Hard fought derby wins for Johann van Graan’s Munster side and defending champions Leinster set up a mouth-watering clash this coming weekend where the two top Irish sides will battle it out for PRO14 bragging rights.
Both sides won their respective Irish derbies and continued their run on the top of the two conferences in the championship, with the big clash at Thomond Park this coming weekend likely to set the tone for the second half of the season.
On Friday night Leinster were in high-flying form in a 14-try thriller, downing Ulster 54-42 at the RDS Arena to take a 12 point lead in Conference A and open up some daylight between them and Ulster, who are in second place.
The win was also closely watched by the Toyota Cheetahs, who sit in third spot and are five points behind Ulster with a game in hand. Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie will be looking to return from the Christmas break with a fresh side in the South African summer to press their playoff claims home in the next few weeks.
Leinster scored eight tries as they put on a show in front of their home fans to claim the win and underline their status as favourites to retain their title.
Across in Galway, Van Graan’s team fought a keen battle to take some valuable away points over second-placed Connacht and stretch their lead, which was one point before the game, to four as they prepare for the Leinster clash.
Flyhalf JJ Hanrahan had an exceptional game to score 14 of their 19 points in their 19-14 win with the flyhalf’s control of the match the key to victory.
In Glasgow, Duhan van der Merwe’s 50th cap ended in a narrow defeat as Glasgow Warriors won the 1872 Cup derby with a narrow 20-16 scoreline against fellow Scots Edinburgh.
The game saw five yellow cards being handed out and the result was never certain until the end of the game with a late try by Warriors replacement hooker George Turner – when Edinburgh were reduced to 14 with a yellow to Nic Groom – gave them a hard-fought victory.
The weather had a big say in the type of rugby being played as the Dragons edged Scarletts 22-20 in a rain-soaked Rodney Parade, with the winner coming from a late Sam Davies drop-goal.
The flyhalf’s perfect strike from the pocket ended a scrappy affair and gave the bragging rights to the Newport side.
Cardiff Blues claimed their first win in Swansea since 2005 as a Jason Tovey penalty gave them a narrow 19-16 win over the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.
The loss sees Ospreys still at the bottom of their conference log, with just one win this season for the struggling side.