Leinster returned to the top of the Guinness PRO12 with a bonus-point win away to Zebre, while Scarlets made ground on the top four with a dominant victory over Glasgow Warriors on Saturday.
Wing Adam Byrne ran in a hat-trick of tries for the Irish province, who were patient in their pursuit of victory having trailed after half an hour before sealing a comfortable 33-10 five-try win.
While Will Boyde capitalised on his starting role for the Scarlets with two scores against the Warriors with Rhys Patchell also kicking 12 points in the 27-3 victory.
Zebre 10-33 Leinster
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) November 5, 2016
Leinster extended their winning run to six games with victory at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi to take them back to the summit with a three-point advantage over Irish rivals Munster.
Zebre however had dominated the opening quarter, capitalising on a yellow card for Mike McCarthy to take the lead through Andries van Schalkwyk’s score and Carlo Canna’s conversion.
Debutant Tom Daly – one of seven changes made by director of rugby Leo Cullen – then responded with a score before Isa Nacewa’s conversion drew Leinster level.
A Canna penalty saw Zebre take a slender lead but from then on it was all about Leinster, in particular the finishing of Byrne who grabbed his first score before the break to give Leinster the lead.
After the break two more followed, created by some powerful work from the forwards, with a Jack Conan score sandwiched in between to secure the try bonus point.
And with a large portion of his squad away with Ireland, Cullen believes the strength shown by those who stepped offers cause to be optimistic about the future.
“We have 14 players in Chicago [on international duty] so this was a great opportunity for the lads,” he said. “I am delighted for them and there is still room for us to grow.
“We’re happy with the progress of the group but we believe that there is more in us. The lads can head away, take a break and enjoy it.”
Scarlets 27-3 Glasgow Warriors
Seren y Gêm / Guinness Man of the Match @WillBoyde! ????????????
— Scarlets (@scarlets_rugby) November 5, 2016
Scarlets are another side on an impressive run of form, their win over the Warriors standing as a fifth-straight GUINNESS PRO12 win.
Perhaps this was the most satisfying of those too, scoring three tries and restricting the Warriors to just a single penalty – the first time Gregor Townsend’s side have failed to score a try since January.
Despite dominating possession and territory Glasgow’s inability to score early on proved decisive as Scarlets got the game’s first try through Boyde after great work initially from Hadleigh Parkes to find a gap in the Warriors defence.
Peter Horne got Glasgow’s only points of the day on the half-hour with a penalty and in the second half it was the home side who asserted their dominance with scores from Jonathan Evans and Boyde’s second.
Victory could have been that bit sweeter for Scarlets as they pushed for the bonus-point score right to the end and in fact thought they had earned it through Parkes at the death.
However some superb defensive work from Hart saw the centre just fall short of the line, although Townsend insists his side’s defensive discipline wasn’t good enough on the whole.
“To come away with nothing is disappointing, I think every game last year bar one we came away with at least a point and the same can be said for the start of this season,” he said.
“We want to be competitive, even on our off nights we want to be difficult to beat and we were too easy to beat in that second half.
“Yellow cards put us under pressure and Scarlets played really well, they had more possession and we missed a few tackles and made too many mistakes.”
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final
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