Cell C Sharks’ Thembelani Bholi and Lionel Cronje and Connacht’s Jordan Duggan chase down a loose ball in the United Rugby Championship game at the Sportsground in Galway. [Inpho/Billy Stickland]

Connacht back to winning ways

Connacht 24; Cell C Sharks 12

Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend must be delighted that the New Year is bringing new promise to his side’s fortunes.

On a foul evening at the weekend at the Sportsground, they not only won against a second string South African outfit but got a bonus point by scoring four tries to push them up the table at last.

With wind and rain lashing the exposed ground, the home side took advantage of the elements to build up a lead with tries from Conor Oliver, Cathal Forde and Tiernan O'Halloran, given them a 19-0 lead.  Forde was the star man as he got over for the bonus score 15 minutes into the second-half, leaving his teammates to game manage to the end as the visitors ran in for two tries but ultimately were unable to get close enough to unnerve their hosts.

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Afterwards Andy Friend said he was delighted at how Forde had played in the game.

With two tries, the 21-year-old was man of the Match display

“We are proud of him. It's a pretty hard-fought position, the 12 spot. David Hawkshaw got an injury last week, we have Tom Daly, Bundee Aki, Fordey comes in and thoroughly deserved that man of the match performance.

"What he did was he made his tackles, he chopped low, and when he carried, he carried with real intent. You could see his left boot, he took a couple of kicks for touch, he worked his backside off, and he got the fourth try because he worked so hard.

"He did the simple things well, but he's a very accomplished rugby player. He'll have known there was a lot of pressure on him tonight, with the selection, which was a compliment and a credit to him, but he stood up to that,” he pointed out.

Leinster stage great 

fight back in Wales

Leinster 24; Ospreys 19

Leinster  were pushed to the limit and given that it was largely a second strong outfit, you can’t but take your hat off to salute  Leo Cullen’s fringe players for having that same will to win as the Johnny Sextons and Tadhg Furlongs of this world.

This was a real do or die clash at the Swansea.com Stadium with the young homeside intent on showing that they are a coming force at this level. They built up a fairly comprehensive lead  and in fact led for three minutes beyond the hour before class moves saw Huge Keenan and Jimmy O’Brien get over for tries that would be saluted for their enactment at any level.

These scores were in response to home wing Keelan Giles first-half try the boot of Cai Evans had given the hosts a 16-10 lead until the Irish province struck with deadly effect in the closing straits.

Evans managed a bonus point for the Ospreys with his 73rd-minute penalty and the performance more than the result will please the Welsh outfit as they prepare to make an impact in the upcoming games.

Munster’s easy win

Munster kept up their recent good form with a facile 33-3 win over Emirates Lions at Musgrave Park as Liam Coombes' try seven minutes from time also brought home a bonus point victory.

Ulster’s dreadful season continued in Italy where a late penalty by Rhyno Smith saw Benetton win 31-29 at the Stadio Monigo.