2023 Benetton Rugby vs Munster Rugby

United Rugby Championship Wrap Up - Irish Clean Sweep And Red Hot Warriors

United Rugby Championship Wrap Up - Irish Clean Sweep And Red Hot Warriors

United Rugby Championship Round-Up - Irish sides dominate, South African sides slip up, Glasgow on fire and the Italians come back to earth with a thump.

Jan 30, 2023 by Philip Bendon
United Rugby Championship Wrap Up - Irish Clean Sweep And Red Hot Warriors

Round thirteen of the United Rugby Championship was a weekend of Irish dominance as all four provinces picked up comfortable victories. 

Ulster kicked off the action for the teams from the Emerald Isle as they continued their return to form by thumping the defending Champions DHL Stormers 35 – 5 in Belfast. 

Munster, Leinster and Connacht would then all go on to score the best part of forty points in their respective fixtures. 

Leinster’s victory was their thirteenth in a row in the URC to go with their four from the Heineken Champions Cup further cementing their position as the team to beat in all competitions this season. 

For Munster and Connacht, the victories over Benetton and the Emirates Lions respectively were immensely valuable. 

Graham Rowntree’s Munster were deeply impressive in their comeback 40 – 30 win in Northern Italy. In a true show of depth, several second-string players stood up and confirmed their ability to put pressure on the first-choice players when they return from international duty. 

Speaking of international duty, flyhalf Joey Carbery pulled the strings masterfully in a reminder to Irish coach Andy Farrell that he is only a phone call away should Ireland pick up an injury. 

For Connacht, the win was desperately needed as they continued their march towards a play-off berth. Andy Friend’s team are now just a win away from the top eight and look set to be in a three-way battle with Benetton and Edinburgh for that final spot. 

Elsewhere the Welsh sides continued their ascension with both the Ospreys and Scarlets picking up valuable wins over Zebre and the Vodacom Bulls respectively. 

Whilst the playoffs look to be beyond both the Scarlets and Dragons. Cardiff and the Ospreys could force their win in should they win out and have a few results go their way over the final five rounds. 

In Scotland, it was a mixed weekend as Glasgow held off a Dragons fightback in Newport to emerge with a 42 – 28 bonus point victory. The victory was Glasgow’s fifth on the bounce in the URC as they further solidified themselves as genuine title contenders with a real chance at a home quarterfinal. 

Edinburgh weren’t quite as successful as their countrymen as they narrowly fell to the Cell C Sharks 22 – 19 at home. Mike Blair’s side has been somewhat of a yo-yo this season, up one week and down the next. 

Italian Rugby came back to earth with both of their teams falling to home losses.

Benetton were simply outmuscled and out-thought by Munster despite getting off to a hot start and racing into a 12 – 0 lead.

Zebre on the other hand fought hard before falling 28 – 24 to the Ospreys. The loss further anchored the Parma based club to the bottom of the table as they remain the only side in the competition without a victory. 

Finally, the South Africans experienced somewhat of a down weekend as three of their four sides fell to defeats. 

First up were the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers on Friday evening who both fell to heavy defeats that could have detrimental effects to their title hopes. 

For the Bulls, the loss puts their place in the top four under serious threat. Both Glasgow and Munster have been red hot over the past two months whilst the Sharks have two games in hand and will in all likelihood leapfrog Jake White’s side. 

John Dobson’s Stormers blew a golden opportunity to put some distance between themselves and Ulster for second place on the table. In addition to letting Ulster close to within two points, the Stormers have realistically lost the chance to take top spot from Leinster who are now 16 points clear at the top of the table.

The third loss of the weekend for South Africa, the Emirates Lions were roundly outclassed by Connacht in Galway. Having been one of the surprises of the early part of the season, the Johannesburg-based side are now nine points adrift of the final play-off spot. 

The one ray of sunshine for South African supporters were the Sharks who gutted out a valuable road win in Edinburgh. 

Speaking post-match, Director of Rugby Neil Powell said of his charges: “As a coaching team and management, we are so proud of the boys for the effort, the fight and the character they showed in that match.” 

“I know it was tough in the last few minutes when they kept Edinburgh out, but they showed a lot of fight throughout the whole 80 minutes. 

“We asked them to be physical and dominant and they were exactly that, for the entire game.” 

“It was a really good start from us, in that first 25-30 minutes we defended well, we retained our structure, and we played the game in the right areas of the field. But in the last 10 to 15 minutes of the first half, they played off our mistakes and we allowed the game to get unstructured which suited their way of play. 

“That’s when they scored those three tries just before half-time.” 

“Everyone is committed and knows where we want to go this season, and that commitment was shown on the field, especially on defence. 

“We’re just so, so, so proud of the boys for what they showed out there, and this is the standard we want shown from the Cell C Sharks in how we play and how we pitch up for every single game. 

“A great effort, great character and great fight.” Powell concluded. 

Next weekend see’s just one match due to the kick-off of the Guinness Six Nations Tournament as the Sharks and Stormers duke it out in their rescheduled round one fixture. 

A win for the Sharks would see them close the gap on their Cape Townian rivals and is a complete necessity should they harbour any realistic chances of winning the South African conference title. 

For the Stormers, a win would give them some breathing space over Ulster who face a tough challenge away to Glasgow when the tournament returns in full.

Written by Philip Bendon