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Leinster Battle Past Stubborn Zebre

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Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster survived a comeback from Zebre with a couple of late scores of their own to run out 40-24 winners at the Stadio Luigi Zaffanella on Saturday.

With the away side naming a strong team, some thought that this could be a walk-over as Zebre currently sit bottom of Conference A and have lost all 11 of their previous meetings with Leinster.

The strength of the visitor’s side showed in the opening stages of the match and they raced into a 21-0 lead within 21 minutes.

Max Deegan scored the first try of the game after six minutes, getting over following a rolling maul. Ross Bryne converted to make it 7-0.

Another six minutes on and their lead was doubled. Young Mullingar centre Conor O’Brien was at the core of a fine passing move that ended with Byrne sending Dave Kearney in for try number two. Again, Byrne struck the extras.

Byrne then found himself scoring a seven pointer after a fine pass from Jamison Gibson-Park allowing him to touch down before he added another two points to his tally.

Zebre held through 10 minutes with only 14 men on the pitch as Jimmy Tuivaiti was sent to the bin and held Leinster scoreless through that period.

At that stage it looked as though Leinster could be heading towards a cricket score win only for Zebre to come to life in the final 10 minutes of the first-half.

A knock-on in midfield lead to Francois Brummer to score the hosts opening try, which Carlo Canna converted to make it a 14-point game.

Two minutes later and they were through again. This time Jamie Elliott intercepted and raced in for the try, Canna made it two kicks from two and it was 21-14.

In the 37th minute it looked as though Zebre had completed the most remarkable of comebacks, as Gabriele Di Giulio went over for try number three, although Canna missed the kick.

All of which meant they went in at 21-19 at half-time.

The visitors got back on track in the second-half, as man of the match, Gibson-Park was instrumental once more to get captain Scott Fardy over to secure the bonus-point. Byrne made it 28-19 with 25 minutes remaining.

On the hour mark, Zebre bounced-back again, with Brummer going in for his second try of the game and his team’s fourth, securing a bonus-point. The conversion was missed leaving the score at 28-24 heading into the final quarter.

O’Brien settled Leinster nerves in the 74th minute as he got in for a well-deserved try. The extras were missed this time but gave them a 33-24 lead.

Deegan finished what he started in the final minute. Substitute Michael Bent set-up the youngster for his second try, with Byrne kicking the conversion once more and the reigning champions marched to a hard-fought 40-24 victory.

After the game, captain Fardy spoke about his delight with winning but admitted his frustration at allowing the opposition back into the game.

“To go out to 21 nil we’re pretty disappointed in probably that second-half of the first-half, the second 20 minutes was probably not up to our standard, but we dug in there in the second-half and happy to come away from Zebre with a result,” he said.

The win means that Leinster have extended their lead at the top of Conference B to 22 points, ahead of second-placed Edinburgh, while Zebre remain bottom of Conference A with only 17 points overall.

Leinster will host the Southern Kings in their next game and hope to build on their incredible lead at the top. Zebre head to Ulster next but will take some encouragement from the spirit shown in their performance against one of the best teams around.

URC

Dragons confirm signature of Ulster star

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(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Wales international hooker Bradley Roberts will officially become a Dragon after signing a long-term deal with the Men of Gwent.

The front row ace – currently part of the Wales squad for the upcoming Six Nations – will join the region this summer from Irish province Ulster Rugby.

Roberts made his international debut for Wales against South Africa in the 2021 Autumn Nations Series.  

The 26-year-old heads back to Wales having previously spent a season with RGC in the Welsh Premiership and will look to continue his eye-catching development with Dean Ryan’s men.

“We’re really pleased that Bradley will join us and that he sees Dragons as the right environment for him to keep improving,” said Dean Ryan, Director of Dragons Rugby.

“Bradley obviously has international aspirations, as he makes the return to Wales, and we look forward to him competing for selection from next season.” 

Roberts said: “I’m really excited by the challenge ahead of me. It’s a new opportunity and, after only a few seasons at this level, I’m determined to keep moving forward.

“I spoke to Dean about the Dragons and it’s a young group that are building for the future. I’m eager to add to that and be a part of that journey.

“The move to Dragons means I can also keep pushing to be part of the Wales set-up. I’ve only just started with that, and I want to add to those experiences.

“I’m looking forward to linking up with the Dragons, but for now my focus remains on Ulster, the next few months with Wales and a strong end to this season.”

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Roberts to leave Dragons & join Aussie Super Rugby franchise

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(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Dragons Rugby can today announce that centre Jamie Roberts will leave the region for personal reasons at the end of this month.

Roberts joined the Men of Gwent in August 2020 and has made 23 appearances in all competitions, scoring five tries.

The Wales and British & Irish Lions ace has been granted early release from his contract to move to Australia to join his Sydney-born partner, who is expecting their second child in March.

Dean Ryan, Director of Dragons Rugby, said: “We thank Jamie for his time at Dragons and the support he has given us; helping stabilise the environment and encouraging youngsters to come through.

“We fully support what has been a difficult decision for him to make. We wish him a safe trip over to Australia and look forward to welcoming him and his family back to Rodney Parade in the years to come.”

Roberts has thanked the region for understanding his request to move overseas and paid tribute to the Rodney Parade supporters for their support during his time at Dragons.

“It is with a heavy heart that I’m leaving the Dragons at the end of the month. I’d like to personally thank Dean for understanding my personal circumstances,” he said.

“As my Sydney-born partner is expecting our second child in March, we feel the best decision for our family is to be surrounded by her support network in Sydney during this period.

“Although it’ll be difficult leaving, I do so with many fond memories,” he added. 

“As well as enjoying wearing the jersey and playing, I’ve taken great satisfaction in supporting and witnessing the growth and development of many younger players in the squad, many of whom are no doubt destined for success in the game.

“It’s been great fun playing back at Rodney Parade, where my parents took me as a young lad growing up to watch the Black and Ambers. 

“Although supporters haven’t been able to attend as much as they’d have liked, for obvious reasons, I’d like to thank them for their support. 

“The club is nothing without its supporters, and I hope that moving forwards, the playing group can give fans lots to cheer about from the terraces.

“I wish the coaching and playing group nothing but the very best moving forward.”

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URC

Munster confirm another coaching departure

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Munster - Pixabay

Munster Rugby Defence Coach JP Ferreira will depart the province at the end of the current season.

Ferreira, who joined the province in December 2017, will join Johann van Graan in making the move to Premiership outfit Bath Rugby.

JP Ferreira said, “This has not been an easy decision to make as my family and I have thoroughly enjoyed our life in Limerick and are part of a very close-knit community.

“I have been in this role for five seasons and during this time I have enjoyed every minute of coaching at this incredible club.

“The experience I have gained and the friendships that I have made along the way will forever stay with me. The way Munster Rugby opened their arms to my family and I throughout my tenure has been outstanding and we are forever grateful to everyone that has made this journey memorable and possible.

“On a personal note, as a family with young children we have an opportunity to experience a different environment and new challenges and we feel this move is the right next step for us.

“I’m very proud of what this group has achieved, and I’m excited for the months ahead as we remain focused on the task at hand, committed to delivering success with this group of players and staff.”

Source – Munster Rugby

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