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Thrills Galore In Round Three Of The Celtic League

Thrills Galore In Round Three Of The Celtic League

Connacht, Munster & Glasgow staged their own version of the Late Late Show to snatch wins in the Celtic League and maintain their unbeaten records, while Ulster lost in Swansea after a bright start.

On a weekend of thrilling finishes in the Celtic League pride of place must go to Steph Nel’s Connacht who smashed Leinster’s three year unbeaten home record with an injury time Mark McHugh drop-goal. It seemed that Leinster had survived the onslaught when Brian O’Meara added the points to Keith Gleeson’s try – his second of the night – right at the death to level the game 23 points apiece. However, Connacht refused to be denied and, just as he had done against Borders in the opening game, McHugh insisted on having the final say with that winning drop-goal.

Over in Edinburgh’s Meadowbank Stadium at about the same time as Gleeson was tying up matters in Dublin, Munster were trailing 21-18 to home side Edinburgh Reds. Just on the stroke of full-time they were awarded a penalty inside the Glasgow 22, to the left of the posts. With six penalties already to his credit, the smart money was on Jeremy Staunton to chip this one over and settle for a share of the spoils. However, captain Jim Williams opted to back his side and called for lineout position. Mick O’Driscoll caught cleanly, Munster drove for the line, were held up, but when they spun the ball wide Jason Holland made the half break and Rob Henderson took the off-load to crash over to the right of the posts. Staunton’s conversion was his easiest kick of the night, and in injury time he landed his eight successful kick from nine attempts to give his side a 28-21 victory.

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On Saturday Ulster were in St Helen’s for their match with a Swansea side looking for their first win of the campaign. It started well for Ulster and they led 10-3 thanks to a Tyrone Howe try and conversion and penalty from David Humphreys. But then the wheels came of – big time. By half time they were 21-10 and further tries from Matthew Robinson and Shaun Payne plus the unerring boot of Arwel Thomas left it 38-10 to the home side at the final whistle. To make matters worse Paddy Wallace, a 55th minute replacement for Humphreys, broke his leg in the third minute of injury time.

Down the road in Eugene Cross Park, Mike Ruddock’s Ebbw Vale came from 18-3 down to beat Caerphilly 45-25 and across the Rhondda Valley, Glasgow staged a remarkable come-back to beat Newport 31-25. The Scottish side trailed 25-9 with 13 minutes to go but then scored 22 points to retain their unbeaten record.

Next weekend, Munster are home to Swansea (Musgrave Park). Connacht entertain Newport, Ulster are home to unbeaten Neath, while Leinster take to the road for their game against Cardiff.