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Pro 12 – Munster Do It Again In Cardiff

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Six from six in Wales, Munster just have an upper hand over Cardiff to envy. Just like their heroics against Sale, it was anything but smooth sailing to nab this scalp but it is yet another crucial victory in correcting their course going into December, made all the more important by the fact that a lot of “second string” players fronted up for this trip. Leinster and Ulster also notched up important wins, once more carrying the extra significance of the benchwarmers and Connacht faltered somewhat admirably in Wales. Let’s go.

Munster had us worried, but with this second last gasp win of the season only six weeks in, I think we can all agree they’re heading in the right direction. With another potentially tough trip to Wales coming up on November 21st and players like Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan and Johnny Holland likely to be required to help keep the squad in check whilst the Irish contingent are away and potentially in the weeks after that pending injuries, it is significant that each of them had solid outings on Saturday.

Cardiff will certainly feel they let one slip, more so than even Sale would have arguably, but they stand in good stead that their lack of supply to the Welsh national team means the next few weeks could see them gain some ground in the Pro 12. But they were up against a Munster who are more and more looking like the European Champions they once were. Credit must go to Anthony Foley – as well as Jerry Flannery, Mick O’Driscoll and the rest of the coaching team – for managing to get Munster back into the right gear after a start that was all too familiar to the last two seasons under Rob Penney. Onwards and upwards and all that. And credit to both sides for giving us one of the best Pro 12 games of the season so far.

Cardiff 24 – 28 Munster

Leinster had it easy on Friday in many ways, but the arm break suffered by debutant Ben Te’o arguably entirely outweighs their achievements in the RDS. The win, and bonus point, has put Leinster into a much more comfortable margin to the top four as they leapfrogged Connacht and Scarlets into fifth place. But still, losing a back line player when so many of the squad lost to international duty come from this area is just too severe on the team at present to justify any win.

Still Leinster looked near season best, still pipped to the post by their earlier game against Scarlets though you could argue Edinburgh stayed competitive for longer than the Welsh thus elevating the significance of Leinster’s five try romp. They will be more than happy to see Luke Fitzgerald survive yet another starting run and looking sharp while doing so. The back row got another injury crisis boost with the good shows from Jack Conan and Kevin McLaughlin proving once more that Leinster can at least survive without the likes of Shane Jennings and Sean O’Brien for now anyway.

Leinster 33 – 8 Edinburgh

Less optimistic on Friday was Connacht falling to the Ospreys, though they certainly could have fallen a lot worse. The final result doesn’t bite all that hard, more so the fact that Connacht were opened up for twenty minutes or so when Ospreys burst ahead of them in the second half. What had been such a tight game until then looked like it could end up a rout.

But once again, unique to this season thus far, Connacht regathered. They never looked likely to nab the win, but had Eoin McKeon crossed for his try maybe ten minutes earlier a bonus point at least could have been on the cards. But this is what Connacht need to be constantly striving for, that the no hope away fixtures now become at least potential bonus points. Pat Lam will be conscious of their next outing being against Zebre, where the likes of Bundee Aki and the hopefully instated by then Mils Muliaina will be licking their lips at the potential for tries, something else Connacht need to get under their belt.

They now sit in sixth place on a table where they realistically need to be at least fifth come January. It can be done, and hopefully will.

Ospreys 26 – 11 Connacht

Finally the Ulstermen got a chance to return to winning ways this weekend with a hostile welcome for Dragons in Belfast. Stinging from two European defeats, Neil Doak’s men were always going to and needed to win this one. No, it doesn’t erase what came in the weeks before, but it does put them top of the Irish teams, three clear of Munster in the top four in a competition table they stand a far better chance of winning than that certain other competition.

Arguably playing against the sting of not being selected for Irish consideration, Stuart Olding was the wonderman of the night with a brace for himself, and Ulster could do with the likes of him and Craig Gilroy finishing opportunities so clinically and showing opponents there’s still life in these old dogs yet. Ireland fans will be less than happy to see that Rory Best is now a doubt for Irish consideration after picking up a calf strain but he can be more than happy himself that his teammates back home are doing the strip proud in his absence with victories such as this one.

Ulster 23 – 6 Dragons

Image courtesy of RTE.ie

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