Wins were claimed by Edinburgh, Cardiff Blues, Ulster and Glasgow in Friday's PRO14 action, with the Scottish outfit prevailing in Bloemfontein.
Edinburgh 16-15 Zebre
After bouncing back from the humiliating Treviso defeat with an improved showing (albeit defeat) against Leinster, Richard Cockerill's men were looking for another win to add a bit of stability to their jittery early season form.
Jason Tovey opened the scoring with a penalty on eight minutes, and Zebre would have levelled had it not been for a poor kick from Carlo Canna in front of the sticks. But they bounced back with the game's first try, Johan Meyer breaking down the wing and going over inside the corner. Canna again fluffed his lines from the kick, and the Myreside faithful were treated to something special from Stuart McInally before half-time.
The hooker collected a pass neatly, before going on a foray downfield. And from all of 50 metres, he evaded the depserate dives of the Italians to restore the Edinburgh lead. Tovey added two for a 10-5 half-time lead.
Edinburgh were well on top in the second half and must have been scratching their heads as to how they didn't extend their lead, with Dougie Fife halted as he went searching for a memorable try. Fife relinquished some of that frustration though with a penalty for an eight point gap. Eight quickly shrunk down to one though as Zebre kept the game alive. Marcello Violi's charge forward saw him block a Nathan Fowles kick, and he dived in for the try, converting himself to make it a one point game.
The Italians looked like they'd stolen it with a penalty deep into the second half, Violi again making no mistake with the kick as Edinburgh looked to avoid a shock home defeat. Tovey restored the lead to a point with a penalty as the clock began to tick down, and despite an extremely tense finish, Edinburgh secured the 16-15 win.
Pens: Tovey, Weir 2
Tries: Meyer, Violi
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Magnus Bradbury (c), 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Darryl Marfo
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Anton Bresler, 20 Luke Crosbie, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Robbie Fruean
Zebre: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello (c), 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Giovanni Licata, 5 George Biagi, 4 David Sisi, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Luhandre Luus, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Leonard Krumow, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Ciaran Gaffney
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Manuel Bottino (Italy)
Cardiff Blues 43-29 Dragons
Three first half tries from Adam Warren, Elliot Dee and George Gasson gave Dragons a 21-10 lead at half-time. But a second-half comeback saw tries from Alex Cuthbert, Jarrod Evans and two from Matthew Morgan seal a big 43-29 win.
In this all Welsh clash at Cardiff Arms Park, Dragons were searching for their first victory away from Rodney Parade this season. But with four straight defeats against Blues, they were always going to be up against it. However, they took a healthy 14-10 lead into the break.
And it was Blues who started the stronger, taking just three minutes for them to find the line, as Gavin Henson sent through Warren to go over – Henson adding the two. In the same move they had a double celebration, as Blues were without Tao Filise for foul play in the build-up. His loss didn't stop the hosts leveling though, Kristian Dacey going through after a powerful Nick Williams carry. Evans added the conversion.
The frantic opening swung back Dragons way though, as they got the third try of the night on just 13 minutes. Henson again was pivotal in the build-up, as his pass sliced open the Blues backline, allowing Dee to go over in the corner, before the Dragons 10 added two.
The lead was cut to four as the half wore on, a successful penalty from Evans reducing the arrears, But Dragons added a third try seven minutes before the whistle, coming from Gasson who capitalised on a mesmerising Tyler Morgan run to add to the lead.
Cardiff Blues were the better side after the break though and got a second try from Matthew Morgan, who had only come onto the pitch minutes before. Henson quickly stretched the lead back up to seven points though, kicking another three through against his former employers.
Cardiff Blues were able to cut that lead down to a couple, Tom James going through the midfield and over. Evans didn't add the two though, as the Dragons narrow advantage remained at two points.
It evaporated though courtesy of Alex Cuthbert, who gave Blues their first lead 70 minutes into the night. Evans' two made it 29-24. And from then on, Blues dominated. Two late tries saw them seal the win and add serious gloss to it. With the bonus point secured, Evans and a second from Morgan completed the fine second-half performance for a 43-29 win. A late Lloyd Fairbrother try had little impact on the match.
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Dacey, Morgan 2, James, Cuthbert, Evans
Cons: Evans 5
Tries: Warren, Dee, Gasson, Fairbrother
Cons: Henson 3
Cardiff Blues: 15 Rhun Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Tom James, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams (c), 8 Nick Williams, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Brad Thyer
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 James Down, 20 Josh Turnbull, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Matthew Morgan
Dragons: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 James Benjamin, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 James Thomas, 5 Cory Hill (c), 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Harris
Replacements: 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Luke Garrett, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Joe Davies, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Owain Leonard, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Will Talbot-Davies
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Ulster 16-8 Connacht
With four wins from their first five, Ulster came into Friday's tie looking to move to the top of Conference B with a win. But they went into the break narrowly behind after a tight first 40.
It was by no means a classic in terms of points scored, but the atmosphere made it a memorable one. The Ulstermen were arguably the better side in the opening exchanges without troubling the scoreboard, as Charles Piutau threatened throughout the first 20 minutes. John Cooney was the man to open the scoring though, kicking safely through on the half hour for a slender lead.
But Connacht fired back before half-time with the only try of the first 40. Tom McCartney barged through minutes after his side went behind, and the conversion was missed for a two point Connacht lead at the break.
Cooney kicked Ulster back ahead early in the half with his second penalty of the night, only for Connacht to snatch back the advantage through Jack Carty's penalty.
Cooney was in fine form though and a third penalty again swung the lead the hosts way. And that lead was extended with their first try of the night. It was a special one from Jacob Stockdale, who he teamed with Piutau as the pair exchanged passes as they made their way further down the field, with the aforementioned Stockdale finishing off. Cooney added two for a 16-8 win.
Pens: Cooney 3
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney, 8 Jean Deysel, 7 Chris Henry (c), 6 Iain Henderson, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Kyle McCall
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Pete Nelson, 23 Louis Ludik
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Tom Farell, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Conor Carey, 19 James Cannon, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Steve Crosbie, 23 Eoin Griffin
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), John Cole (Ireland)
Cheetahs 26-29 Glasgow Warriors
A late try from Rob Harley sealed a dramatic 29-26 Glasgow win at the Toyota Stadium.
A shaky start away from home soil made Cheetahs look like potential whipping boys at the start of the PRO14 campaign, but they've been a completely different force at home. Victories against Leinster and Ospreys meant Glasgow were presented with a tough task as they looked to stretch their 100 percent record to six games.
It took just a couple of minutes for the Warriors to go ahead though, with Finn Russell having no issue from an early penalty. Cheetahs raced back into the game on 12 minutes, adding the first try of the game. Having taken a quick penalty, the hosts caught Glasgow out and that allowed Sergeal Petersen to get try number one.
The conversion was added, and the Cheetahs lead grew after an evenly fought 20 minute spell, with Ernst Stapelberg slotting a penalty. Callum Gibbins got Glasgow right back into contention though with his first try for the club, coming after a spell that saw the long distance visitors camp themselves metres from the line. Russell levelled the scorers but Cheetahs stole the lead at the break with a second try. Stealing possession in their own half, Rosko Specman went the length to give a 17-10 half-time advantage.
Warriors quickly levelled after the restart. Ruaridh Jackson stole the ball on his own line before launching a run downfield, feeding Gibbins to go through for Glasgow's second try. Cheetahs weren't level for too long though, as a Stapelberg kick found the posts. Another penalty turned that lead into six as the hosts looked for a third straight home win.
But Glasgow added another try inside the final 10 minutes, coming from Henry Pyrgos. He had the final touch after Niko Matawalu was challenged just shy of the line, and the conversion from Russell put Warriors a point in front. Stapelberg was on top form though and put Cheetahs back into a 26-24 lead. That was how it looked like it would stay, until a late bonus point try from Harley gave Glasgow a lead, as he finished off a superb Russell kick and sealed the 29-26 win.
Tries: Petersen, Specman
Cons: Stapelberg 2
Pens: Stapelberg 4
Tries: Gibbins 2, Pyrgos, Harley
Cons: Russell 3
Cheetahs: 15 Sergeal Petersen, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Oupa Mohoje, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Nico Lee, 23 Luther Obi
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Ryan Wilson (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Jamie Bhatti
Replacements: 16 Geroge Turner, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’Arcy Rae, 19 Brian Alainu’uese, 20 Rob Harley, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Niko Matawalu
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)