United Rugby Championship: Leinster continue winning streak while Benetton defeat Ospreys
Leinster edged ever closer to a perfect run into the United Rugby Championship (URC) play-offs, claiming a 15th straight win in the tournament as they beat Edinburgh 42-27.
Defeat for Edinburgh dents their knockout hopes as they fell to a seventh loss in their last eight URC games.
Leinster outscored the Scottish outfit seven tries to four, with Max Deegan, Scott Penny and Michael Milne grabbing first-half scores. Harry Byrne converted all three tries to give Leinster a 21-15 lead at half-time.
For the hosts, Emiliano Boffelli grabbed a try and converted Boan Venter’s score and a penalty to keep his side within touching distance after 40 minutes.
But Leinster pulled away in the second half with Penny and Milne doubling their tallies as Dave Kearney and Michael Ala’alatoa added their names to the scoresheet, Byrne converting three of the four scores.
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Boffelli also grabbed a second five-pointer in the second half, with Sam Skinner scoring a late consolation.
That first half featured five tries, the first of which saw Edinburgh take the lead through Boffelli after good work in midfield from Stuart McInally and Marshall Sykes.
But the Argentina international was wide with his conversion attempt, and that allowed Leinster to go ahead minutes later when Deegan shrugged off a Ben Vellacott tackle all too easily to touch down before Byrne converted.
However, that lead did not last long either.
An Edinburgh move up the right quickly gained ground, and when the ball came back infield, Venter finished off from a couple of metres out. Boffelli was on target this time and added a penalty minutes later.
Again, though, Leinster soon hit back. Steady pressure in front of the posts ended with them being awarded a penalty, and some slick inter-passing from the tap saw Penny plunge over.
Byrne’s conversion reduced the Irish side’s deficit to a single point, and they went on to regain the lead late in the half with their third try, finished off by Milne after Kearney and Liam Turner had done the initial damage. Another Byrne conversion made it 21-15 at the break.
Minutes after the restart, the lead extended into double figures.
A Leinster attack down the right wing sucked in the home defence, and when Jamie Osborne saw Kearney unmarked on the far left, he delivered a cross-kick which the winger just secured and downed. The conversion attempt was missed.
Edinburgh replied with an unconverted score by Boffelli, but Leinster restored their double-figures advantage when Milne notched his second from close range.
Ala’alatoa got his team’s sixth try, and when Penny added his second, there was still more than a full quarter to go.
Edinburgh had the last word minutes from time when Skinner scored the bonus-point try, and Charlie Savala converted. Leinster replacement Brian Deeny was yellow-carded for an offence in the build-up.
Ospreys fall short against Benetton
Ospreys replacement fly-half Jack Walsh saw his conversion attempt to clinch a dramatic comeback win agonisingly hit the post as Benetton held on to claim a 21-20 victory.
The Welsh region scored two tries in the last seven minutes as they nearly staged a remarkable recovery from 21-8 down, scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams scoring the second when he touched down a Walsh kick in the in-goal area after the clock had ticked past 80 minutes.
That brought the Ospreys within a point at 21-20, but the score was to stay that way as Walsh’s conversion was a few inches out, and the Italians celebrated only their second away win in their last 12 United Rugby Championship matches.
Ospreys, looking to bounce back from their heavy defeat to Munster, showed their aggressive intent early on by firstly kicking to the corner from a kickable penalty and then using the backs instead of the forwards.
Midfield creativity allowed right-wing Luke Morgan to stroll over unopposed for the game’s opening score.
Benetton had a try by right-wing Ignacio Mendy disallowed for a forward pass, but were not to be denied when, in the 22nd minute, centre Joaquin Riera regathered the ball after it went loose from a fly kick forward to cross.
Then it was a story of the kickers for the rest of the half as the penalties, which had gone the Ospreys way early on started to go in favour of the Italians.
Jacob Umaga converted the try and then added two more penalty kicks to ease Benetton into the lead, despite a 40-yard reply from Ospreys number 10 Stephen Myler.
It meant the visitors led 13-8 at half-time, and they were clearly determined to extend that in the second half.
They started well with another Umaga penalty before a series of fingertip catches from offloads after the restart took Benetton up to the Ospreys’ try line once again.
At first they were denied by the TMO, but from the drop out, they were able to work left wing Marcus Watson clear on the outside, and he went 40 yards for the try while the Ospreys were down to 14 with replacement flanker Harri Deaves in the bin.
The Ospreys needed a response, and it was two of their young backs who provided it, centre Williams and debutant full-back Iestyn Hopkins. However, they struggled to nail the final pass, and opportunities went begging.
Centre Owen Watkin put a long raking kick to the line, which brought a penalty and could have seen a yellow card.
A kick to the corner and the backs joined the lineout drive, with hooker Sam Parry going over for a try converted by Walsh.
That set up a thrilling finale, and although Morgan-Williams got Ospreys within touching distance of victory, they fell just short in the end.
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