There were comprehensive wins for Munster, Ospreys and Leinster Rugby, while Connacht, Glasgow Warriors, Ulster and Benetton also picked up valuable victories.
Here are the major talking points from this weekend’s action-packed fixtures.
Munster 44-14 Edinburgh Rugby
- Chris Farrell is back and in a big way! After eight months on the sidelines with a knee injury the Munster and Ireland centre produced a stunning man-of-the-match outing on his first start back. Alongside Conor Murray who was also starting for the first time this season, Farrell showed he has not lost any of his power with two bludgeoning tries. But he also added some deft touches with ball in hand and Johan van Graan and Joe Schmidt will be licking their lips heading into Christmas and the Six Nations.
- In Keith Earls and Andrew Conway, Munster have two of the deadliest finishers in the entire Guinness PRO14. Earls had a hat-trick and Conway a double before half time against Edinburgh on Friday night and if the forward pack continue to provide such quality front foot ball, you can see that Ireland duo scoring many more this season.
- Munster’s home record has always been strong, but Edinburgh and Richard Cockerill will be worried with their away record that has seen them fail to win on the road since March. Duhan van der Merwe was the sole bright spot for them on Friday, the winger is back to form and fitness and produced two stunning solo scores for his side including a monster first-half hand-off on Chris Cloete.
Ospreys 43-0 Zebre
- The scoreline makes this sounds like a thumping, but in truth Ospreys padded the scoreline with three tries in the last ten minutes and for the majority of this contest were pushed very hard by the Italians. But in the end the Ospreys got the bonus-point win they deserved and remain unbeaten at home in the league this season.
- Alun Wyn Jones added another career milestone to the list on Friday, his 233rd start for the region taking him past Paul James as the Ospreys record holder. Only the TMO denied him a second-half try to cap it all off, but he was at the forefront again for an Ospreys pack that earned a penalty try in the first half and then blew the Italians away late on in the comfortable victory.
- Luke Morgan has returned to Ospreys after his first international autumn with confidence clearly in full flow. His debut for his country against Scotland was backed up by a hat-trick for the former 7s star on Friday night. An acrobatic finish in the corner to avoid touch for his first, a simple run in on the overlap on the opposite flank for his second and an endurance-sapping chase down off a cross-field kick for this third, Morgan scores all different types of tries and Allen Clarke and his side are lucky to have him and George North on the wings.
— Ospreys (@ospreys) December 2, 2018
Toyota Cheetahs 17-21 Connacht
- Connacht had never beaten Toyota Cheetahs in South Africa when they arrived in Bloemfontein, but despite the boiling hot weather and altitude adjustment, the Irishmen rarely looked fazed throughout the encounter as they clinched a third successive Guinness PRO14 victory and completed a clean sweep on their South African tour.
- Toyota Cheetahs, who came into the game with two successive wins to their name, struggled to breakdown their opponents as a number of handling errors thwarted the hosts rhythm throughout the encounter. Mistakes in defence also ensured Connacht kept ticking over the scoreboard with Jack Carty and David Horwitz finding their range.
- A stunning individual effort from Tom Farrell proved to be the standout moment of the tie and it came after just six minutes. The 25-year-old centre powered his way through the pack before hitch kicking his way past Malcolm Jaer to sprint away and dab down in style.
Dragons 10-59 Leinster
- While it was Scott Fardy who scooped the man-of-the-match award, Ross Byrne could legitimately raise some serious complaints about being overlooked. The fly-half was at the heart of everything Leinster did going forward, notably setting up Dave Kearney at the start of each half with almost identical kicks. The 23-year-old seems to have certainly picked up a tip or two from clubmate and newly crowned World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton.
- Despite the one-sided tilt to the scoreline, it was Dragons who started the more positive of the two sides. After keeping hold of early ball, they couldn’t quite stamp their authority on proceedings and when Jason Tovey gave possession away for Leinster to score their first, the tone was set for what was to come.
- Leinster’s energy at the breakdown is truly frightening at times. The reigning Guinness PRO14 champions ran in three tries in seven minutes during a period of the second-half that saw them seemingly never leave the Dragons’ 5m line. Each time Leinster got the ball close, it was clear that they had supreme confidence in their forwards to do the business and force a way through.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) December 1, 2018
Glasgow Warriors 29-20 Scarlets
- Glasgow Warriors clinched their eighth win of the Guinness PRO14 season, but they had to do it the hard way as they were reduced to 14 men from the 18th minute when Alex Allan was sent off for making direct contact with the head of his opponent. The result ensured the Warriors ended a four-game winless run against their Welsh rivals.
- Glasgow had Brandon Thomson to thank for continuously adding to the scoreboard throughout the counter as the South African fly-half notched up a sensational 24 points over the course of the evening. He even scored a sterling first-half try with a big outstretched arm.
- Discipline for both sides proved detrimental to their cause, but in Glasgow’s case the dismissal of Allan initially served as inspiration to the hosts. They immediately went on a rampage to lead 13-3 at the break and were helped by Lewis Rawlins being sinbinned for the visitors. While Tom Phillips was later yellow carded for Scarlets on his first outing since February 2017 as his side suffered their fourth PRO14 defeat in 2018-19.
Isuzu Southern Kings 19-22 Benetton Rugby
- There was a balletic finish from Monty Ioane as he grabbed Benetton Rugby’s bonus-point try in the second half. The Australian winger was working with just a few metres space but managed to gather Tommaso Iannone’s grubber kick to score in the tightest of spaces.
- Hame Faiva’s hat-trick of first-half tries for Benetton Rugby were all virtually identical as he gave his side a lead they never relinquished. The hooker fired his accurate throw in at the line-out before joining the back of the maul and touching down when they had driven over, as the South African side struggled to cope with the powerful Benetton pack.
- South African inside centre Tertius Kruger grabbed his first two tries for Isuzu Southern Kings and was a constant threat with his powerful carrying from the midfield. He finished the game with five tackles and five carries for 44 metres made, running excellent lines for both of his tries as he cut through the Benetton defence with ease.
— Benetton Rugby 🦁 (@BenettonRugby) December 2, 2018
Ulster 16-12 Cardiff Blues
- Ulster may have come away with the victory in Belfast, but they had to rely on their returning Ireland internationals to get them over the line. Scrum-half John Cooney kicked the winning points with two penalties in the second half, while Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale both played a key role in the home side’s defensive effort after being called into action off the bench.
- John Mulvihill will be disappointed his side were undone by a quick tap penalty for the second consecutive game, but the Cardiff head coach will still take plenty of positives from a much-improved rearguard effort from the Blues. They had a point to prove after a heavy defeat to Glasgow Warriors last time out and were often resilient in the face of Ulster pressure.
- The yellow card for Seb Davies proved decisive with just over 20 minutes left on the clock. The lock was sent to the bin for clearing out Ian Kane with what referee Stuart Berry described as a ‘cheap shot’ and while he was off the pitch Cooney added the two penalties that ultimately ensured the Ulstermen emerged triumphant.