URC: Ben Healy scores match-winning try for Munster, Scarlets defeat Dragons despite Kalamafoni red card while Leinster and Ospreys claim wins
Ben Healy came off the bench for Munster to score the match-winning try and conversion in Sunday’s 15-14 United Rugby Championship (URC) victory against Ulster, while there were wins for Scarlets, Leinster and Ospreys.
In a closely fought derby, it was Munster that emerged victorious thanks to the efforts of Healy, with the replacement fly-half scoring the match-winning points with the clock in the red.
Ulster led on the scoreboard from the 16th minute right until Healy’s conversion as Ulster managed to keep Munster scoreless in the first half. Scrum-half John Cooney converted three penalties to hand the hosts a 9-0 half-time lead.
Munster scrum-half Paddy Patterson darted down the blindside to score the visitors’ second try shortly after half-time, fly-half Jack Crowley missing the tough conversion.
With 12 minutes left to play, Ulster winger Robert Baloucounne scored to give Ulster a 14-5 lead, with replacement scrum-half Nathan Doak missing the conversion.
Healy knocked over a penalty to put Munster in with a chance in the latter stages before sealing the result with a try and conversion tallying up 10 points.
Click here for teams and scores
It took 15 minutes of fairly scrappy play before Cooney got Ulster moving with a well-struck penalty.
Four minutes later he did the same after James Hume had been taken out without the ball and on 24 minutes Cooney landed a third penalty after Jack O’Donoghue was offside.
Munster then came back into the game after Marty Moore had to be carted off with a leg injury but though they laid siege to the Ulster line, which led to Tom Stewart’s 34th-minute yellow card, the home team held firm to make it to half-time 9-0 in front.
Four minutes after the restart Munster scored the first try of the game when Patterson scampered clear at a ruck to dot down. Crowley hit the upright with his conversion to keep Ulster 9-5 ahead.
There were no further scores until the 67th minute when Ulster finally moved the ball into space from left to right, Stuart McCloskey’s long skip pass finding Baloucoune who raced clear to touch the ball down.
Doak missed the difficult conversion.
Healy then kicked a 73rd-minute penalty before the game ended with Munster coming at Ulster strongly and with the clock in red, Healy dived over near the posts, with his conversion then winning the game.
Leinster start new year in familiar fashion
United Rugby Championship leaders Leinster began the new year in familiar fashion with a 41-12 bonus-point win over Connacht at the RDS.
Tries from David Hawkshaw and Tom Farrell had Connacht just 19-12 behind at half-time, with Liam Turner, Brian Deeny and Jordan Larmour crossing for Leinster.
Larmour, Rob Russell, Ryan Baird and Josh van der Flier made it a seven-try victory for Leo Cullen’s men, whose only real worry was losing captain Jonathan Sexton to a facial injury.
Connacht were missing three of their Ireland internationals, with illness ruling out Finlay Bealham and Mack Hansen while Bundee Aki was rested due to Ireland player management.
Turner took a lovely line in the second minute as Charlie Ngatai and Sexton combined to put him over to the right of the posts. Sexton missed the conversion.
The Murray brothers, Darragh and Niall, both pinched lineouts and Connacht’s improving play was rewarded when Hawkshaw broke through tackles from Sexton and Russell for a fine 16th-minute score, converted by Jack Carty.
🔥 Incredible footwork from Jordan Larmour!
A bit of luck and he scores a cracking try.☘️#URC #LEIvCON pic.twitter.com/YO5rG9gK8Y
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) January 1, 2023
Leinster turned to their powerful pack, young lock Deeny springing over from close range for Sexton to make it 12-7.
On the half-hour mark, a sidestepping Larmour linked with Jimmy O’Brien, whose kick through evaded the unfortunate Carty, and Larmour gleefully followed up for a seven-pointer.
Connacht pulled back five of those before the break, Carty slickly sent Farrell over but the skipper miscued the conversion.
Larmour bagged a 44th-minute bonus point from an inviting Jamison Gibson-Park pass, while Connacht lost Hawkshaw to injury in the process. Carty was soon sent to the bin for being offside from a penalty.
Nonetheless, Connacht coped well while down to 14 men, Caolin Blade igniting their attack again and Jarrad Butler thwarting a Leinster maul.
Sexton had to be replaced after head-on-head contact when tackling Butler which could have seen him carded.
In his absence, Leinster finished with a flourish, Cormac Foley and Ngatai providing the assists for Russell and Baird to go over respectively, before Van der Flier showed his pace to make the left corner after Larmour was again involved in the build-up.
Scarlets overcome first-half Sione Kalamafoni red card
The Scarlets survived a red card to number eight Sione Kalamafoni in the first half to secure a much-needed 33-17 victory over the Dragons in their Welsh derby at Parc y Scarlets.
The Tonga international was shown a red card after throwing two punches at Wales and British and Irish Lions back-rower Ross Moriarty towards the end of the first half of this United Rugby Championship clash.
It was the second time in two games that the Scarlets found themselves down to 14 men in the first half, but they produced a superb rearguard action to secure only a second win of this URC campaign.
The Dragons will be scratching their heads at how they did not make their extra man count against their fellow strugglers, but the home side were well worth the win with wings Steff Evans, Johnny McNicholl and scrum-half Dane Blacker all crossing for tries.
Leigh Halfpenny slotted over two penalties to put the Scarlets ahead, but the Dragons hit back with three points from JJ Hanrahan before wing Rio Dyer then split the home side’s defence with an arcing run to put full-back, Angus O’Brien, in at the corner for the visiting team’s first try against the run of play.
Hanrahan added the conversion to make it 10-6 before the Scarlets replied almost straight away when a slick backline move saw Evans run in unopposed. Halfpenny added the conversion to give the Scarlets a three-point lead.
Then, the game exploded with a major fracas between both sides, with Kalamafoni throwing two punches at Dragons opposite number Moriarty, with the Scarlets man given his marching orders with a red card.
Moriarty was shown a yellow card, but the Dragons took full advantage with a driving lineout from the penalty and scrum-half Lewis Jones crashed over from short range to make it 15-13 to the visitors.
Hanrahan and Halfpenny swapped a conversion and a penalty to make it 16-17 to the Dragons at half-time, but it was the home side who would end up claiming the win thanks to a superb second-half display.
Halfpenny added a fourth penalty to give his side a 19-17 lead at the start of the second half.
The Scarlets’ 14 men then enjoyed a period of pressure on the Dragons line, and Blacker finally crashed over for the try that further extended the home side’s lead.
Halfpenny added the conversion before McNicholl crossed for the Scarlets’ third try right on full-time to record an unlikely but deserved home win.
Ospreys claim narrow victory over Cardiff
Cardiff fly-half Jarrod Evans missed a difficult penalty with the last kick of the game to give the Ospreys a second festive win as they triumphed 22-19.
After defeating Scarlets 34-14 on Boxing Day, the Ospreys were made to work much harder for their victory before a sell-out crowd at the Arms Park, but a strong second-half performance from their pack saw them overturn a half-time deficit.
Sam Parry, Owen Williams and Dewi Lake scored their tries, with Williams converting two and adding a penalty.
Owen Lane, Liam Belcher and Josh Adams scored Cardiff’s tries, with Evans kicking two conversions.
Cardiff were gifted an early lead when, five metres from his own line, young Ospreys full-back Jack Walsh dithered in dealing with a speculative kick ahead from Tomos Williams to leave Lane with a simple chance to score.
Evans converted from the touchline to give his side a 7-0 advantage at the end of a competitive first quarter.
Ospreys were encouraged by a strong burst from centre Keiran Williams, which saw him evade tackles from Cardiff forwards Rhys Carre and Lopeti Timani, and they were further boosted when Parry tied up the scores by crashing over from a driving line-out.
Heavy rain set in to make conditions extremely difficult before the home side scored their second try when Belcher, with strong support from Timani, finished off a driving line-out.
Both sides lost their try-scoring hookers to injury, with Belcher and Parry departing in quick succession as Cardiff held on to their 12-7 lead to the interval.
Three minutes after the restart, Ospreys drew level following a melee on the hosts’ line.
A clearance kick from an under-pressure Tomos Williams went haywire with Owen Williams on hand to collect and force his way over.
The visitors’ pack were becoming increasingly dominant, and it came as no surprise when replacement hooker Lake scored their third try as the home eight again crumbled at a line-out.
There was to be no respite for the beleaguered Cardiff forwards as their opponents brought on international props Nicky Smith and Tomas Francis to provide further ammunition.
Cardiff looked likely losers but were given a boost when Ospreys No 8 Ethan Roots was yellow-carded for a tip tackle on Liam Williams.
They soon capitalised as Ospreys lost a scrum on halfway for Evans to fire across a superb cross-field kick which Adams collected to race 40 metres to score.
Evans converted from the touchline, and it was 19-19 with 11 minutes to play before Owen Williams missed with the first penalty kick at goal in the match.
Cardiff’s Kirby Myhill was sin-binned for a high tackle before the Ospreys were restored to full complement for the final five minutes, and they made it count when Williams succeeded with the winner.
READ MORE: Sunday Social: New Year’s celebrations, retirements and memorable tackles