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The Vodacom Bulls lead the South African charge as they dug deep for victory over the Emirates Lions, while DHL Stormers are in the mix after seeing off the Hollywoodbets Sharks whilst Leinster bounced back from their agonising one-point defeat against Ulster to solidify their position at the top of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship table with a comfortable victory over Benetton in Round 10.

Glasgow Warriors remain hot on their heels after a bonus-point win over Dragons at Scotstoun.

Edinburgh rallied in the closing stages to secure the spoils in Italy over Zebre Parma and Ospreys left it late to edge past Ulster.

Munster sit just outside the play-off positions after impressing with victory over Scarlets in Llanelli, while Connacht made Cardiff pay for indiscipline.

Here, we take a closer look at all the action from Round 10.

Scarlets 7-42 Munster

Clinical Munster ensured Scarlets’ poor run against Irish provinces continued as they suffered a ninth consecutive defeat in going down in Llanelli.

Scarlets have not won against Irish opposition since beating Connacht 41-36 in March 2021 and they never looked like breaking that unenviable record as Munster ran out convincing bonus-point winners.

Number eight Gavin Coombes scored two tries for Munster with Jack O’Sullivan, Thomas Ahern, Shay McCarthy and Sean O’Brien also going over and Joey Carbery converted all six.

Joe Roberts scored Scarlets’ try which Charlie Titcombe converted.

Dwayne Peel (Scarlets)

“For that first 60 or so minutes it wasn’t a classic by any stretch, but we stayed in the fight, some of our scramble defence was good and we took that lovely try by Joe on the hour mark.

“I thought we were in the game then, but they are a good side, they are defending champions and our execution let us down and they smelled blood. It went from being a seven-point game to 20 points very quickly.

“I thought our endeavour was good, there were skills errors we need to work on and be better at and we also had a few injuries, young Harry Thomas, an exciting hooker coming on in the back row and Teddy Leatherbarrow came off and we had to go down to 14 men.

“Munster are a deep and powerful squad, we knew we had to stay in the game for 80 minutes to compete with them, but we dropped away in those final 10-15 minutes.”

Graham Rowntree (Munster)

“I’m pleased with the scoreline, but we were a bit disjointed. I wasn’t very happy at half-time after a bright start.

“We lost our way a bit and we tried to be a bit too fancy in the second quarter. Half-time was about sticking to the process and the plan, but we were a bit disjointed in the third quarter.

“The Scarlets were really tenacious in the defence of their goal line for huge periods. So much so, at times I wondered how many players we were playing against.

“We eventually broke the door down in the final quarter. We haven’t won on the road enough this season, although we had a famous away European win in Toulon.

“We haven’t done it enough in the URC and that’s a big target for us. This game was all about gaining momentum.”

Zebre Parma 19-24 Edinburgh

Edinburgh were far from their best but made their opponents pay for a lack of discipline at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

The Scottish side trailed for the majority of the game due to an early Gonzalo Garcia try and the boot of Giovanni Montemauri, but they eventually wore the Italians down.

They were awarded a penalty try in addition to scores from Boan Venter and Dave Cherry, and two conversions and a penalty from Ben Healy was enough to see them return home with four points in a game that saw flanker Hamish Watson make his 150th appearance for the club.

Geronimo Prisciantelli’s late penalty secured a losing bonus point for Zebre – their seventh of the season.

Sean Everitt (Edinburgh)

“I think we were very fortunate. We hung in there, and the ascendancy that we got in the set-piece got us the result at the end of the day.

“But I’m not happy with the performance – you can’t be happy with an error-ridden performance like that. But there are some guys here who haven’t played for five weeks, some others haven’t played for three, so we were a little bit rusty.

“And also being away from home doesn’t help. But it’s no excuse. We know we’re a better team than that.

“We just lacked urgency in the first half and they beat us at the breakdown and we just couldn’t get any momentum. And when we had opportunities in the 22, we never finished.

“I’m proud of the character that they showed, but we know we’re better than that and the guys will be disappointed in their performance.

“Five points would have been great, but at the end of the day we’ll take the win.”

Emirates Lions 10-25 Vodacom Bulls

The Vodacom Bulls maintained strong play-off hopes in Johannesburg.

Jake White’s team made it sevens wins from 10 league games this season, remaining comfortably in the top four despite not hitting top gear at Emirates Airlines Park.

Wing Canan Moodie scored an outstanding first-half try, before replacement forwards Akker van der Merwe and Marcell Coetzee touched down during a dominant second period and centre David Kriel claimed a bonus-point score six minutes from time

Johan Goosen kicked a penalty and conversion for the visitors, with full-back Quan Horn scoring the Lions’ solitary try, converted by Jordan Hendrikse, and Sanele Nohamba landing an early penalty.

The game was a quickfire rematch with the Bulls having secured a 30-28 victory over their opponents in Pretoria last month.

Ivan Van Rooyen (Emirates Lions)

“Initially we lost a bit of set-piece which couldn’t get us into our attack structure and then, with individual errors on top of that, we gave them a set-piece to attack and pin us in our own half.

“We just really didn’t manage to get any momentum on attack, like consistently. That’s frustrating because we wanted to attack them.

“Under pressure, we probably went a little individualistic.

“The pressure seemed to stay on us, we didn’t really manage to apply the pressure back onto them. We also know if you kick the ball long against them, against Canan [Moodie] and Devon [Williams], they will probably punish you. Just scrappy,”

Leinster 47-18 Benetton

Leaders Leinster comfortably maintained their place at the top of the table with a bonus-point victory at the RDS Arena.

Benetton started and finished the first half impressively, with Ignacio Mendy touching down in the first minute and Jacob Umaga tagging a monster penalty onto the winger’s late second try.

That cut Leinster’s lead to 21-18 at the break, but Jason Jenkins bagged their bonus point soon after the restart to add to earlier tries from Scott Penny, Luke McGrath, and Liam Turner.

Making it a seven-try triumph in the end, Academy scrum-half Ben Murphy notched his first senior score, and fellow replacement Brian Deeny and captain Penny added the late gloss.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell will have noted Ross Byrne’s encouraging return from injury. He landed his first four conversion attempts and was solid throughout his 69 minutes on the pitch.

Leo Cullen (Leinster)

“Overall we’re pleased. Parts of the first half were not quite there. Maybe that’s to be expected but as the game goes on, I think there was definitely better intent.

“They’re a very physical team aren’t they? They recruit pretty well.

“Obviously, they’ve a good chunk of guys away with Italy but if you look at the players replacing them, they’ve a fair bit of international experience in their team. It was always going to be a tough challenge.

“Our guys have worked hard over the last couple of weeks, because they know they need to play well in this window.

“If you look at the two teams, Benetton probably bigger, physical, more mature team and yeah, they were strong in some of the contacts. We were sluggish at the very start – it was a pretty soft score: easy gain-line, get us on the edge, score, made it look very, very easy”.

Hollywoodbets Sharks 21-25 DHL Stormers

The Hollywoodbets Sharks suffered more misery as the DHL Stormers inflicted a ninth league defeat of the season on them in Durban.

They continue to prop up the table with a solitary win from 10 matches while their South African rivals remain strong play-off contenders.

The Stormers cruised into an early lead through tries from hooker Joseph Dweba and scrum-half Paul de Wet, with centre Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu adding one conversion and then kicking a penalty just before half-time.

Prop Ox Nche, flanker James Venter and hooker Bongi Mbonambi claimed touchdowns for the Sharks – Curwin Bosch and Siya Masuku (2) kicked conversions, securing a losing bonus point – but Stormers wing Ben Loader’s 49th-minute touchdown, converted by Feinberg-Mngomezulu, proved decisive and the centre also slotted a late penalty.

John Plumtree (Hollywoodbets Sharks)

“The Stormers, where they are right now as a team is where we want to be. They worked really hard defensively.

“We created a couple of opportunities, but we didn’t finish them off. They scrambled back and were able to stop us. That’s why they are where they are.

“It’s a tough outfit. I’m just happy we never gave up. We came back into the contest at the end. We didn’t execute that lineout which was a coach killer, but that’s the way it goes.

“I just want us to get better and better and improve. It’s frustrating for me, because I haven’t had the opportunity to work with our full-strength pack, especially in these big derbies.

“Our boys tried real hard today. But there’s a difference between our first group and second group in what we’ve got. That’s a real challenge for us. We need to do well without our Springboks. We’ve had a lot of key players injured this year.”

John Dobson (DHL Stormers)

“This is what happens when your second string, like we had in Leicester, plays reasonably well. It becomes harder to manage the selections. Loose forward and lock are getting tight for us. We are a bit thin at prop, but Neethling (Fouche) was magic.

“It’s nice to have that sort of depth. I still feel a bit iffy, because I don’t think – and I have to give credit to the Sharks here – we saw the defensive character of the Stormers.

“We weren’t making the reads or getting off the line. To get a win here…. the Sharks team really played, they never stopped coming. If we didn’t turn over that lineout at the end, I thought we would be under pressure.

“Well done to the Sharks. Defensively we were off. Strategically and tactically, there were some really good performances from some of the second-string players.”

Cardiff 12-16 Connacht

Cardiff could not overcome an early red card for centre Rey Lee-Lo as Connacht claimed victory at the Arms Park.

Lee-Lo was dismissed after just 15 minutes by Italian referee Andrea Piardi following a dangerous, high challenge on Connacht wing Shayne Bolton.

It left the Welsh team with a mountain to climb, but they led until the final quarter before Connacht finally overhauled them.

Fly-half JJ Hanrahan was the architect of Connacht’s win, kicking three penalties and converting replacement prop Peter Dooley’s try.

Cardiff outscored Connacht on tries, with centre Ben Thomas and number eight Lopeti Timani touching down and fly-half Tinus de Beer adding a conversion, but Connacht had just enough in the tank.

Matt Sherratt (Cardiff)

“I think probably when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll be more a point gained rather than four points lost.

“Ultimately the facts are we’ve lost 12 players to Wales, we’ve got two back, we’ve got Toby Faletau missing, we’ve got Ellis Jenkins pulling out yesterday and we’re playing a good Connacht team, who have got just two players away with Ireland.

“With all that, to go for 65 minutes with 14 men and get something I think we can take a lot of encouragement.

“I still thought we could have won the game with 14 if you think it’s two tries to one.

“I thought probably in general we lost the kicking and catching battle in the second half. I think there was a series of three kicks where one goes out in the full, one’s not a contest and we kind of put a bit of pressure on ourselves but in a game like this there’s always going to be some mistakes.

“But it’s a season where we’ve got the smallest squad we’ve ever had. We’ve got 12 in the Welsh squad, we’ve got a couple of injuries. We’ve got Connacht coming here pretty much fully loaded, bar two. We’re down to 14 men after 15 minutes. A lot of teams have rolled over and taken 30 points there, but that’s not this Cardiff team.”

Pete Wilkins (Connacht)

“I think it will take a lot of analysis and the reason for that is that almost every element of our game from our kicking game to our set-piece, to our attack and to our defence, had some really positive moments, particularly in the second half.

“There was some quality especially considering the conditions we were playing in and the pressure Cardiff were putting us under.

“But there were also some very poor moments where we needed to be better and where we didn’t deliver in those game areas. One of the first things we talked about in the dressing room was the intensity of our defence, five metres out, 10 metres out from our own line, compared to what we were like in the first half compared to how we came out at the start of the second half.

“There was a huge difference in that and I think it is important for us to really dig into that and understand the reasons for that and make sure that when we go out against Scarlets in two weeks that we don’t take a while to warm into the game.”

Glasgow Warriors 40-7 Dragons

Scrum-half Ben Afshar scored on his first professional start as Glasgow recorded a bonus-point victory.

Warriors led from the 30-second mark as both Josh McKay and Stafford McDowall claimed the first of their two tries in the opening four minutes.

Facundo Cordero also notched a try on a personal milestone as he made his long-awaited debut, while Will Reed claimed a consolation score for the visitors at Scotstoun.

There was little doubt about the outcome from the opening moments as Warriors moved into second place in the table.

Franco Smith (Glasgow Warriors)

I’m really happy with the win and I thought we played some good rugby at times. Too many errors, there were a lot of line breaks and opportunities missed, which is understandable, these guys haven’t played for quite a bit.

“Even the last three games, not everyone was involved so they haven’t played since last year but it’s good to have them putting their hands up for responsibility and I thought they did really good.

“It was good to have three nines and two hookers in the team. I like to work with rugby players, if you’re a forward or a back that’s up to you. I’m excited because that way it feels like everyone is contributing and keeps morale high in the team.

“It takes time to get the blueprint of the team. The first 80 per cent is easier than the last 20 per cent – that takes a lot longer. I think we have brought enough versatility to our team to deal with different shapes and threats. It was important for us to settle our maul at the beginning of the season as that allows us a lot of other opportunities.

“We just want to be competing with the strengths that we have and develop a team that’s adaptable. There’s a long season ahead, there’s still three big Test matches to be played and most of our guys are involved.”

Steff Hughes (Dragons)

“It’s not good enough. We lost far too many collisions defensively and it put us on the back foot.

“We ended up defending essentially for 70 minutes, scrambling in defence with the number of one-on-one tackles we missed, it’s difficult to get a game going.

“When we attacked in their 22, we worked hard and got a couple of results. However, we could have been more accurate.

“It’s good to see young players come on, the likes of Che (Hope), Sam (Scarfe), Joe (Westwood) and Brodie (Coghlan) making an impact. They bought energy, that is all you can ask.

“But individually and as a team we need to improve. The basics of the game are the key aspects.

“Injuries are a part of the game and we’ve picked a lot up unfortunately, but that is no excuse.”

Ospreys 19-17 Ulster

Dan Edwards scored a brilliant last-minute drop-goal to earn Ospreys a dramatic win over Ulster and give a much-needed boost to the Welsh regions.

After weekend defeats for Cardiff, Scarlets and Dragons, a fourth Welsh loss looked likely until 20-year-old Edwards’ late intervention at the Stadium.

Fly-half Edwards finished with 14 points, adding his match-winning drop-goal to three penalties and the conversion of a try from Keiran Williams, as Ospreys joined their mid-table opponents on six wins from 10 games.

Marcus Rea and Tom Stewart scored Ulster’s tries, with Nathan Doak converting both and Jake Flannery adding a late penalty which had briefly looked like snatching victory for the visitors.

Toby Booth (Ospreys)

“The good thing about that whole episode really was the fact that Dan initiated the whole thing.

“We obviously have a drop-goal routine for exactly those moments. But it’s one thing having it, it’s another thing doing it.

“Ultimately, the quarterback is the quarterback and to have the self-belief and also the skill and execution to do it, those pressure moments are really important.

“One of our buzz phrases is we talk about going all in and Dan went all in. That’s a great example of that.

“He is developing into a fine player.”

Dan McFarland (Ulster)

“I’m really proud of the effort.

“I thought we were high energy. A lot of our defence was really excellent.

“Apart from the intercept, we didn’t really give them a chance of scoring a try.

“On the other side of the coin, we were inaccurate, particularly in that first half, and let a number of opportunities pass us by as a result and gave them the foothold to get some penalties.

“At the end of the day, we were well in the game and in control but for two moments in that last quarter. (After) 64 minutes, we were in their ‘22’ and they get the intercept from 85 metres, and then the final passage, we were in control with a maul going forward in their third and the referee somehow says we’ve done something wrong, and I’ve literally no idea what he’s talking about or how he’s made that decision. They ended up down the other end of the field as a result of that.

“After all the effort that we put in there, to have it taken away and lose in those instances is disappointing.”

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