Guinness PRO14 Saturday wrap: Edinburgh, Benetton and Connacht take local bragging rights

Ross Lawson
24 December 2017

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Christmas time in the Guinness PRO14 meant only one thing on Saturday – a feast of local derbies.

Edinburgh got the better of Scottish rivals Glasgow Warriors, while the Italian bragging rights went to Benetton Rugby in their win over Zebre.

And the last game of the day saw Connacht find their groove to overcome Ulster.

  • Glasgow Warriors suffered their first defeat of the Guinness PRO14 season as Scottish rivals Edinburgh snatched it at the death in an 18-17 win.
  • An early red card had made life tough for the hosts at Murrayfield, only for Chris Dean to scamper over with just a minute left on the clock.
  • Tries from Huw Jones and Scott Cummings either side of the break had put Warriors in good stead, looking to head into Christmas with 11 wins from 11 matches.
  • But replacement Nathan Fowles scored to keep Edinburgh in touch before the dramatic finale, the perfect reward for a bustling and busy Murrayfield crowd.
  • Italian honours went the way of Benetton Rugby at Stadio Monigo, with wing Angelo Esposito helping himself to a double against Zebre.
  • They were to come either side of the break, with Hame Faiva and Edoardo Gori wrapping up the bonus point and maximum five points for Kieran Crowley’s charges.
  • Giulio Bisegni’s second-half score had kept the visitors in touch, but he was unable to prevent a third successive defeat to Benetton.
  • Elsewhere, a destructive first ten minutes paved the way for an emphatic Connacht win over Ulster, defeating their regional rivals 44-16 at the Sportsground.
  • That was largely down to Eoghan Masterson and Bundee Aki both scoring within eight minutes, while Tiernan O’Halloran also crossed before the break.
  • Lock Ultan Dillane scored twice in the second half to wrap up the bonus point, while Jarrad Butler also found his name on the scoresheet in the impressive victory.
  • Craig Gilroy and Robert Lyttle scored late for Ulster, though that wasn’t enough to prevent Connacht’s fourth win of the Guinness PRO14 season, now sat fourth in Conference A.

What they said:

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill classed his side’s win over Glasgow Warriors as something very special:

“It’s up there with anything I’ve ever been involved with.

“Firstly, the players deserve the credit because they played exceptionally well under some adversity. They’ve worked really hard since pre-season. We’ve tried to become tougher to play against and I think we showed that.

“At half time, we just said: let’s stay in the battle – let’s keep doing our job as well as we can. The score was sort of irrelevant at that point, we just needed to keep our heads down.

“I’m delighted to get the four points. I know there is obviously a lot of stuff around the derby and the 1872 Cup, but to get the four points was really important.

“The players had a choice. They had an excuse to lose, and it could have gone either way, but if we had lost by four points I would have been just as proud of the group. Because after five minutes, you would have probably thought we would be struggling.

After completing their Italian job with victory over Zebre, Benetton Rugby’s man at the helm Kieran Crowley was pleased to pick up the bonus point:

“Of course I am very happy to have taken the five points, all the players have contributed.

“Clearly having an extra man is always an advantage but at other times we did not exploit it.

“He (Marty Banks) came back to play after a few weeks and all in all I did not mind, he put in a good performance.”

Tiernan O’Halloran, who signed a new contract with Connacht this week, had more reason to smile before Christmas:

“It was a great to get a big win like that, Christmas time and the inter-pro games are all very special and we spoke about getting stuck in early in the game.

“We managed to do that, got a couple of early tries and that gave us huge confidence for the rest of the game.

“These games always provide an unbelievable atmosphere and it’s great to be involved with them.

“It’s tough at contract time, it can affect your performances so it’s nice to be able to relax on that and hopefully I can kick on.”

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