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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 12 December, 2018
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The Irish exiles in France and England were in good form over the weekend

Peter Stringer’s Bath moved up to second in the Premiership.

WHILE THE GUINNESS Pro12 heads towards its final regular season fixtures, the competition in the English and French leagues remains as fierce as ever.

We caught up with how the Irish players playing abroad got on over the weekend.

Aviva Premiership

Bath moved up to second in the English top tier thanks to a bonus point 43-18 win over London Irish on Friday night at the Rec, with Peter Stringer making his third start of the season in the Premiership.

Rugby Union - Peter Stringer Filer Stringer was at scrum-half for Bath. Source: David Davies

The 37-year-old, who will leave Bath at the end of the season for an as yet unannounced club, completed 61 minutes of the game and provided typically fine service as Mike Ford’s men ran in four of their five tries in that time.

Stringer even got stuck into the maul that saw blindside flanker Sam Burgess dot down.

On the losing London Irish team, the ever-present Tom Court was at loosehead prop, while former Connacht centre Eoin Griffin made his 14th start for the Exiles alongside the Irish-qualified Fergus Mulchrone.

Ireland international Court barrelled over for a close-range try just before the break, his second of the season.

Munster-bound Tomás O’Leary and ex-Leinster pair Jamie Hagan and Eamonn Sheridan were all used off the bench, but London Irish remain in 10th position in the league table.

Conor O’Shea‘s Harlequins had a 25-23 win on the road against Sale, but don’t move above eighth position.

Just behind O’Shea’s side are David Humphreys‘ Gloucester, who also failed to jump up the table despite a highly-entertaining bonus point 42-40 win over the spirited Newcastle Falcons.

LeinsterÕs Brendan Macken Macken is currently on loan at Gloucester. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

On-loan Leinster centre Brendan Macken started at outside centre, just his second appearance since joining the Kingsholm club in February. The 23-year-old got through 50 minutes before being replaced.

Former Ireland U20 hooker George McGuigan was used off the bench by the Falcons as he continues to amass Premiership experience, this being his 10th appearance [including four starts] of the league campaign.

Ulster-bound Paul Rowley was involved as a scrum-half replacement in London Welsh’s 38-17 defeat away to Leicester, a game which the Premiership strugglers actually led 10-7 at half time.

The influence of fullback Niall Morris, making his sixth league start of an injury-hit campaign, helped the Tigers to recover and secure a bonus point 38-17 victory that sees them move up to fourth in the table.

Morris, who has trained with Ireland’s senior squad, made a superb 50-metre linebreak to tee up a try for Sam Harrison as he completed the full 80 minutes.

Mark McCall‘s Saracens showed something of a European hangover as they dropped to third in the Premiership with a 25-20 defeat to Northampton on Saturday at stadiummk in Milton Keynes.

Exeter Chiefs also slid down the table after a 36-29 away defeat to Wasps on Sunday, a result that leaves them outside the play-off places in fifth.

Rugby Union - Aviva Premiership - Leicester Tigers v Saracens - Welford Road Morris showed his attacking ability for the Tigers. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Ex-Ulster man Ian Whitten started the game on the right wing, having also featured in the centre earlier in the season. Compatriot Gareth Steenson was used off the bench again yesterday, having lost the number 10 shirt to the highly-rated Henry Slade.

Steenson did manage to fire over a last-minute drop goal that ensured the Chiefs grabbed a losing bonus point at least, bringing him to 180 points for the season, behind only Stephen Myler and Andy Goode in the overall tally.

Greene King IPA Championship

There was disappointment for Darren O’Shea and Niall Annett as their Worcester Warriors side was beaten by promotion rivals Bristol on the last day of the regular season in the Championship.

Two late Nicky Robinson penalties were enough to see Bristol win 30-26, a result that means they claim top spot ahead of the play-off, where they will meet a Rotherham Titans team that has plenty of Irish representation.

Former Munster academy man O’Shea was making his 17th appearance of the season in the second row for the Warriors, while ex-Ulster hooker Annett reached the 15-game mark. Former Ireland U18 international Charlie Mulchrone was used off the bench.

Worcester now advance to play London Scottish [who have two Irishmen] in the two-legged play-off semi-finals.

Joe Joyce and Peadar Timmins dejected Joe Joyce [left] featured for Bristol. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Part of the winning Bristol effort on Saturday was former Leinster loosehead prop Jack O’Connell, who came off the bench in the second half. Similarly, lock Joe Joyce, who played for Ireland U20s in the 2014 Six Nations, played out the closing minutes.

Irish-qualified centre Jack Tovey was at outside centre for Bristol.

Rotherham made sure of their play-off place with a 19-3 win at home to London Scottish, with former Ulster man Ali Birch at openside flanker, ex-Cork Con back row Willie Ryan at number eight and Munster native Sean Scanlon at fullback.

Scanlon has been particularly key to the Titans’ promotion push, starting 20 of their 22 games and scoring five tries, while Ryan is enjoying a hugely positive first season in the Championship.

Missing from the play-offs will be former Ulster out-half James McKinney, who scored more than 150 points this season before succumbing to a leg injury.

On the losing London Scottish team against the Titans was fullback Peter Lydon, formerly of Seapoint RFC and Stade Français, who kicked his team’s only three points of the game.

Former Ireland international back row Neil Best came off the bench in the second half. The London club will look to bounce back immediately when they play the first leg of their play-off against Worcester on Saturday.

Kevin Maggs‘ Moseley finished their season with a 40-21 defeat on the road against Jersey. Maggs, as the club’s director of rugby, will look to help Moseley improve on their 11th-placed finish next season.

A horror season for Plymouth finished in disappointment as the already-relegated Devon side lost 19-16 at home to Doncaster despite the best efforts of Eoghan Grace and Declan Cusack.

Eoghan Grace Former Connacht and Munster back row Eoghan Grace has been unable to prevent Plymouth's relegation. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Former Munster out-half Cusack kicked two penalties and scored a try, leading the resistance as he has done throughout the season, while openside flanker and fellow Munster man Grace battled hard in the back row.

Nottingham missed out on the play-offs after finishing fifth in the league, but did manage to end their season on a winning note thanks to a 26-17 success away to Bedford Blues.

Ex-Ireland U18, U19 and U20 tighthead prop Conor Carey made his 17th start of the season to ensure he was involved in every single Nottingham league tie in this campaign, although he did spend 10 minutes in the sin bin.

Finally, former Ulster wing/fullback David McIlwaine came off the bench during a 27-5 win for Leeds against the Cornish Pirates, having had his season slowed by injuries previously.

Top 14

There was disappointment for Grenoble and their Irish coaches, Bernard Jackman and Mike Prendergast, as the Isère club lost 42-33 away to relegation rivals Bayonne.

The failure to pick up a losing bonus point will have rankled, as 11th-placed Grenoble are now just one point ahead of Bayonne, who are inside the relegation zone at present. Grenoble’s final three games see them face Clermont [H], Toulouse [H], Lyon [A].

Chris Farrell was at outside centre for FCG, making his 16th start of the season, while James Hart played the closing 20 minutes of the game.

James Hart goes over for a try Hart was used in the centre in his Clontarf days. Source: Paul Railton/INPHO

Ronan O’Gara and Racing Métro suffered defeat on the road too, a 21-16 loss in Oyonnax. That leaves the Parisian outfit in fifth position, with games against Stade Français [H], La Rochelle [A] and Castres [H] to come.

Out-half Johnny Sexton was absent from Racing’s match-day squad on Saturday.

Pro D2

The race for play-off spots is in full swing in France’s second tier, and Eddie O’Sullivan‘s Biarritz have dropped to sixth [positions two to five go into the play-offs] after a 42-33 defeat away to Colomiers on Saturday.

With fixtures against Montauban [H] and Dax [A] to come in the next fortnight, O’Sullivan will back his men to move into the top five in the league and compete for promotion into the Top 14 for next season.

Already confirmed as the league champions, Pau gave James Coughlan the weekend off as they were beaten 41-20 by second-placed Agen yesterday.

Jeremy Davidson 31/8/2010 Davidson is doing a superb job on a severely limited budget at Aurillac. Source: Darren Kidd

Jeremy Davidson‘s Aurillac kept themselves in the battle for play-off spots with an impressive 52-14 hammering of Perpignan on Saturday, meaning they are level on points with Albi [who are fifth] and Biarritz.

Former Ulster wing Conor Gaston was among the tries in a thrilling attacking performance, his fifth score of the season.

Fourth-placed Mont-de-Marsan continued their promotion drive with a 19-17 win against Montauban, Bedford Blues-bound lock Mark Flanagan starting in the second row. The ex-Leinster lock has played 15 times this season for Scott Murray’s men.

National Championship of Excellence

Fresh from making his Barbarians debut in a big win over Heriot’s in Scotland on Tuesday, Ian McKinley was back at out-half for Viadana in their 38-8 win away to Cavalieri Prato on Saturday.

The former Leinster playmaker kicked four conversions as Viadana ran in six tries to leave themselves in sixth position.

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Murray Kinsella

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