RaboDirect Pro 12 Wrap: Glasgow hit top spot as Ulster slip up

Niko Matawalu with Glasgow Warriors captain Al Kellock.
Glasgow Warriors' Al Kellock (right) congratulates scorer Niko Matawalu after his try.SNS Group

The Pro 12 continued to entertain once again this weekend as Glasgow aimed to set a new record for consecutive league wins.

They welcomed Cardiff Blues to Scotstoun, whilst Edinburgh desperately tried to get back to winning ways against play-off chasing Scarlets.

Finlay Morrison reports on the action.

Glasgow Warriors 29-13 Cardiff Blues

In a stunning second half performance, Glasgow claimed top spot in the Pro 12 for the first time and claimed yet another four-try bonus-point in the process - their seventh win in a row.

After a cagey opening period that saw both sides score a try each through Peter Horne and Josh Navidi respectively, the game looked to be swaying Cardiff's way as impressive stand-off Rhys Patchell marshalled his team well and moved them into the right areas of the pitch with an impressive kicking game.

Patchell gave his side a half-time lead with a 40th minute penalty. Glasgow also lost forwards Tim Swinson and Gordon Reid after they over-committed at the tackle forcing head coach Gregor Townsend into early substitutions.

That only spurred the Warriors into life however as they came racing out of the blocks for the second half and the inspired introduction of Henry Pyrgos at scrum-half allowed flying Fijian Niko Matawalu to move to the right wing.

He quickly put the home side ahead after Pyrgos found him with a long miss-pass. Matawalu then kicked ahead into space before gathering the ball and touching down for the try with Duncan Weir adding the conversion to make it 17-13 after 55 minutes.

Five minutes later it was Weir himself who touched down after Glasgow had moved play from left to right in the Blues 22 creating a four on one over-lap which they executed perfectly.

Four minutes later Matawalu grabbed his second and Glasgow's fourth after a quick-tap penalty from Pyrgos again created space on the right for the Fijian to touch down. Replacement Scott Wight missed the conversion however and a penalty shortly afterwards.

Glasgow ended the match camped in the Blues' half and ran the clock down to an almighty cheer when it was announced to the Warrior Nation that their team was now top of the league thanks to results elsewhere.

Scarlets 14-13 Edinburgh

In a tense battle at Parc Y Scarlets, Edinburgh looked on course to register their first win of 2013 thanks to an early Dougie Fife try and some outstanding defence that kept the Scarlets dynamic backline under wraps for most of the match.

Harry Leonard was also in fine form in a rare start for Edinburgh, kicking a penalty and conversion to give the Scots an 8-10 halftime lead after the home side crossed earlier through Andy Fenby.

Number eight Dave Denton almost breached the Scarlets' line but was held up short before Leonard added another penalty to stretch the lead but the home side managed to edge themselves back into the match through the combined efforts of Owen Williams and Aled Thomas who were successful with their attempts at goal.

Edinburgh almost snatched victory at the end however, but flanker Hamish Watson was denied by Williams' cover tackle, preventing a certain try.

The defeat means Edinburgh have now gone eleven matches in all competitions without a win which is a damning statistic for a team which once promised so much.

Ulster 29-29 Treviso

In an entertaining contest at Ravenhill, Ulster's winless run continued as an impressive Treviso side claimed a draw and probably should've won thanks to Alberto Di Bernardo's outstanding performance at stand-off and a remarkable hat-trick from New Zealander Dean Budd along with a Roberto Barbieri try.

With strict instructions from Irish coach Declan Kidney, stand-off Paddy Jackson took over kicking duties from Ruan Pienaar and responded by slotting five penalties and converting first half tries from Andrew Trimble and Stuart Olding to put Ulster ahead at halftime.

Treviso were by far the better side in the second half however and, just as they did at the same venue last year, snatched an improbable try through Barbieri before Budd grabbed two more to set up a thrilling finale.

Neither side could land the killer blow and Ulster relinquished top spot in the Pro 12 standings due to their failure to do so.

Newport Gwent Dragons 19-26 Leinster

Leinster began well at Rodney Parade on Friday with two tries inside the opening 10 minutes from Sean Cronin setting the Irish giants on their way to another bonus-point victory on the road.

Dave Kearney added another two to clinch the five points whilst Ian Madigan, who today was called up to the Ireland Six Nations squad in place of Ronan O'Gara, added 3 out of four conversions to seal the win whilst all the Dragons could manage was a losing bonus-point with tries from Steffan and Leuan Jones.

Connacht 23-19 Zebre

One day soon Zebre will register their first-ever win in the Pro 12. Sadly, it did not happen at the Sportsground in Galway on Friday night as Dan Parks was yet again the man for Connacht, slotting two penalties, converting tries from Eoin McKeon and Gavin Duffy, as well as slotting a late drop-goal to save the Irish side's blushes against the Italian minnows in their fourth encounter this season.

Munster 13-13 Ospreys

In a result that benefits Glasgow Warriors significantly, Munster and Ospreys cancelled each other out at Thomond Park on Saturday night in a 13-13 draw.

Penalties from Matthew Morgan and Ronan O'Gara had the game tied at 6 all at halftime before Damien Varley scored for Munster just after the break with O'Gara's conversion giving the home side a 13-6 lead before Jonathan Thomas hit back for the Welsh side five minutes later with Morgan's conversion bringing the sides level and it finished that way with both sides ruing scoring opportunities.

The Pro 12 takes a two-week break which will be music to the ears of Warriors fans viewing the table and seeing their side at the summit. Glasgow travel to Dublin to take on Leinster on March 23rd whilst Edinburgh welcome Ulster to Murrayfield the night before.

You can follow Finlay Morrison on Twitter @FinMorrison

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