United Rugby Championship: Ben Healy shines on debut for Edinburgh while Connacht, Stormers and Ulster win

David Skippers
Ben Healy Scotland 2023 - Alamy.jpg

Edinburgh Fly-half Ben Healy.

Ben Healy shone on debut for Edinburgh as he contributed 17 points off the kicking tee during their 22-17 victory over the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Saturday.

Healy slotted five penalties and converted captain Ben Vellacott’s try as they started their United Rugby Championship (URC) campaign in style.

The hosts looked in control when they led 17-6 but they faded to allow former Munster man Healy to make them pay for their ill-discipline with his three-pointers off the kicking tee.

Sio Tomkinson and Corey Baldwin scored Dragons’ tries with Cai Evans converting both and adding a penalty.

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Dragons took the lead in the second minute with a superbly created try. From a line-out in the opposition 22, a pre-planned move saw Jarred Rosser burst through the defence before sending Tomkinson in under the posts.

Evans converted before having the chance to extend the lead with a kickable penalty but Dragons opted for an attacking line-out and it paid dividends when a cross-field kick from Steff Hughes was collected by Baldwin to score.

A penalty from Healy put Edinburgh on the scoreboard but they suffered a blow when their flanker Cameron Neild left the field with an injury.

However the Scots were firmly in the ascendancy in the second quarter with their pack taking control to win a number of penalties to put the opposition under pressure but they could not capitalise and trailed 14-3 at the interval.

Within two minutes of the restart, Healy had reduced the arrears with his second penalty after home number eight Ollie Griffiths had been penalised for a high tackle but this was soon nullified with a penalty from Evans.

The third quarter was a stop-start affair with neither side able to provide any fluency to their game and it came as no surprise that the next score came via a penalty – a third from Healy for Hughes not releasing.

With 15 minutes remaining, Edinburgh set up a grandstand finish by scoring a converted try to bring them to within one point of the hosts.

Healy made a clean break to provide Vellacott with an easy run-in and it was he who proved the match-winner by firing over two late penalties.

Caolin Blade hat-trick sets up Connacht triumph over Ospreys

Caolin Blade’s 22-minute first-half hat-trick helped Connacht to a 34-26 bonus-point win over the Ospreys in their URC opener at the Sportsground in Galway.

The diminutive scrum-half started the new season in brilliant form, earning his reward for his support running. His half-back partner JJ Hanrahan kicked 12 points as Connacht built a 27-5 half-time lead.

Following up on a late Keelan Giles try, Ospreys cut the gap to eight points after Reuben Morgan-Williams and new signing James Ratti had crossed.

However, they were unable to mark Justin Tipuric’s 200th appearance with a comeback win.

A closing effort from influential lock Rhys Davies did earn the Welsh side a try-scoring bonus point but Cathal Forde’s 56th-minute score, converted by Hanrahan, had Connacht too far in front.

Stormers hold off late comeback from the Lions

The Stormers survived a second-half Lions fightback to clinch a 35-33 win in their United Rugby Championship opener at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

After PJ Botha crossed early for the Lions, the Stormers moved 32-7 in front thanks to tries from Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (2), Joseph Dweba and Herschel Jantjies. Clayton Blommetjies kicked three conversions and a penalty while Feinberg-Mngomezulu also landed a three-pointer off the kicking tee.

But tries from Henco van Wyk, Ruan Venter, Morne van den Berg and Francke Horn, three of them converted, either side of a Feinberg-Mngomezulu penalty saw the Lions move to within two but they had to settle for two losing bonus points.

Ulster fight back to edge out Zebre

Ulster staged a second-half fightback to beat Zebre Parma 40-36 and get their United Rugby Championship campaign off to a winning start at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

Zebre had lost 25 matches in a row and were without a victory since April 2022.

But the Italians showed they are a far more serious proposition this season, sharing 12 tries in a dramatic contest and picking up two bonus points.

For Ulster, Jacob Stockdale and Tom Stewart led the way with a brace of tries apiece and their other five-pointers were scored by Jake Flannery and Michael Lowry, while Neil Doak succeeded with five conversions.

Giovanni Licata and Simone Gessi also scored two tries each for the home side. Their other points came via five-pointers from Lorenzo Pani and Scott Gregory while Geronimo Prisciantelli added three conversions

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