United Rugby Championship: Superb first half display helps Stormers to victory over Dragons while Glasgow Warriors thrash Zebre Parma
The Stormers sealed their 15th successive home victory after a clinical first-half performance helped them clinch a 34-26 victory over the Dragons in their United Rugby Championship clash in Gqeberha.
The men from the Cape’s expansive style of rugby during the opening 40 minutes proved too strong for their visitors and the Stormers held a comfortable 28-7 lead at half-time.
Their sixth league triumph from eight matches was underpinned by first-half tries for flanker Junior Pokomela, hooker Joseph Dweba, centre Ruhan Nel and fly-half Manie Libbok.
But the Dragons fought back superbly, claiming a losing bonus-point and outscoring their hosts during a second period that produced tries for props Aki Seiuli and Josh Reynolds while JJ Hanrahan also crossed.
Hanrahan added conversions of wing Jordan Williams’ first-half score and his own try and substitute Will Reed booted a conversion as Stormers’ second-half points were restricted to a couple of Libbok penalties, which followed three earlier conversions for a 17-point haul.
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The Stormers quickly made their intentions clear, moving possession wide and stretching the Dragons defensively.
But it was from a set-piece that the home side went ahead, driving a close-range lineout that ended with Pokomela – a late inclusion in Stormers’ starting line-up – touching down.
Libbok converted and the Stormers increased their lead seven minutes later in carbon-copy fashion when another lineout surge saw Dweba score and Libbok add the extras.
The Dragons had no answer to such physical power yet Stormers then showcased their attacking game, cruising to a try bonus-point in spectacular fashion.
Wings Tristan Leyds and Leolin Zas were heavily involved in a length-of-the-field move that ended with Nel collecting Clayton Blommetjies’ one-handed pass to score, then Libbok shredded Dragons’ defence on a weaving 50-metre run.
Libbok and Blommetjies each added conversions and although Williams claimed an interception try on the stroke of half-time, the Dragons had a mountain to climb at 28-7 adrift.
Seiuli opened the second-half scoring after a Dragons lineout surge before a Libbok penalty took his team past 30 points and he added another when wing Sio Tomkinson was yellow-carded following an off-the-ball challenge.
The Dragons, though, displayed admirable resolve, finishing strongly to dominate the second-half scoreboard 19-6.
Six-try Glasgow Warriors put Zebre Parma to the sword
Glasgow Warriors survived an early period of Zebre Parma pressure to emerge with a 45-17 bonus-point triumph from their match in Italy.
Warriors were without an away win since January but claimed an ultimately comfortable victory in the Parma rain.
Sintu Manjezi cancelled out Pierre Bruno’s opening try as Glasgow went into half-time with a 10-7 lead, before Sebastian Cancelliere, Stafford McDowall, Johnny Matthews (2) and Domingo Miotti all crossed after the interval.
Two tries from Jacques du Toit were all Zebre could muster in response in the second period, with George Horne turning in an outstanding performance with the boot by kicking 15 points for his side.
Matt Fagerson was yellow-carded as Glasgow came under intense early pressure on their own line, before brother Zander was forced off through injury soon after.
A Chris Cook try was ruled out for obstruction, but the pressure eventually told when Geronimo Prisciantelli’s cross-field kick found Bruno wide on the right to touch down.
Prisciantelli added the extras, but Glasgow were almost immediately level.
Having spent most of the match inside their own 22, Manjezi gathered his own charge down to go over, with Horne splitting the posts with the conversion.
Prisciantelli missed an opportunity to nudge Zebre back in front from the tee on the half-hour mark, and it was Glasgow who had the advantage at the break thanks to Horne’s penalty.
The visitors then took complete control of the encounter early in the second period, with Cancelliere being sent over in the left corner before McDowall picked up a loose ball to dart for the line.
Horne converted both and was on target again when Johnny Matthews crashed over with 12 minutes left to play to bag the bonus point.
Du Toit scored his two tries either side of Miotti’s first in Glasgow colours, but they mattered little in the end as Matthews doubled his own tally and Horne maintained his perfect record from the tee to give the scoreline a convincing gloss and stretch Warriors’ domination of this fixture with a 20th win in 20 meetings.
Connacht too strong for Benetton
Replacement Caolin Blade claimed a 66th-minute bonus point as Connacht overcame Benetton 38-19 at the Sportsground.
Connacht captain Jack Carty converted tries from Niall Murray and Paul Boyle and added a penalty to establish a 17-7 half-time lead.
Marcus Watson sandwiched in his second try in the space of a week, while Marco Zanon cancelled out a Finlay Bealham effort to keep the Italians in contention.
Scrum-half Blade wrapped up the result, taking advantage of a red card for Benetton’s Kiwi second row Scott Scrafton, before Tommaso Menoncello and Dylan Tierney-Martin traded late scores.
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