Ireland stars show their class as Leinster smash Bulls in statement win while Dragons move off the bottom

Planet Rugby
James Lowe about to score for Leinster against Bulls.

James Lowe about to score for Leinster against Bulls.

Leinster ran in seven tries as they hammered United Rugby Championship rivals the Bulls 47-14 at the RDS on Friday to move nine points clear at the summit.

A host of Ireland internationals returned to action after their Six Nations exploits and many of them were among the tries as Leinster put a stunned Bulls side to the sword.

Josh van der Flier, Ronan Kelleher, James Lowe, Michael Milne, Dan Sheehan, Jack Conan and Liam Turner all crossed while Harry Byrne and Ross Byrne kicked extras.

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Returning to the scene of their 2022 semi-final victory, the Bulls won two early scrum penalties and Johan Goosen put three points on the board.

Although the 31-year-old fly-half made it 6-0 from just inside his own half, Leinster replied with an excellent 18th-minute try, started by Rob Russell and finished by Van der Flier under the posts.

When Bulls replacement Mpilo Gumede leaked a ruck penalty, a powerful lineout drive saw Kelleher extend the lead to 12-6.

However, Leinster were rocked when Kurt-Lee Arendse’s 35-metre run-in was immediately followed by Luke McGrath’s yellow card which could possibly have been a red.

Although Goosen landed his third penalty, 14-man Leinster, who had Jordan Larmour stepping in at scrum half, bagged their third try within five minutes of the restart.

It was a well-timed Joe McCarthy offload that sent Lowe over in the right corner. Harry Byrne swung over the difficult conversion.

With Larmour and Russell proving lethal in broken play, the newly-introduced Jamison Gibson-Park fed prop Milne to make it 26-14.

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Despite Arendse and David Kriel both threatening, Sheehan showed his skills when kicking an overthrown Bulls lineout downfield, before winning a turnover penalty.

Milne released Sheehan to slide over in the 63rd minute after a bulldozing Conan carry. Replacement Ross Byrne’s conversion widened the margin to 19 points.

Number eight Conan broke Willie le Roux’s tackle for try number six. Arendse was unfortunate that his intercept score was ruled out for his apparent kick on Byrne beforehand.

It was left to Turner to complete the scoring via Russell’s return pass, with the elder Byrne tagging on his third successful kick.

Dragons win to move off bottom

Elsewhere, the Dragons picked up a 20-13 victory over fellow United Rugby Championship strugglers Zebre Parma in Newport to move off the bottom of the standings.

The Welsh region began slowly but two breakaway tries in quick succession gave them increased confidence to dominate the game.

Aneurin Owen, Jared Rosser and Elliot Dee scored tries for Dragons with Cai Evans adding a penalty and a conversion.

Muhamed Hasa scored a try for Zebre with Tiff Eden kicking two penalties and a conversion.

A drop-out straight into touch from former Bristol fly-half Eden gave Dragons their first attacking platform but it came to nothing as the hosts bungled a pre-planned three-quarter move.

An earlier half-break from Eden was the only feature of note in an error-ridden and scoreless first 15 minutes with Zebre having the best chance for points but they opted not to take a kickable penalty from only 20 metres out.

However after 17 minutes the game burst into life when Owen intercepted to run 70 metres for the opening score.

Six minutes later, Dragons scored a second, which again brought the crowd to its feet. From a position close to the Italian 22, the home side counter-rucked strongly for Rosser to seize the ball and sprint away from two coverers for a superb individual try.

Evans missed his second conversion before Eden put Zebre on the scoreboard with two penalties in quick succession.

With the last move of the half, Dragons extended the lead when Rhodri Williams darted deep into the opposition 22 where Gonzalo Garcia was yellow-carded for off-side with Evans kicking the resulting penalty for a 13-6 interval lead.

Three minutes after the restart, Dragons scored a crucial third try when Dee finished off a lineout drive with Evans knocking over the touchline conversion.

Garcia returned from the sin-bin but the game was a non-event for the next half-hour until Hasa forced his way over close-range for a late consolation try.

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