Winners and losers from the weekend’s URC action as team jostle for finishing positions

Jared Wright
Split with Edinburgh, Bulls and Ospreys players.

Split with Edinburgh, Bulls and Ospreys players.

Following a thrilling weekend of the United Rugby Championship, we pick out winners and losers from round 16 of the season.



Perhaps the round’s biggest winners as Jacob Umaga’s cameo kept the Italians’ play-off dream alive. He scored ten clutch points in the match’s final ten minutes to steer his side to a crucial victory.

This was after they trailed 24-15 against the Sharks in Durban. Northern Hemisphere sides have struggled in South Africa, but if you are to go deep in the tournament, you need to collect points in the Republic, and Benetton did precisely that.


While the Premiership outfit may have suffered a 90-point thrashing this weekend, their strategic decision to rest a host of their front-line players, who will be turning out in the Challenge Cup final, was vindicated by the events in Durban.

While the likes of Ruan Ackermann, Adam Hastings, Zach Mercer and company put their feet up for the week, the Sharks saw three Springboks trod off the pitch injured before hooking three more right after half-time and succumbed to a defeat in a rather physically taxing encounter.


Five log points were needed on Friday evening, and that’s exactly what Sean Everritt’s side delivered, charging in for six tries to Zebre’s two.

The men from the Scottish capital comfortably swept the Italian opposition aside and kept the pressure off the rest of the play-off chasing pack.

They have a challenging pair of fixtures ahead, against Munster and Benetton, but the win over Zebre is a good launchpad for them to steam towards the end of the season.

Glasgow Warriors

It really have been a dire weekend for the Scottish outfit as they stared down the barrel of defeat on Saturday afternoon in Pretoria. Franco Smith’s charges were 37-10 down with 20 minutes left to play but managed to clawback two losing bonus points.

The Warriors crossed for three tries in the latter stages of the match, with Duncan Weir converting a clutch penalty to finish within seven points and retain the top spot for at least one more week.

Loftus is not an easy place to visit and the Warriors learnt that the hard way but they can take extreme confidence from their ability to fightback into the game even if they were unable to claim the win.


Staying with the clash in Pretoria, the Bulls claimed five points from the match against the table-toppers, and while the final quarter collapse will concern Jake White, his side had done enough against one of the competition’s best to secure the win.

The form of their back-three will fill him with even more confidence, while Marco van Staden made a telling impact on his return from injury. Finally, Chris Smith had a strong game, particularly off the tee, with Johan Goosen out through suspension.

Bulls v Glasgow Warriors: Five takeaways including Springboks back-three and top spot


It was a rather dully affair in the first of the clash at the Parc y Scarlets on Saturday, with the host holding a 6-3 advantage at half-time.

However, Richie Murphy’s side flipped the switch at half-time and, led by the brilliant Stuart McCloskey, ran in four second-half tries to leave Wales with a full-house of points.

It’s been far from an easy season for the men from Belfast, but they are still in the running for a play-off spot and took a massive step in the right direction to seal their place. If they do, then it’s knockout rugby; anything can happen, particularly when you have a gun kicker like John Cooney.


A mark of a good team is being able to win when you are not playing particularly well, and that was the case for the Stormers on Friday evening.

John Dobson’s side was under the pump against the Dragons, but like Ulster, they looked like a different side in the second half.

Returning from injury, Sach Feinberg-Mngomezulu grabbed a brace in the win as they, too, kept running in the Race for Eight.


At half-time, the chance of Ospreys causing another upset by defeating Leinster at the RDS Arena looked entirely possible but the blue machine came out firing in the second half and swept the Welsh outfit aside.

Leo Cullen’s side ran in six second-half tries in a statement victory with Jimmy O’Brien starring on his return to the starting XV and many first-choice stars getting crucial minutes under the belt ahead of their Champions Cup final against Toulouse.

Jordan Larmour scores three as Ireland stars power Leinster to an emphatic URC victory over Ospreys


Some still question why a competition with 16 teams has a quarter-final after the regular season, but the fact that 11 teams are still in the running for a play-off spot with two rounds to go vindicates the format. It’s been a superb season so far, and a thrilling final two rounds now await us.



It’s hard to imagine how things could have got even worse for the Sharks this weekend.

John Plumtree opted for as much continuity as he could, selecting most of the team that featured against Clermont in the Challenge Cup semi-final – minus injured Ethan Hooker and Emile van Heerden.

But before kick-off, Francois Venter withdrew from the fixture and before half-time they were without three further Springboks as Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth and Lukhanyo Am left the pitch with injuries and it was topped off with a red card to Venter’s replacement Murray Koster.

Despite the setbacks, the Sharks were in the running for a win, but the aforementioned excellent Umaga spoiled their efforts.

It was a vastly different weekend for the Durbanites compared to their Challenge Cup final opposition, Gloucester.

Sharks sweat over three injured Springboks for Challenge Cup final after defeat to Benetton


Momentum could be crucial heading into the final two rounds of the URC regular season, and Munster blew the winds out of Connacht’s sails on Saturday.

The opening exchanges proved to be another tense inter-pro derby, but the floodgates flung right open when Munster finally broke through the Connacht defence, and three late tries from Graham Rowntree’s men sealed a thumping victory.

Unfortunately for Connacht, they have two mighty matches left as they face the Stormers and Leinster.


Cardiff are limping to the end of the season after slumping to an eighth successive URC defeat after the Lions claimed a 34-13 victory over the Welsh side.

That number could hit double digits with clashes against the Sharks and Ospreys to finish the season.

There have been some positives from this season, but ultimately, the fact that they have won just three of their 16 matches in the URC outweighs them.


Following in the same fashion as Zebre, who started the season with plenty of positive performances but, unless things drastically change, will end the season with just one win from 16 matches and one draw.

The Italian side was swept aside by Edinburgh this weekend, offering little resistance.


After their stunning win over the Stormers in Cape Town, the Ospreys would have fancied their chances of defeating Leinster in the weekend’s final game. However, they just didn’t have enough in the tank to back up their second-half performance. The strain on their playing stocks was certainly felt in Dublin as Welsh Rugby Union’s budget cuts took its toll.


The Scarlets officially confirmed the departure of 11 players and two staff members this week, allowing the fans to bid farewell in their final home game of the season.

However, there was no fitting farewell for club legends Ken Owens, Jonathan Davies and others as Scarlets fell to a 20-31 defeat at the hands of Ulster.

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