker)

From the back of the scrum, the No. 8 picks and drives over. Simple.

19.58PENALTY! Munster 17-19 Ulster (McKinney ’64)

Back in front!

19.59CONVERSION! Ospreys 45-20 Connacht (Biggar ’68)

20.00 – Conor Murray on for Munster, who need some direction in attack…

20.01TRY! Leinster 15-11 Edinburgh (Visser ’66)

The Flying Dutchman scores after Laidlaw broke and hit his powerful winger with the pass!

20.01CONVERSION! Leinster 15-13 Edinburgh (Laidlaw ’66)

The Scots are hanging on!

20.02TheScore.ie reader Brian O’Connor may be on the money here:

It looks like all the teams have the semi-finals in the back of their minds.

20.03Munster looking threatening in the Ulster 22 after Murray carries from the scrum platform. Building the phases now…

20.04 – Penalty to Munster after that bout of pressure in attack. Ulster’s defenders forced into infringing at the rucks. Some discussions taking place with Nigel Owens now. Munster opt for the scrum metres out from the visitors’ tryline…

20.05 – Catch up on that Dave Kearney try for Leinster right here:


20.06Connacht are into the closing minutes of their game, still well behind on the scoreboard…

20.07 – Actually not a bad idea here…

20.08Ulster have survived that assault from the Munster attack and will now look to clear their lines as they have the feed to the scrum. This is some performance from the second-string Ulstermen.

20.09 – Meanwhile, in the Liberty Stadium, Connacht are attempting to build a consolation score. Leinster are back on the attack in the RDS too, but there’s another knock-on as they go into contact.

20.10FULL TIME! Ospreys 45-20 Connacht 

Convincing win for the Welsh side, who finish the season fifth in the Pro12.

20.12 – Edinburgh get their hands back on the ball with around five minutes remaining in the RDS. They will attack from a scrum wide on the right, 10 metres inside the Leinster half…

20.13 – In Limerick, it’s Munster who are in possession. Hanrahan comes up with a cross-field kick and Dave Foley does wonderfully to claim it on the bounce. However, the lock then spills it forward when he hits the deck and Ulster will have a put-in to the scrum.

20.14 – Back in Dublin, Leinster have survived that Edinburgh attack and win a penalty at the breakdown. Ian Madigan is on for a brief cameo, while Luke McGrath is on at scrum-half. A great prospect.

20.15 – The scoreline from Glasgow you ask? 54-0…

20.16 – Matt O’Connor’s men are back up to the Edinburgh 22 following two penalties kicked to touch. McGrath is bossing play around the fringes as Leinster look to close out their win in the final minutes of the game.

20.18FULL TIME! Leinster 15-13 Edinburgh 

A win is a win, and O’Connor’s men finish top of the table. They’ll be looking for much better against Ulster in the semi-final.

20.18 – Ooooo! Hanrahan goes very close with a last-minute drop goal attempt! Slips to the left of the sticks and still Munster trail. Just 30 second left on the clock!

20.19 – Earls runs the restart back at Ulster, but Munster lose possession and now Ulster only need to kick the ball out of play after winning the scrum…

20.21PENALTY against Ulster! At the scrum, looks like there was hands in there. Ulster thought they had it won after kicking the ball out…

20.21 – Hanrahan is going to have a go from the halfway line!

20.21 – HE’S MISSED IT!

20.22FULL TIME! Munster 17-19 Ulster!

Wow, some late drama there, but great win for Mark Anscombe’s young guns!

20.23

So that leaves us with the semi-finals we expected:

  • Leinster v Ulster [RDS]
  • Glasgow v Munster [Scotstoun]

 

20.25 – So let us know what you made of the provinces’ performances this evening. That’s all we have time for on the liveblog, so thanks for joining us. We’re already looking forward to the semi-finals next weekend. Cheers!

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