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Pro14

Leinster Edge Past 14-Man Benetton

Leinster have opened their PRO14 campaign with on a perfect note in Italy

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster defeated a spirited Benetton side 32-27 on Saturday evening to kick start their bid for three PRO14 titles in a row with a win.

A Dave Kearney hat-trick along with a try from fellow winger Adam Byrne saw the away team over the line in what was a tough game against a Benetton side that played with only 14-men for the last 30 minutes of the clash. 

The reigning champions started well with fly-half Ross Byrne knocking over a three minute penalty.

However, things were only to get better for the visitors ten minutes later as the men in blue spread the ball out wide, where Rory O’Loughlin brilliantly dragged in a couple of defenders before passing to Adam Byrne to touch down. Bryne slotted over the extras and it was 10-0. 

The hosts hit back straight away and were in for a try of their own on 20 minutes as Derrick Appiah got over. Former Munster man Ian Keatley kicked the conversion to make it 10-7 tp Leinster. 

Five minutes later and the Italian side were in front as hooker Tomas Baravalle barrelled over from a driving maul following a line-out. Again, Keatley was perfect off the tee and suddenly the hosts were 14-0 ahead. 

Leinster had the last laugh of the half though despite being under pressure from Benetton for most of the last 15 minutes. 

Some great play in the middle of the pitch led to Adam Byrne sending a long pass out to Kearney, who kicked over the top and regathered the ball before driving over the line. After some discussion with the TMO the try was awarded. Byrne converted from the right with the last kick of the half as the Leinster went in with their noses 17-14 in front. 

In the second-half it was the hosts that opened the scoring as Keatley took full advantage of a penalty three minutes in. 

Benetton were dealt a huge blow in the 49th minute however when winger Ratuva Tavuyara was sent off after colliding with Kearney in the air. 

Leinster took little time to make their man advantage count as two minutes later they were in the opposition 22, where Jamison Gibson-Park sent a looping pass over to Kearney on the left-wing. The winger dived over in the corner for his second try of the game, Byrne failed to add the extras leaving the game at 22-17. 

Despite being down to 14-men it was Benetton who looked the better side after the try and within two minutes of the hour mark they went ahead courtesy of another Keatley penalty, followed by a try from substitute Luco Sperandio which Keatley converted putting them 27-22 up heading into the final quarter. 

With fourteen minutes remaining Leinster were back in front as Kearney got in for his hat-trick in the left-corner after some nice work from the away side in the opposition 22 and securing a bonus-point in the process. Byrne’s fine conversion from the touchline was what nudged Leinster 29-27 ahead. 

As the clock ticked towards the final five minutes Leinster got a vital score as Ross Byrne’s younger brother Harry kicked a penalty over to push them five clear of their hosts.

That turned out to be the last score of the game as the reigning back to back champions kick started their campaign with a 32-27 win. 

Leinster will look to continue their winning ways when they host the Ospreys on Friday night, while Benetton will hope to get their opening win of the season when they travel to Connacht the following day. 

Leinster Player Ratings

Starting XV: 

Jimmy O’Brien (6), Adam Byrne (7), Rory O’Loughlin (8), Joe Tomane (7), Dave Kearney (9), Ross Byrne (8), Jamison Gibson-Park (7); Peter Dooley (6), Rónan Kelleher (6), Michael Bent (7), Ross Molony (7), Devin Toner (7), Max Deegan (7), Will Connors (6), Caelan Doris (8)

Replacements (6)

6 Nations

Sexton extends contract

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(Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Ireland and Leinster out-half Johnny Sexton has signed a 1 year extension to his IRFU contract up to the end of the 2021/22 season.

The 2018 World Player of the Year took on the Ireland captaincy in January 2020 and is one of Irish rugby’s most decorated players.

He has been central to both Ireland and Leinster’s success for over a decade following his international debut against Fiji in November 2009.

A two time Lions tourist in 2013 and 2017, Johnny has won three Six Nations titles with Ireland and four European Cups with Leinster.  He has represented his provinces on 171 occasions scoring 1505 points.

David Nucifora, IRFU Performance Director, commented,

“Johnny continues to show he has the quality and appetite to compete at the highest levels.  He is playing an important leadership role with the Ireland squad and his insight and experience continues to be of great value to the group.”

Johnny Sexton, commented,

“I am really enjoying my rugby and I want to keep learning and adding value to both the Ireland and Leinster environments.   I am enjoying the challenge of captaincy and the added responsibility that it brings.  My appetite for success is the same as it ever was and the ambitions of both the Ireland and Leinster squads match my own.”

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Pro14

Munster legend to retire at end of the current season

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(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Billy Holland has announced today that he will retire from professional rugby at the end of the season.

The 35-year-old will call it a day on a marvellous career spanning 14 seasons that saw him become Munster’s second most capped player when coming on for his 241st appearance against Cardiff Blues in the Guinness PRO14 on Friday night.

Confirming the news, Holland said, “I have always been determined to finish my career whilst still playing well and adding value to the jersey each time I get to put it on.

“To be in a position to call time on such a fantastic experience, on my own terms, is one I am extremely grateful for.

“I believe the time is right for me, my family and for Munster Rugby to hang up my boots.

“I don’t want to reflect too much on the incredible journey just yet, as right now my focus is on performing to the best of my ability every time I’m handed that cherished red shirt. I am excited to help Munster continue to move forward and achieve our potential for the rest of the season.”

A player who has come up through the provincial pathway, playing with clubs Cork Constitution and UCC, and school Christian Brothers College, Billy joined the Munster Rugby Academy in 2005 and made his competitive debut against Scarlets in September 2007.

He went on to win Academy Player of the Year in 2008 for his breakthrough season and was promoted to the senior squad.

Holland played in the province’s narrow defeat to New Zealand in Thomond Park in November 2008, while in October 2010 he played a central role in the defeat of the touring Australia side.

In representing the next generation of players coming through the province he captained the Munster ‘A’ side to British and Irish Cup success in Musgrave Park in 2012.

Known for his leadership qualities on and off the field, Billy’s peers twice nominated him for Munster Rugby Men’s Player of the Year off the back of his performances during the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons.

On the international front he secured an Ireland cap playing against Canada at the Aviva Stadium in October 2016, while he enjoyed Nations Cup and Tblisi Cup success with Emerging Ireland in 2014 and 2015.

Commenting on Billy’s announcement, Head Coach Johann van Graan said, “I only just said it recently, Billy will go down as a Munster legend in the history of the club, and rightly so.

“We all know the incredible character he is and how hard he works behind the scenes, always getting the job done.

“He has given his all to the jersey and all I can do is thank him for his service and commitment to Munster Rugby.

“We won’t dwell on it too much now, as ever the professional, Billy still has a job to do, helping to lead an ambitious group at this time.”

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6 Nations

Ireland release big names back for Provincial derby

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Ulster and Leinster will welcome back a few of their big names for this weekend’s key PRO14 game at the Kingspan Stadium.

The Ireland coaching group will retain a 23 man panel for the two day mini-camp on Thursday and Friday this week at the IRFU High Performance Centre at the Sports Ireland Campus.

The squad dispersed upon return to Ireland on Saturday evening following the win over Italy in Round 3 of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship.    The provinces are involved in Guinness PRO14 interprovincial action this weekend so 13 players have been released to access game time.

Players who picked up knocks over the weekend – Jordan Larmour (hip), Tadgh Furlong (ankle), Dave Kilcoyne (HIA) and Ronan Kelleher (ankle) have continued their recovery under the supervision of the national medical team and will be further assessed later in the week.

The 13 players returning to their provincial bubbles to avail of game time in the Guinness PRO14 this weekend are – Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane, Dave Heffernan (Connacht),  Ed Byrne, Ross ByrneRhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Craig CaseyAndrew ConwayShane DalyChris Farrell (Munster) and Stuart McCloskeyTom O’Toole (Ulster).

Ireland Squad (Two Day Camp, March 4/5, IRFU High Performance Centre

Backs
Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 91 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 8 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 50 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 9 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 5 caps
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 88 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 33 caps
Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 97 caps

Forwards
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 1 cap
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 20 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 18 caps
Will Connors (Leinster/UCD) 8 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 47 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 107 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 61 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 19 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 9 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 41 caps
Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 35 caps
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 49 caps

Returning to Provinces

Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 30 caps
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 12 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 1 cap
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 24 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Con) 1 cap
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 18 caps
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 14 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 5 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 4 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) uncapped
Rhys Ruddock (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 30 caps

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