United Rugby Championship: Full Round 11 Recap
United Rugby Championship: Full Round 11 Recap
See a recap of Round 11 of the 2022 URC, where the best of South Africa, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy played out their derby fixtures.
Round 11 of the 2022 Untied Rugby Championship both closed out 2022 and welcomed 2023 in a manner in which only rugby can.
With eight action-packed games taking place across five countries, the URC once again highlighted just why it is fast becoming the biggest league in club game.
Starting in Edinburgh and ending in Dublin, Round 11 had it all, from scintillating tries to last-minute game-winning kicks, and everything in between.
All of the action was live and available here on FloRugby, but in case you missed any of it, here's a brief recap of each match.
Edinburgh Vs. Glasgow
The Glasgow Warriors launched a thunderous comeback, as they floored arch-rival Edinburgh for the second time in two weeks to secure the 2022 edition of the prestigious 1872 Cup.
The win moves Glasgow into sixth on the table, while dropping Edinburgh right to 11th and seemingly a world away from playoff contention.
The key to Glasgow’s victory was the immensely impressive halfback duo of George Horn and Tom Jordan, who each scored second-half tries that edged the Warriors out of sight.
Horne, who replaced Ali Price in the 61st minute, broke open what had become an arm wrestle, as he scored 13 points in seven spectacular minutes and seemingly broke the will of the hosts.
Edinburgh would go on to score a consolation try through replacement hooker Paddy Harrison that would secure a losing bonus point in what was Edinburgh’s fifth loss in its last six outings.
Zebre Vs. Benetton
Benetton secured some much-needed positivity on the pitch, as they look to moving forward from their hideous off-the-field issues involving an investigation into racism within the club.
Thumping local rival Zebre for a second weekend in a row with a 40-17 win, Benetton has risen back up the table to an impressive seventh. The team now looks to build on a strong start to the season in both the URC and Challenge Cup.
Despite the end result, Benetton found itself on the back foot early, as Zebre center Erich Cronje made a scintillating break from halfway that he took to the house for the opening try.
Zebre then struck again, as a Benetton attack broke down just 5 meters out, with winger Jacopo Trulla scooping up the loose ball and outpacing the defense for a length-of-the-field score.
Despite rushing out to 14-0 lead, Zebre would find itself on the back foot, as fullback Lorenzo Pani was shown a red card for a grizzly tip tackle on his opposite number, Matteo Minozzi.
Now down to 14 men, Zebre couldn’t plug the gaps, as Benetton went to work, scoring a flurry of tries, including three in the final 10 minutes, to secure an emphatic bonus-point victory.
Cell C Sharks Vs. Vodacom Bulls
Billed as one of the clashes of the week, a young Vodacom Bulls side traveled to Durban to take on a Springboks-laden Cell C Sharks.
What transpired was a telling gulf in experience between the two sides, as Springboks and Sharks captain, Siya Kolisi, put in a man-of-the-match display to help his side emerge with a 47-20 victory.
In addition to his performance, Kolisi highlighted his experience in dealing with referees, as the Bulls and their captain, Ruan Nortje, struggled to come to grips with the officiating.
It's a point Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White highlighted in his post-match interview.
"You saw it, I didn't say it," he said. "But that's how it works.
"We probably had the rub of the green when we had Duane Vermeulen captaining our team when we won two titles a few years ago. That's what happens. You have an older, wiser and perhaps even more respected captain within your ranks, and then you start getting one or two calls that would go against you going for you suddenly."
For the Sharks, fly-half Curwin Bosch continued his march up the South African playmaking ranks with yet another assured performance that yielded 20 points. His halfback partner, Grant Williams, was equally sublime with his quick-deliver and sniping runs being rewarded with a scintillating sniping try off the back of a scrum.
White’s Bulls, while outmuscled and outplayed, had their moments with Springboks winger Canan Moodie playing the role of both hero and villain.
Scoring a world-class chip-and-chase try in the 18th minute, Moodie would be sent from the field twice for two yellow card infringements that could yet yield a suspension for the 20-year-old flyer.
Moodie’s day would prove to be an apt comparison to the Bulls on the whole at the moment, producing moments of brilliance, without ever quite sealing the deal.
DHL Stormers Vs. Emirates Lions
Glitz and glamour prevailed for rugby’s answer to the Harlem Globetrotters, as the Stormers trounced the Lions 40-8 at DHL Stadium in Cape Town.
Played in front of a raucous crowd that clearly was gearing up for a big New Year’s Eve, the Stormers blitzed the Lions from the off, as they reminded the league just why they are the defending champions.
Leading the charge was the dynamic presence of No. 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, who once again showed just why South African rugby fans are so excited about his potential elevation to the Springboks squad in 2023.
Dayimani was everywhere, as the giant Lions forwards struggled to handle his pace in the wide channels, a fact not lost on head coach John Dobson.
"That’s what we wanted from Hacjivah when we got him," Dobson said. "He's probably exceeded our expectations. He’s magic at getting the ball away and keeping it alive. And you can’t coach his speed.
"I’m very happy with the way he’s going. He’s getting better at other aspects of his game that are tied in with the darker stuff - the defense, maul defense, and lineout contesting, and his own lineout is superb.”
As the No. 8 marauded the Lions defense, the rest of the Stormers went to work, as Deon Fourie and Damian Willemse each crossed for early scores.
While just about every Stormer had a big game, winger Angelo Davids was the pick of the backline, as he shimmy and shook his way to a brace of tries to put the icing on the cake of an immensely successful 2022 for the Cape Town franchise.
Crucially, the Stormers will begin 2023 just three log points behind Leinster, a team they will meet in Round 16 for what likely will decide who hosts the 2022-2023 final.
Cardiff Rugby Vs. Ospreys
Never short of drama, Welsh regional rugby delivered a heart-stopping contest between two bitter rivals, as Ospreys edged Cardiff, 22-19, in the Welsh capital to get 2023 off to a cracking start.
Ospreys’ fly-half Owen Williams landed the killer blow, showing nerves of steel to land a 78th-minute penalty to break a19-19 deadlock.
Cardiff had an opportunity to win the game as time expired, with Jarrod Evans kick landing agonizingly short, as the hosts failed to complete the comeback that was started by a Josh Adams try.
While this contest was by no means an advert for rugby from a quality standpoint, the drama in the final three minutes alone was worth the ticket fare.
The loss will sting Cardiff, which has fallen to eighth on the table with a tough remaining schedule.
Now just a single point ahead of a resurgent Munster side, Dai Young’s men have it all to do, if they are to stay in a play-off position.
Scarlets Vs. Dragons
The Scarlets claimed their second win of what has been an underwhelming season for the former Pro14 Champions, as they beat the Dragons 33-17.
In a rather scrappy affair, Scarlets showed that despite its record, the squad still possess several high-level operators capable of taking out a result.
Led by the experienced Ken Owens, Scarlets can thank sharpshooter Leigh Halfpenny for the victory, as he kicked 18 points to capitalize on the Dragons' ill-discipline.
Employing the 'if we can’t beat you, we will fight you' tactic, the Dragons looked to drag Scarlets into a trudged fist fight, as tempers flared on several occasions.
One incident stands out - Sam Lousi and Ashton Hewitt got stuck into each other on the touchline, before Scarlets No. 8 Sione Kalamafoni came rampaging in needlessly, only to be shown a red card.
Despite being down to 14 men, Scarlets remained the better of the two sides and ultimately closed out a comfortable victory.
For Dragons coach Dai Flanagan, the no show was particularly disappointing, having been a member of the Scarlets coaching staff for eight seasons, prior to take the reins for the Dragons.
Despite the win, Scarlets remains in a lowly 15th position on the table, with the Dragons just four points ahead in 14th place.
Ulster Vs. Munster
A good old-fashioned north-versus-south tussle, which without yielding many points, was a direct reflection how the seasons have turned for these two sides.
For much of the contest, Ulster held the lead without ever really looking assured in its position.
Munster, on the other hand, looked like a side brimming with confidence in its newly found attacking game plan, but just not quite able to make the plays stick.
In the end, it would be Munster's sheer doggedness that would get it over the line, as Ulster once again was found wanting.
Letting yet another game slip, in which they clearly were in the ascendancy for the bulk of the contest, Dan McFarland’s side did itself no favors in terms of removing a soft underbelly reputation.
Scraping through last weekend’s clash with Connacht by the skin of their teeth, there was an air of inevitability of Ulster cracking when the Munster pressure truly came on.
Despite racing out to a commanding 9-0 lead courtesy of John Cooney’s boot, Ulster appeared to have lost the swagger that would have previously seen the team kick on and build a score.
Now, with just one win in their last five outings, it is fast approaching panic time for the Ulster coaching staff.
Spirits certainly would have been higher in the other coaching box, as Graham Rowntree’s side rebounded from a gut wrenching one-point loss to Leinster in Round 10.
Having come closer to beating the Dubliners than at any point in recent memory, Munster was the architect of its own demise, conceding two soft tries, while Leinster was a man down to blow a golden opportunity.
Alas, as is the way with professional rugby, there is no time to dwell on what could’ve been.
Instead, the victory truly was a positive step showing this Munster team is playing hard for its coaching team and, more importantly, that they can learn from their mistakes.
The key to the victory was substitute fly-half Ben Healy, who reminded Munster and Irish fans just why the IRFU and Munster Rugby must fight to secure his signature, as Scottish Rugby continues its pursuit of him.
Healy, who has seen Jack Crowley leapfrog him as the second choice behind Joey Carbery, is a physically imposing figure in the No. 10 channel and offers a great alternative to the slighter figures of the other two.
Using all of his physicality, it was Healy who crossed for the crucial overtime try, before adding the conversion, which secured the one-point victory.
Just how Munster manages these three going forward will be an interesting subplot to follow, but what became clear Sunday was that Healy is too valuable to lose and must be accounted for.
Leinster Vs. Connacht
If ever a reminder was needed that Leinster remains the team to beat in the URC and Heineken Champions Cup, it was this one.
Simply put, Leinster dismissed Connacht without ever getting out of first gear in yet another dominant display of player depth, once again heavily rotating the squad from the one that defeated Munster at Thomond Park.
Leading the way for Leinster was Irish international winger-cum-fullback Jordan Larmour, who scored a brace of tries. That should remind Ireland coach Andy Farrell of his pedigree having fallen down the international depth chart in recent times.
In total, the Dubliners scored seven tries, with World Player of the Year Josh van der Flier and his backrow buddy, Ryan Baird, putting the icing on the cake with two late tries.
For Connacht, this was yet another disappointing result in head coach Andy Friend’s final season in charge.
By and large, the Australian has been a net positive for the Galway-based side since taking over, but this season has the feeling of a lost one.
Having clearly prioritized the URC over the Challenge Cup in a bid to push for a playoff spot, and with it a place in the Heineken Champions Cup, it would appear the westerner’s best chance might come in the Challenge Cup, where they remain undefeated.
Once again highlighting the difference in resources available to the two provinces, Connacht ran out with several former Leinster fringe players, only to find they were facing a side jam packed with first-choice Irish internationals.
This, of course, is not the province's fault, but more a reminder that they remain very much the fourth side in the Irish provincial pecking order, making their previous success ever more impressive.
Written by Philip Bendon
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