Leinster again served notice that they are going to be difficult to topple from their Guinness PRO14 perch but fellow Irish province Ulster are making a good fist of keeping up with their rivals in the battle for Conference A supremacy.
While Johan van Graan’s Munster retains top position in Conference B even though their scheduled game against Benetton in Treviso was postponed due to Covid-19 infections in the Italian team’s camp this weekend, Leinster and Ulster are drawing away from the chasing pack in Conference A after big wins in the fifth round of the competition.
Leinster were never troubled as they picked up another bonus point win, with their visit to Liberty Stadium in Swansea resulting in a four-try to one triumph that keeps up their unblemished record in this season’s edition of the competition. It is unblemished in the sense that all five games they have played so far have seen them net a full house of five log points.
Ulster hasn’t been quite as good as that, which is why they are two points adrift of the champions, but they are unbeaten and made a massive statement in dispatching Glasgow Warriors at the Kingspan Stadium on Monday night.
He didn’t win the Man-of-the-Match award this time, that went to fellow loose-forward Sean Reidy, but Coetzee was again very much to the fore with his talismanic play from No8. The former Sharks player again managed to cross the line himself as well as play a role in the creation of others as Ulster triumphed in an entertaining fixture that was more competitive than the final scoreline might suggest.
Certainly, the Warriors made a strong early statement with TJ Ioane scoring a try, but Ulster stormed back through a rolling maul try and although the Warriors did regain the lead through a successful penalty kick, when Coetzee went over in the 25th minute it put the hosts into a lead they were never to relinquish.
Ulster has been in invincible form at home both this season and stretching some way into their previous campaign, with 17 successive wins at Kingspan stretching back to their draw with Benetton in January 2019. For now, their battle with Leinster is a tight one.
The other Monday night game saw Edinburgh continue to gain the winning momentum that eluded them at the part of this campaign when they beat Cardiff Blues 18-0 on what was reportedly a BT Murrayfield enveloped in fog for much of the match.
Former Lions and Bulls lock Andries Ferreira made his debut for Edinburgh, joining Pierre Schoeman in the tight forward unit of a team that did not start the game with the usual sprinkling of South African players, although Nic Groom and former Stormers hooker and Southern Kings captain Mike Willemse did play off the bench.
The Edinburgh win follows on from their scratchy 6-3 win over Scarlets the previous week and will have pleased their coach Richard Cockerill, who has seen his team struggle ever since they were knocked out in a home semi-final in the 2019/2020 edition of the competition. The win lifts them to third on the Conference B log, four points behind leaders Munster, who have played one less game and remain one of just three unbeaten teams in the overall competition.
There were two games called off by Covid this weekend, both of them scheduled for Saturday, with the Dragons/Connacht clash joining the postponed Benetton/Munster clash in being delayed until a suitable date later in the season.
Scarlets 18 Zebre 17
Ospreys 7 Leinster 26
Edinburgh 18 Cardiff Blues 0
Ulster 40 Glasgow Warriors 15
Benetton v Munster postponed due to Covid-19
Dragons v Connacht postponed due to Covid-19
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