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Guinness PRO12 round-up: Ulster and Scarlets keep pressure on at the top

Both Ulster and Scarlets did not give each other an inch on Friday evening, as both recorded victories to maintain their hunt for a top-four finish in the Guinness PRO12.

Here’s all you need to know about Friday’s Guinness PRO12 action:

  • Ulster kept their Guinness PRO12 semi-final chase on track with a hard-earned 27-17 win at Newport Gwent Dragons.
  • Craig Gilroy and full-back Jared Payne twice put Ulster into the lead, and while scores from Rynard Landman and Ollie Griffiths made it 17-17 going into a blockbuster final ten minutes, Paddy Jackson’s penalty and a converted John Andrew try swung the tie in Ulster’s favour.
  • Ulster still have to face top-three sides Munster, Ospreys and Leinster before the end of the season, but hold a three-point lead over fifth-placed Scarlets.
  • Rhys Patchell dazzled on his return for the Welsh region, notching up 16 points in a 26-10 win over Edinburgh.
  • With all the points scored in the first half, Patchell – returning from a three-month injury layoff – grabbed a try double with Wyn Jones and James Davies securing a try bonus before the interval, meaning Phil Burleigh’s effort for visitors Edinburgh was a mere consolation.

What they said:

Director of rugby Les Kiss is thrilled Ulster’s fate is still in their own hands.

“We’re in the top four at the moment, so I’m very happy with that. The boys are very happy in the dressing room and it’s one of the most boisterous songs I’ve heard sung this season.

“We knew that the Dragons would be right up for this one, but while we could have been a bit more clinical, sometimes you’ve just got to tough a result out when your opposition are as charged as they were.

“We kicked off after they had gone level, they dropped the ball in their own half, and we leveraged the ball well up in their end during the second half.

“We got two or three good scores, a penalty and two tries, which was critical for us in the second half after being a bit frivolous with possession in the first half.

“We are going at it a game at a time, knowing that a win is the first priority each time, and if we win them we are in a good place.

“There’s a lot to happen still, but it is doable, and it is up to us to keep improving each time we go out there.”

After heavy defeats in the league to Leinster and Glasgow, Kingsley Jones was heartened by the Dragons’ display:

“We asked for a response from the players and they fronted up by playing some good rugby, and attacking rugby against a very good Ulster team.

“A lot of players in that Ulster team are world class and ours matched them, it’s just unfortunate that the scoreboard doesn’t reflect that.

“In terms of the performance, that was what we needed. I honestly felt the wheels were starting to come off (after Glasgow) because it’s been a long season and we have such a small squad.

“But they had a rest and performed against Ulster – we talked about working harder than them and we did and made them fight for everything.

“That’s all you can ask for. The possession stats and the number of phases we played were fantastic, the scrum was excellent but the big stat that we wanted was the scoreboard but unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”

Having welcomed seven players back from international duty following the conclusion of the Six Nations, Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac was impressed with his side’s first-half efforts.

“If you would have said to us at the start of the day we would have picked up five points and had four tries before half-time, you would have taken it every time,” he said.

“Apart from an error which allowed them a try, it was pretty much a complete first half. In the second half we created opportunities, but just couldn’t finish them off.”

Edinburgh acting head coach Duncan Hodge was frustrated with how his side started the game:

“We were not very good in the first-half – and not much better in the second. It was across the board – set piece, defence, it’s just really disappointing.

“To concede the first try in the opening few minutes through a simple defensive error dents the confidence. It rattled us and we lost our composure and thought process – everything we had talked about.

“We stopped conceding in the second-half, but it was still very scrappy. We lost our shape and our decision-making was poor.”

Top tweets:

Ulster congratulated Luke Marshall on a landmark appearance

Wyn Jones reflected on a job well done:

Welsh Olympic cyclist Owain Doull was impressed with Rhys Patchell’s showing:

Guinness PRO12 Final 2017, 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ticket Information: Fans can still avail of an exclusive number of €35 tickets. Book via www.ticketmaster.ie. Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final