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Dragons edged out late on by Bears

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Dragons and Bristol served up a breathless pre-season encounter as the English side produced a late surge to win an 11-try clash 45-28 in the Rodney Parade sunshine.

Angus O’Brien, Ollie Griffiths and Sean Lonsdale grabbed first half tries as the Men of Gwent impressed and deservedly took a lead into the break.

Newcomer Bradley Roberts then grabbed a fourth home try at the start of the second period for the home side. But Bristol dug deep and snatched the win wth two late tries after a night of high entertainment in Newport.

Dragons gave six new signings a starting spot – with O’Brien, Sio Tomkinson, JJ Hanrahan, Lonsdale, Roberts and Rhodri Jones all featuring from the off.

But it was Bristol who opened the scoring in the third minute as a powerful driving maul surged forward and, on the second drive, visiting hooker Bryan Byrne forced his way over. Callum Sheedy converted.

Dragons, though, hit back immediately with Tomkinson – playing his first rugby in nine months – the architect as his delayed pass freed up space down the left and O’Brien showed his pace before cutting inside to score a fine effort.

Tomkinson was impressing early on with his clever grubber collected by Lonsdale before the ball was fizzed right and John Hawkins was yellow carded for illegally slowing ball.

Dragons looked set to strike for a second time but a long-floated miss pass went over the head of Rosser when the wing looked set to stride over.

Sheedy set up a second score for the visitors – his grubber collected by wing Rich Lane – before back came the hosts once more.

More neat handling from Dyer and a direct run from Rosser, who freed cleverly freed his arms to release the evasive O’Brien, opened space.

The full back skipped up close before the forwards showed good composure to work up to the line before Griffiths duly blasted over.

Dragons looked lethal on the counter as loose ball was gobbled up in midfield and Tomkinson showed sublime handling to pick up a low pass and then dummy his way into space.

Rhodri Williams and Huw Taylor carried ball before new boy Lonsdale finished off the flowing move to a huge ovation.

Visiting centre James Williams hit back after a period of sustained pressure as Dragons took a 21-19 lead into the break.

The home side were back off and running moments into the second half as Roberts broke through, after Rosser’s burst through a gap had splintered the defence.

Both teams started to unload the benches with Rob Evans and Max Clark getting their first taste of Rodney Parade action.

Bristol looked to turn the screw and enjoyed a long spell of possession in the home half before they were rewarded as the driving maul powered over.

The visitors were enjoying territorial dominance in the final quarter and, after spirited defence held a driving lineout at bay, a sniping run from Harry Randall saw the Bears snatch the lead.

Dragons pushed for a late score to try and win the game, but two late breakaway scores from Henry Purdy put a tilted gloss on the score line for the visitors.

Timeline:

03m Byrne t Sheedy c 0-7

07m O’Brien t Hanrahan c 7-7

14m Lane t 7-12

23m Griffiths t Hantahan c 14-12

29m Lonsdale t Hanrahan c 21-12

38m Williams t Sheedy c 21-19

41m Roberts t Hanrahan c 28-19

61m Capon t 28-24

76m Randall t MacGinty c 28-31

79m Purdy t MacGinty c 28-38

80m Purdy t MacGinty c 28-45

Dragons: Angus O’Brien (J. Williams 40), Rio Dyer, Sio Tomkinson (Richards 69), Jack Dixon, Jared Rosser (Clark 52), JJ Hanrahan (Reed 67), Rhodri Williams (Jones 52); Rhodri Jones (Evans 52), Bradley Roberts, Chris Coleman (Fairbrother 33), Huw Taylor, Sean Lonsdale, Harri Keddie (Moa 34-40), Lennon Greggains (Moa 65), Ollie Griffiths (Nott 39)

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rob Evans, Lloyd Fairbrother, George Nott, Ben Moa, Lewis Jones, Will Reed, Max Clark, Jordan Williams, Josh Reynolds, James Benjamin, David Richards

Bristol Bears: Luke Morahan, Jack Bates, Joe Jenkins, James Williams, Rich Lane, Callum Sheedy, Tom Whiteley; Jake Woolmore, Bryan Byrne, Jonathan Benz-Salomon, Morgan Eames, Joe Owen, John Hawkins, Jake Heenan, Magnus Bradbury.

Replacements: Jake Kerr, Will Capon, Yann Thomas, George Kloska, Max Lahiff, Ed Holmes, Dan Thomas, Sam Lewis, Harry Randall, Andy Uren, AJ MacGinty, Henry Purdy, Ioan Lloyd. Referee: Adam Jones (Wales)

Attendance: 4,491

Content & Images from – Dragons Rugby


Champions Cup

Academy Trio Stepping Up & Contract News

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Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce that Academy trio Tony Butler, Ethan Coughlan and Mark Donnelly will be promoted to the senior squad in the summer.

We can also confirm that hooker Scott Buckley, who graduated from the Academy to the senior squad in 2022, has signed a contract extension.

Out-half Butler, scrum-half Coughlan (both 21) and 22-year-old prop Donnelly have all signed on for the next two seasons after impressing over their three years in the Academy.

Butler and Coughlan become the first Ennis RFC players to earn senior Munster contracts.

As previously confirmed, Academy lock Edwin Edogbo (21), who also came up through the Munster Youths system with Cobh Pirates, will graduate from the Academy to the senior squad on a two-year deal next season.

Buckley, Butler, Coughlan and Donnelly all made their Munster debuts in the famous Champions Cup win over Wasps in December 2021.

Tony Butler in action against Dragons.

Tony Butler in action against Dragons.

Ennis out-half Tony Butler has earned his first senior contract after a very productive three years in the Academy.

He has made six senior appearances to date, including two starts so far this season against Dragons and Connacht.

A Grand Slam winner with the Ireland U20s in 2022, Butler now plays his AIL rugby with Young Munster having previously lined out for Garryowen.

He captained Ennis at underage level, teaming up with Coughlan in the half-backs as they enjoyed success in the Munster U16 and U18 Clubs competitions.

Scrum-half Ethan Coughlan is enjoying an excellent campaign with three starts so far this year and eight senior appearances in total since joining the Academy.

He enjoyed great success alongside Butler with Ennis RFC at underage level before captaining the Ireland U18 Clubs team.

He also won a Grand Slam with the Ireland U20s in 2022 and plays his AIL rugby with Shannon.

Prop Mark Donnelly has already made nine senior appearances for Munster after coming up through the ranks at Midleton RFC, Midleton College and CBC.

He was a Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup winner with CBC in 2019 and featured for the Ireland U20s in the 2021 Six Nations.

He joined the Academy that summer before making his Munster debut along with Buckley, Butler and Coughlan against Wasps in December 2021

Along with his nine senior Munster appearances, Donnelly has also played regularly for Garryowen in the AIL over the past three years.

Mark Donnelly at Munster training.

Mark Donnelly at Munster training.

Hooker Scott Buckley (23) has signed a one-year contract having made 25 appearances for Munster to date.

A product of the Munster Rugby Academy, Buckley started out with Kinsale RFC before captaining CBC to the Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup in 2019.

He was Player of the Match against Wasps on his Munster debut and made nine appearances last season as Munster won the URC title.

A UCC clubman, he scored the match-winning try against Crusaders at Páirc Ui Chaoimh earlier this month.

Scott Buckley scores a try against Leinster in pre-season.

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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URC

Squad Update Ahead Of Zebre At Virgin Media Park

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The Munster squad are preparing at the HPC ahead of Friday night’s URC Round 11 clash against Zebre at Virgin Media Park (7.35pm).

There are a limited number of tickets available here.

25 players lined out in the thrilling encounter against Harlequins on Friday night, including eight Academy players and two young club players. Scroll down for match highlights.

The squad is boosted by the return of Tom Ahern, Craig Casey and Jeremy Loughman from international duty ahead of Friday night’s clash in Cork.

On the injury front, Academy back-row forward Ruadhán Quinn has completed the return to play protocols and is available for selection.

Following the game against Harlequins on Friday night, Academy duo Shay McCarthy (ankle) and Daniel Okeke (elbow) will go for scans and are unavailable this week.

Continuing to rehab: Simon Zebo (knee), Patrick Campbell (shoulder), John Hodnett (finger), Paddy Patterson (knee), Jack O’Donoghue (knee), Dave Kilcoyne (shoulder), Diarmuid Barron (foot), Jean Kleyn (eye/knee), Liam Coombes (shoulder), Roman Salanoa (knee).

Video | Harlequins v Munster Highlights

Tickets

URC Round 11: Friday, March 1

Munster v Zebre Parma, Virgin Media Park, 7.35pm; Buy final tickets here

U20s 6 Nations Round 5: Friday, March 15

Ireland v Scotland, Virgin Media Park, 7pm; Buy final tickets here

URC Round 13: Saturday, March 30

Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

Women’s 6 Nations Round 3: Saturday, April 13

Ireland v Wales, Virgin Media Park, 4.45pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 16: Saturday, May 11

Munster v Connacht, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 18: Saturday, June 1

Munster v Ulster, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

3 minutes ago

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Ulster Rugby and the IRFU can confirm that Dan McFarland will step down from his position as Head Coach.

After joining the club in 2018, McFarland has been the longest-serving Head Coach for the province in the professional era, with the club reliably securing play-off rugby in URC and EPCR competitions during his time at the helm, including reaching the PRO14 final in 2020.

Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said:

“We would like to thank Dan for his determination in driving forward the professional squad over the past six seasons, and I would like to wish him and his family the best for the future on behalf of all at Ulster Rugby.”

The change to the Senior Men’s coaching set-up is with immediate effect, with Ireland U20s Head Coach, Richie Murphy, to link-up with the province as interim Head Coach until the end of this season following the Under-20s Six Nations. Bryn Cunningham, Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment at Ulster Rugby, will also assume greater management responsibilities within the performance function during this time.

Assistant Coach, Dan Soper, will oversee operations next week ahead of Ulster facing Dragons at Kingspan Stadium in Round 11 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Petrie continued: “With Richie coming to Ulster in the coming weeks, ahead of the squad travelling to South Africa, our focus will be on consistently performing to the best of our abilities at this crucial time of the year.”

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby


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