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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.


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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URC

Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

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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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