RaboDirect Pro12 wrap: Mixed fortunes for Scots on their travels
Finlay Morrison reports on another Scottish victory over Italian opposition this weekend.
Despite the Six Nations being the primary focus for rugby fans this weekend, the Pro 12 quietly continued under the radar as Edinburgh travelled to Cork to take on Munster whilst Glasgow Warriors made their second trip of the season to Northern Italy, this time to face basement side Zebre.
There were mixed fortunes for the two Scottish sides as Finlay Morrison reports.
Zebre 20-36 Glasgow Warriors
After a frantic opening few minutes that saw both sides score two tries, Glasgow eventually overpowered Zebre to secure a valuable bonus-point victory in sunny Parma on Sunday afternoon.
Byron McGuigan scored twice for the Warriors, but the winger was at fault for the opening try as for the second game in a row he failed to gather a kick-off cleanly leading to an easy score for Dries Van Schalkwyk before McGuigan replied to tie the scores.
Zebre then re-gained the lead through a try from Tito Tebaldi before centre Alex Dunbar tied the scores at 14-14 after only eleven minutes.
Glasgow then took the contest by the scruff of the neck and began to dominate with stand-off Scott Wight, enjoying a rare start, dictating where the game was played with a mature kicking game.
Fans' favourite Niko Matawalu was once again the key man for the Warriors as the flying Fijian's speed and skill were too much for the Italians as the visitors scored their third and fourth tries through McGuigan and then flanker James Eddie, himself making the most of a starting berth having been deployed mainly from the bench this season.
Peter Murchie added the fifth and final try after some nice link work from Matawalu and substitute Sean Kennedy, to make the vital five points safe as the Warriors continue on their path towards the Pro 12 play-offs.
Finn Russell, making his Pro 12 debut added two conversions in the second half as head coach Gregor Townsend's side deployed their 48th player of the season so far, such has been the extent of the injuries and International call-ups at the Scotstoun-based side.
Munster 30-3 Edinburgh
For the fourth time this season Munster easily beat a depleted Edinburgh side to condemn the capital outfit to their 10th Pro 12 defeat of the season and leave coach Michael Bradley scratching his head as he ponders the plight of last season's Heineken Cup semi-finalists.
Edinburgh started promisingly at Musgrave Park with Pier Francis and Richie Rees making early yards into Munster territory and earned a penalty which Francis converted as Munster similarly struggled to register points settling for two penalties from stand-off Ian Keatley who kicked a total of twenty points on the match.
Second half tries from forwards CJ Stander and Mike Sherry were enough to secure another home win for the Irish province who consolidate their top 6 position in the table whilst Edinburgh slump to 9th position in the standings.
Ulster 12-16 Ospreys
High-flying Ulster suffered another home defeat, this time at the hands of Ospreys who arrived at Ravenhill full of attacking promise and vitality, but despite enjoying most of the possession, fell behind at half time due to Ruan Pienaar's three penalties to Matthew Morgan's two.
Prop Ryan Bevington scored the only try of the game in the second half to revive the Ospreys' hopes of regaining their title as Ulster stay top of the Pro 12.
Scarlets 25-15 Connacht
Scarlets young stand-off Owen Williams effectively won this match for the Welsh region by kicking a total of twenty points in poor conditions at Parc Y Scarlets on Friday night.
Connacht scored two tries through Danie Poolman and Mike Swift but their discipline at the contact area let them down as Williams booted 6 penalties and converted Joe Syman's try to ensure they too stay amongst the top 6 in the Pro 12 table.
Cardiff Blues 11-26 Leinster
Leinster recorded another Pro 12 victory in Cardiff on Friday night despite missing several frontline players.
Isaac Boss and Jordi Murphy scored the tries whilst Ian Madigan kicked four penalties at the Arms Park as Cardiff were yet again easily beaten at home and could only managed a Jason Tovey try and two Rhys Patchell penalties throughout a game they showed a worrying lack of enthusiasm for.
Dragons 23 - 14 Benetton Treviso
The Dragons bounced back from their recent woes with an important win over a dogged Treviso side at Rodney Parade on Friday night.
A late try from Tom Prydie to add to Steffan Jones' earlier score ensured a home win for the Newport side after Treviso had once again taken a half-time lead through tries from Gideon la Grange and Filippo Giusti.
Try-scorer Jones struggled with his goal-kicking in the tricky conditions but regained his composure in the second half to slot a penalty before crossing the line whilst Tom Prydie added two penalties and landed both conversions to ensure the points stayed in south Wales.
The Pro 12 continues next week as Glasgow Warriors are again on the road, this time to Rodney Parade to face the Dragons on Friday night whilst Edinburgh will seek to kick-start their campaign at home to fellow strugglers Cardiff Blues at Murrayfield also on Friday night.
You can follow Finlay Morrison on Twitter @FinMorrison