PRO12 Round-Up: Leinster denied top spot after Connacht's victory over strugglers Zebre

Leo Cullen's side squeezed by Cardiff in the day's early game

Cardiff Blues 13

Leinster 14

Leinster had Isa Nacewa to thank this afternoon as his second half try gave guided Leo Cullen's men to the top of the PRO12 for a few hours at least.

In blustery conditions at Cardiff Arms Park, Leinster tried to make the most of their advantage in the first half but it was Nacewa's second-half try from an incisive Jack Conan break-away that proved enough to secure victory.

Ian Madigan's first half penalties gave the visitors a 6-3 lead at the break, Gareth Anscombe tried to match the kicking but the gale forced wind made even straightforward kicks testing.

Ian Madigan persevered in testing conditions this afternoon. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Thomas 

Anscombe made amends in the second half, his penalty just after the break leveled proceedings before Madigan added another from the boot to make it 9-6.

Jack Conan's burst from the breakdown was the source of the Irish province's try. Man of the match Conan spotted a gap between two Cardiff players and burst through at pace, before a smart offload freed Nacewa to cross to make it 14-6.

But Cardiff weren't finished. Their sustained pressure for the most part was coped with by the Leinster defense, but after Jordi Murphy was binned for coming in from the side their resistance crumbled.

Josh Navidi finished off a Cardiff attack with a sublime carry and with the wind at his back, Anscombe made it a one-point game.

Leinster endured a nervy finish, blocking a drop-goal attempt, but held on to secure the victory which leaves them two points behind Connacht.

Leinster had to withstand a strong finish from the Cardiff Blues. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Thomas

Zebre 34

Connacht 51

Matt Healy's hat-trick of tries helped Connacht secure top spot, but perennial strugglers Zebre made the Irish province work for their victory tonight.

Pat Lam's side surged into an early lead inside 20 minutes; Healy crossed for his first of the evening after 16 minutes after Craig Ronaldson and Kelly Haimona exchanged early penalties.

Haimona knocked over a second penalty for the Italians, before Kieran Marmion's quick thinking allowed him to cross and Ronaldson's accuracy from the boot made it 17-6.

Johan Meyer made the scoreline more respectable at the break, his try was also converted to reduce it to a four-point deficit at the break.

 

Matt Healy scores a try for Connacht this evening at the  Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi. Image: ©INPHO/Francesca Soli

Healy extended their lead after the break with his second try and 11-point lead, but Haimona pegged Zebre back instantly with a try of his own.

The hat trick was completed inside 50 minutes as Healy crossed for the final time to restore their lead and AJ McGinty made no mistake from the boot.

The Italians still refused to say die when Dries van Schalkwyk crossed the whitewash, but Niyi Adeolokun's brace before the final whistle meant a convincing win and a return to the summit for Pat Lam's side.