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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 24 April, 2018
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The winners and losers from the opening fortnight of the Pro12

The league is going back into storage after two exciting weekends.

Winners

Munster

ANTHONY FOLEY’S MEN left it late in Swansea, but CJ Stander’s third try of this very  young season gave Munster an invaluable win over their bogey team.

The southern province had slipped to nine losses in 12 previous visits to the Liberty and looked on course for a 10th in 13. However, with impressive displays from Tyler Bleyendaal and Francis Saili (who we had all feared would miss a chunk of the season) helped Munster revive a Munster tradition – digging out results that should be beyond them.

Mark Chisholm takes a line-out Source: Simon King/INPHO

The opening day win over Treviso was nothing to send postcards from Cork about either. But after losing some of the most influential voices in the changing room, winning while bedding down new faces like John Madigan, David Johnston, Stephen Fitzgerald, Mark Chisholm, Saili and Bleyendaal is a bonus.

Connacht

The opening two fixtures could have been a much more profitable period for Pat Lam’s side had it not been for a pesky opening 40 minutes against Glasgow on Friday night.

New openside Nepia Fox-Matamua has had a brilliant influence around the tackle area (not to mention his two tries) and the Westerners’ attack still looks in great shape even if the defensive improvements promised during the summer haven’t fully materialised.

Jack Carty Source: Russell Cheyne/INPHO

The brilliant second-half display earned Connacht two losing bonus points at the home of the champions. It’s easy to argue that Glasgow should be put to the sword when they are missing so many internationals, but they remain a brilliantly coached side and when the season gets in to a stride, two points in Scotstoun may look like a pretty good haul to anyone.

Scarlets

Connacht’s nemesis again managed to do what the western province were unable to, denting Glasgow’s home record on opening night. The Welsh outfit then moved top of the early table by frustrating Ulster back on home turf at Parc y Scarlets.

When the league resumes again in October, Wayne Pivac’s team will have the perfect opportunity to build on their opening two wins when they travel to Zebre before hosting Leinster on Rugby World Cup quarter-final weekend.

Losers

Leinster

Though they are now powered by Nasi Manu, losing in Edinburgh is always a dispiriting experience.

Leo Cullen’s side did manage to open their try-scoring account for the new season in week two, but shorn of so many internationals to the Ireland setup they continue to struggle to build fluency and momentum.

Garry Ringrose with Gavin Evans Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With a backline that can still boast Isa Nacewa, Fergus McFadden, Ben Te’o Noel Reid, Garry Ringrose and Luke McGrath; supporters and coaches alike will be expecting more when the Dragons visit the RDS in October.

Ulster

At times, Ulster have been excellent to watch in their opening 160 minutes of the season. They have Nick Williams set back to 2013 form and Stu McCloskey in beast mode, but after powering to a bonus point victory at home to the Ospreys, away form was again their undoing. Add a potentially troublesome hip flexor injury for Andrew Trimble to the mix and it seems as though Ulster will be quite happy to have a fortnight without a game ahead.

Stuart McCloskey fends off Gareth Owen Source: Craig Thomas/INPHO

The initial attitude in Llanelli was commendable and Neil Doak’s side looked like they were comfortably the better side. Yet too often they attempted to force the play, offloading or shoveling an ill-advised pass, when patience would have cranked up the pressure on the Welsh region.

Ospreys

Two games in and last season’s semi-finalists have slipped to two defeats. What’s worse is that the points they’ve dropped have gone directly in to the coffers of Ulster and Munster - two teams they can consider as play-off rivals.

‘For a lot of that season and for a long time, I had a bit of a f**k-you mentality’

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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