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The best of the RaboDirect PRO12 in Europe round one

There was a break from RaboDirect PRO12 action as the Celtic and Italian clubs flexed their European muscles, but that didn’t mean there was a break for the league’s stars – Eli Walker, Simon Zebo and Sean Lamont among those to impress.

With 23 tries between the RaboDirect PRO12 sides it’s fair to say there is a lot to choose from here but the pick has got to be Eli Walker’s opener against Benetton Treviso for the Ospreys. The reigning RaboDirect PRO12 champions were beaten in Italy by the same opponents in their first game of the season but Walker ensured the same would not happen again. The silky winger produced a series of dazzling sidesteps to dance his way over for the first of the Ospreys’ four tries on the night.

A sodden Stade de France pitch in heavy conditions is not where you would have expected the weekend’s best break to come from, but Munster flyer Simon Zebo produced a moment of class which almost earned his side a precious away win. With Racing Metro having overcome a slow start to lead 16-10 with less than ten minutes to go things looked grim for Munster, only for Zebo to produce a scintillating break from 40 yards out and crash over. Unfortunately for the Irish side Olly Barkley slotted two late penalties meaning they had to settle for just the one point from the match.

Ulster always looked in control in their clash with Castres but knew that a bonus point would be vital in the context of a tricky group. With 80 minutes up on the clock the French side decided to give it a go, but after some sensational defence Ulster turned the ball over and Ruan Pienaar started a counter-attack from his own 22. A couple of passes later and the ball was back in the South African’s hands to go under the posts for the all-important fourth try.

Cardiff Blues were involved in probably the most exciting game of the weekend and while they were pipped to the post in the cruellest of fashion, winger Alex Cuthbert was outstanding. The giant speedster ran in a hat-trick at the Salford City Stadium to prove once more how far he has come since making his Blues debut just last September.

European champions Leinster were made to work very hard in their opening clash at home to Exeter but it was the ever-reliable boot of Jonathan Sexton that saw them home, the fly-half slotting three penalties in a 9-6 win.
The Scarlets were eventually well-beaten away at Clermont Auvergne, but in an encouraging first half Jonathan Davies scored the game’s first try while Rhys Priestland was in much-improved form from the kicking tee after his work with Neil Jenkins, knocking over a conversion, two penalties and a drop goal.
Finally Glasgow Warriors winger Sean Lamont showed his finishing ability, bludgeoning his way through four Northampton tacklers on his way to the tryline at Franklin’s Gardens.