RaboDirect PRO12
Sexton back on target for Leinster
ESPN Staff
April 19, 2013
Leinster's Jonathan Sexton exploits some space, Leinster v Cardiff Blues, Heineken Cup quarter-final, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland, April 7, 2012
Jonathan Sexton was on target with the boot as he returned to Leinster's team for the win over Zebre © Getty Images

Jonathan Sexton returned to Leinster's starting line-up, played 65 minutes and scored 16 points in their 41-22 win away to Zebre that takes them into second place, three points behind Ulster.

The European champions were 17-0 ahead by the 20 minute mark thanks to tries from Tom Denton and Fergus McFadden and two conversions and a penalty from Sexton. The Italians fought back and were level at half-time after wing Sinoti Sinoti and fly-half Daniel Halangahu found their way to the line, with Halangahu converting both and also landing a penalty.

After the break though Leinster were in full control as Fionn Carr, Dominic Ryan and Isa Nacewa ran in tries, while Zebre's reserve hooker Carlo Festuccia came off the bench for a late score.

Glasgow booked their place in the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs with a vital 35-17 victory over Ospreys on Friday night.

They were made to work hard by the Welsh side but shrugged off place-kick misses by stand-off Duncan Weir and a later injury to the player that saw carried off on a stretcher, to score the bonus point win that ensures a top-four finish. They ran in first-half tries through prop Ryan Grant (two) and winger Sean Maitland before scrum half Niko Matawalu grabbed the fourth in the second half and DTH van der Merwe made himself the top Glasgow try scorer with a counter to close the game. Weir succeeded with two conversions and a penalty plus Peter Horne goaled a penalty.

Elsewhere, Stuart Olding was in sensational form as league leaders Ulster beat Connacht 34-18 in Galway. The provincial rivals shared four tries in a energetic first 18 minutes with George Naoupu running in an opportunist effort to get Connacht off the mark before Olding, with his fourth try in six games, and Andrew Trimble replied for the Ulstermen in rapid fashion. Fetu'u Vainikolo was next over the try-line for Connacht with Dan Parks' conversion bringing the sides level at 12-12.

A penalty apiece from Parks and Ruan Pienaar followed before Rory Best grabbed Ulster's third try to give them a 22-15 interval lead. The scoring dried up in a hard-fought second period, a Miah Nikora penalty getting Connacht closer, although the league leaders showed their class late on with Tommy Bowe's bonus point try and a fifth from Jared Payne.

Wales centre Jonathan Davies scored two tries as the Scarlets beat Cardiff 24-6 to boost their hopes of securing a play-off place as they moved four points clear of fifth-placed Ospreys with one game to play. Davies crossed in each half fullback Liam Williams grabbing the Scarlets' third try 14 minutes from full-time. Owen Williams converted both of Davies' tries and also landed a penalty while Wales fly-half Rhys Priestland came off the bench to add the final conversion. It was Priestland's first appearance since suffering a serious Achilles injury that ruled him out of Wales' successful Six Nations campaign and ruined his hopes of touring with the Lions this summer. Cardiff could only muster two penalties from fullback Leigh Halfpenny.

Newport Gwent Dragons ended a run of four straight PRO12 defeats with a 19-5 victory over an under-strength Munster at Rodney Parade. It looked pretty good for the Welshmen as they lead by 12 points at the break. Outside half Steffan Jones went over for a try, with centre Ross Wardle adding another in the second-half, while fullback Tom Prydie finished the game with 17 points via five penalties and a conversion. Jones also kicked a neat drop goal on the stroke of half-time as Munster walked to the changing room in trouble with only a try from number eight Paddy Butler to show for their efforts.

But tries from wing Ronan O'Mahony, replacement CJ Stander and wing Johne Murphy plus two Ian Keatley conversions after the interval put them right back in it before they succumbed despite picking up two bonus points, one for getting four tries and the other for being within seven points of the winners.

Edinburgh were unable to hold on to an early 10-point advantage as Benetton Treviso hit back to claim a 30-10 victory in Italy. Edinburgh, looking for a third win in four matches in the competition following their narrow loss to Connacht last time out, started well at the Stadio di Monigo as Scotland international Greig Laidlaw slotted over a third-minute penalty and then converted Matt Scott's try 10 minutes later. The Scottish visitors maintained that 10-0 lead until the 26th minute, but things soon started to go wrong for them as Benetton gradually fought their way back into the contest.

Alberto di Bernardo put the Italian side's first points on the board with a penalty and Benetton received a further boost in the 33rd minute when Edinburgh full-back Tom Brown was shown a yellow card. Di Bernardo immediately reduced the arrears further with his second penalty, and then Benetton took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Manoa Vosawai crossed for a try that was converted by Di Bernardo. That gave Benetton a 13-10 lead at the break and they never looked back in the second half, scoring 17 unanswered points through tries from prop Michele Rizzo and Simone Favaro and the boot of Di Bernardo, who added seven more points to his evening's tally with two conversions and a penalty.

1 Ulster 21 16 1 4 540 335 +205 58 32 7 3 76
2 Leinster 21 16 0 5 548 367 +181 59 43 8 1 73
3 Glasgow 21 15 0 6 521 321 +200 64 30 9 3 72
4 Scarlets 21 15 0 6 419 365 +54 40 33 3 3 66
5 Ospreys 21 14 1 6 452 305 +147 45 21 2 2 62
6 Munster 21 10 1 10 415 364 +51 43 32 4 4 50
7 Benetton Treviso 20 9 1 10 350 410 -60 39 41 3 2 43
8 Cardiff Blues 21 8 0 13 335 450 -115 27 47 1 5 38
9 Connacht 20 8 0 12 332 379 -47 30 39 1 3 36
10 Edinburgh 21 6 0 15 368 480 -112 32 48 1 7 32
11 Dragons 21 6 0 15 334 558 -224 28 69 1 2 27
12 Zebre 21 0 0 21 266 546 -280 27 57 1 8 9

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