Surprises, close finishes and also hidings as Rainbow Cup kicks off

Surprises, close finishes and also hidings as Rainbow Cup kicks off

It wasn’t PRO14 champions Leinster’s very best side, but it would’ve been extremely satisfying for Munster coach Johann van Graan that his side stopped the six-match sequence of wins for Leinster in the first round of the Rainbow Cup North.

In fact, it was only Munster’s second win in Dublin in 11 years!

Munster’s winning score of 27-3 tells the story of domination, with Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray’s two tries, one after five minutes play and the second halfway through the second half, setting the tone in a rather one-sides contest.

Munster played with their strongest side, while Leinster, the only non-French side in the last four of the Champions Cup, fielded a much-changed team from the PRO14 final against Munster with their focus unashamedly on next weekend.

Leinster will nevertheless be pleased that the return of trio Garry Ringrose, James Ryan and Caelan Doris to the starting side went well and that the trio will be there for semi-final selection.

However, the comprehensive domination by Munster in this match and the scoreline will rankle with the losers.

While the Rainbow Cup is far from Pro14 champions Leinster’s priority, they will still begrudge the fact they were turned over so comprehensively by their biggest rivals on their home ground.

Having lost this season's three previous meetings, including the Pro14 final, Munster's team selection indicated how badly Johann van Graan's side wanted to stop the rot on Saturday.

They did so with clinical efficiency, with Murray scoring his first after just five minutes when he collected the ball from Damian de Allende, who broke through midfield and evaded the challenge of Jordan Larmour to send his scrumhalf through.

Joey Carbery's kicking kept Munster ticking along throughout the contest, while Leinster were forced into an early change at fly-half with David Hawkshaw replacing the injured Harry Byrne after just six minutes.

With his time in Ireland running out before his return to South Africa, CJ Stander’s work at the breakdown was as always impressive and a major factor in the Munster domination in this facet and in their win.

North injured

George North, Wales big wing who has also been used at centre in recent times, will know on Monday whether his dreams of a third British and Irish Lions tour will be thwarted.

North, who has been in fine form recently, suffered a leg injury for Ospreys against Cardiff Blues shortly after halftime and twisted his leg.

The injury seemed quite serious, judging from the cries of pain from the field and North limped from the field with assistance from two first-aid workers.

Ospreys, who called up a number of their players who a were part of the Wales winning team in the Six nations, easily won the match at Liberty Park, 36-14.

Glasgow have the ball, Benetton score the tries

Home team Benetton showed that their progress in the recent Challenges Cup were no fluke as they beat Glasgow 46-19.

Glasgow dominated possession and territory, but three tries by Benetton put them well in charge at the break when they led 21-0

Six tries to three is what counted on the scoreboard, but on the field Glasgow ran more metres, beat more opponents, made more clean breaks, were well ahead in their passes (168-108), totally dominated the rucks 105-52 and kicked less from hand.

And got thoroughly hammered.

There is some thinking to be done in Glasgow …
▲On Friday, Edinburgh were good value for their home win against Zebre, edging the visitors in most facets and taking their chances when on offer. The final score was 24-18 to Edinburgh who scored three tries to two, with the breakdown and rucks in general giving the winners that slight edge and a second-half territorial advantage that made the difference.

▲ Also on Friday, in a close match where the lead changed often, Connacht used the experimental captain’s challenge right at the end to be awarded a penalty which was kicked for the corner for a lineout.

From there they scored following a short kick that was collected just before the deadball line for Peter Sullivan to score the winner.

▲ At Rodney Park in the last match of the first Rainbow Cup round, the Dragons had the better of the match against the Scarlets in which 12 tries were scored, seven of them by the Dragons.

Overall the Dragons very much controlled the match after good resistance in the first half, but the Scarlets defence missed 28% of their 133 tackle attempts in the match. The Dragons beat 37 defenders and made 28 clean breaks that kept the Scarlets on the back foot at the wrong side of the field.