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Leinster Defeat Glasgow to Retain PRO 14

Leinster claimed a hard-fought win over Glasgow Warriors to defend their PRO 14 crown

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster saw off a rallying Glasgow Warriors side to retain their PRO 14 title with an 18-15 win in Celtic Park on Saturday night.

The reigning champions were made to work for the victory with tries from Garry Ringrose and Cian Healy seeing them over the line inn front of a record crowd of 47,128.

The rain allowed for slippery conditions on the pitch and for the opening minutes of the game the two teams played at a blistering pace, kicking the ball from one end to the other.

Blues captain Johnny Sexton had an early chance to put them in front with a penalty directly in line with the posts however, he skewed the ball narrowly to the right of the posts.

Moments later and a brilliant kick from James Lowe allowed Rhys Ruddock to pick up the ball before sending it to Sexton as the side broke with incredible pace, only for Jack Conan to spill the ball in what looked like a certain try.

Fraser Brown took out Luke McGrath following a line-out and was lucky not to receive any punishment for tackling the man without the ball.

On 13 minutes Glasgow struck, Scott Cummings won a Leinster line-out for the Warriors and within 13 hard phases Matt Fagerson barrelled over for the opening try of the game beside the posts.

Adam Hastings had no trouble slotting over the conversion to make it 7-0.

Leinster hit back immediately, Sexton sending his kick-off long and when Stuart Hogg took an extra second to compose himself for the clearance kick McGrath was on hand to block him down.

The ball went flying backwards, but on the greasy surface it spun back towards the men in blue and Ringrose was on hand to touch-down. Sexton again sent his kick to the right of the posts and it was 7-5.

Warriors came back at a blistering pace only for Leinster to hold them out on their own line for a couple of minutes as the Scottish outfit settled for three-points from a Hastings penalty.

There were a few minutes for players to catch their breath as Brown was stretchered off after his ankle gave way at a ruck, which will be a real worry for him ahead of the World Cup later this year.

The game restarted with Leinster ball at a scrum and they executed their plan perfectly, going through 18 phases before man of the match Healy could dive over for the try. Sexton converted and suddenly it was 12-10 with 28 minutes on the clock.

With only five minutes left in the half, Sexton extended Leinster’s lead with a 47m penalty as the sides headed in 15-10 at the whistle.

Glasgow came out all guns blazing in the second-half but it was Leinster who scored first as Sexton knocked over another penalty to make it 18-10 with Kyle Steyn being sent to the bin.

Leinster camped in the Warriors 22 for the ten minutes of the sin-binning but failed to make it count as Glasgow bounced-back each time to win a penalty and clear their lines.

It looked as though that failure to score during the 10 minutes that Glasgow were down to 14-men would cost them on 66 minutes. Rob Kearney sent a Garryowen soaring and chased it only for Hogg to catch an Kearney to take him out in the air.

Kearney was sent to the bin and Hogg had just played his last moments in a Warriors jersey as he was kept off with a head injury, with a move to Exeter in the summer already confirmed.

Munch like Leinster, Glasgow made little of their one-man advantage until the 75th minute when Grant Stewart raced over in the right-corner for a try. Hastings couldn’t apply the extras but it was a three-point game with four minutes remaining.

However, despite the boos of the home crowd Leinster held Glasgow in their own half and then got a chance to hold onto the ball before sending it into the crowd as the clock hit red to win 18-15 and make it bakc-to-back titles.

After the game Sexton was full of praise for his side as he hailed their bounce-back from the 20-10 Champions Cup final defeat to Saracens.

“This keeps the Leinster momentum going. We can say we’ve been to four finals in two seasons and won three. That’s a really good return. If we’d come away from two out of four we’d be going into next season empty handed, so this changes our summer holidays. I’m very proud of the lads for the way we bounced back after what was probably the lowest point of all our careers really in terms of losing a European Cup final,” he said.

The win now means that Leinster have secured a sixth league title and there was a nice touch added when they allowed the departing Sean O’Brien to lift the trophy before he heads to London Irish in the summer.

It was a good end to the season for Leinster, who will look to do the same next year, however, for the majority of the team the next challenge on the list is the Rugby World Cup with all eyes on Japan as Ireland look to reach at least a first ever semi-final.


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Vodacom Bulls sign Premiership star

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The Vodacom Bulls are happy to announce the signing of Premiership and Champions Cup winner, Jannes Kirsten. The multifaceted forward will join the Pretoria-based Vodacom Bulls from 1 July 2023 with his initial stay pencilled in till June 2026.

Kirsten – a former South African Under-20s international – is no stranger to Loftus, having made his mark playing for the Vodacom Bulls, both in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup. The 29-year-old has the Vodacom Bulls DNA, being the younger brother of one Frik Kirsten, a prop who made 81 appearances for the club between 2008 and 2014.

Since moving to England in 2019, the lock/back-rower has made a mammoth 75 appearances for his current side, the Exeter Chiefs. Forming part of the core group that would help the English club claim a historic double, winning both the Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup during the 2019/2020 season. A season where Kirsten became an instrumental figure on the field and a proven champion off it.

Blue Bulls Company (BBCo.) Chief Executive Officer, Edgar Rathbone said the news of Kirsten joining the herd is good for South African rugby and not just the Vodacom Bulls.

“We know Jannes very well and understand the impact he can have. We appreciate that he has gone on to play in Europe, in different conditions against some of the best rugby stars in that part of the world, so the experience he returns with will be invaluable to us. He knows Pretoria very well and having him return means that he sees us as the place he can call home and so we are really glad to see him return to be united with his family,”

“The introduction of South African teams in European competition has meant that now more than the years before, we are seeing a few more locally produced quality players looking to make a return because they still have the opportunity to compete against some of the best in the Northern Hemisphere whilst adding value to the game in their own backyard,”

“We appreciate that he is a versatile player, who can slot in at lock and flank and that will add to our dynamic options, strengthening our rugby offering. We look forward to welcoming him in July and are confident that he will continue being the world-class player that we have seen become, wearing our stripes” concluded Rathbone.

Reflecting on his time at the Chiefs, Kirsten said: “The past four years have been an unbelievable experience, not just in terms of my rugby, but my own personal life. Coming to Exeter was obviously a new challenge for me, but it’s one that has brought me so much.

“The club, the city, the people, they have all been amazing and I will leave at the end of the season with only happy memories. What I have been able to achieve is something I am very proud of and the friends I have made will be life-long.

“South Africa, however, is home for me and the time is right for me to go back there and continue the next chapter of my rugby career. Heading over to Pretoria just a few weeks ago with the Chiefs was very special, particularly as I never thought I would run out at Loftus as a visiting player.

“Also, getting the opportunity to show my homeland to my teammates and the staff that travelled was something I will remember. The Chiefs will always hold a big place in my heart and between now and the end of the season I will be doing everything possible to ensure my time here finishes on a high note.”

Everybody at Loftus is excited and cannot wait to welcome Jannes home.

Content & Images from – Vodacom Bulls Rugby


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Connacht squad to face Emirates Lions named

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The Connacht management team have named the matchday 23 for tomorrow’s BKT United Rugby Championship tie with the Emirates Lions at The Sportsground (k/o 7.35pm)
 
Having missed last week’s trip to Newcastle through injury, Jack Carty returns to captain the side. The out-half could make history in the game – he needs six points to equal Eric Elwood’s all-time points scoring record of 1152 points for the province.
 
Scrum-half Caolin Blade is named alongside him while Cathal Forde and Tom Farrell are named at inside and outside-centre respectively. Tiernan O’Halloran lines out at full back for his 215th Connacht appearance with John Porch and Diarmuid Kilgallen on the wings.
 
The pack sees the Murray brothers Darragh and Niall paired together in the second row, while props Peter Dooley and Jack Aungier come in alongside hooker Shane Delahunt. Josh Murphy moves from the second row to blindside flanker, while Conor Oliver and Jarrad Butler are retained at 7 and 8.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
 
“Tomorrow marks the end of a long block of games for us and one we want to finish on a high. If we get the win we head into the next block well in the running for a playoff spot – while achieving our aim of reaching the Challenge Cup knockouts – so it’s not a bad spot to be in.
 
We’re fully aware however that we need a win tomorrow to put ourselves in that position. The Lions are a formidable outfit and have improved even more since their first season last year, so we know a difficult challenge awaits us.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS EMIRATES LIONS
Saturday 28th January, 19:35 @ The Sportsground

Number/Name/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (214)
14. Diarmuid Kilgallen (12)
13. Tom Farrell (90)
12. Cathal Forde (7)
11. John Porch (72)
10. Jack Carty (190) (C)
9. Caolin Blade (161)
1. Peter Dooley (12)
2. Shane Delahunt (124)
3. Jack Aungier (43)
4. Darragh Murray (5)
5. Niall Murray (47)
6. Josh Murphy (11)
7. Conor Oliver (54)
8. Jarrad Butler (107)

16. Dylan Tierney-Martin (15)
17. Jordan Duggan (34)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (76)
19. Leva Fifita (22)
20. Shamus Hurley-Langton (12)
21. Kieran Marmion (222)
22. Tom Daly (71)
23. Oran McNulty (12)

Images & Content from – Connacht Rugby


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New Role for Ian Costello

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Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm that Academy and Pathway Manager Ian Costello will assume the newly created role of Head of Rugby Operations at the end of this season.

Costello will take on further responsibility in an all-encompassing Head of Rugby Operations role that will oversee the long-term strategic development of the elite player pathway, succession planning, and provide recruitment support for developing, retaining, and recruiting players in conjunction with the Head Coach.

Commenting on the appointment, Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan said, “We are delighted that Ian will step into this newly created role.

“This has been a work in progress in the background for some time as we look to align our resource support with the IRFU and other provinces.

“When Ian returned to the province as Academy Manager he was identified as the ideal candidate for this role when incorporating his previous coaching experience, managerial skill-set, and strategic abilities for aligning and developing our player pathway.”

Head Coach Graham Rowntree added, “I’m delighted to have someone of Cossie’s calibre (Ian Costello) taking on this role.

“We work very closely as it is through his academy role, and from my own personal point of view it has been a really positive working relationship. Ian and his academy team play a key role in everything we are trying to achieve each week.

“It’s great to have a dedicated resource to driving long-term succession planning and coordinate recruitment operations, and I believe it will be of huge benefit to not only me and our coaching team, but to Munster Rugby.”

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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