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Hanrahan's try, Scholes getting chances in Edinburgh, and all the exiles' action

We round up the Irish players’ involvements in England and France last weekend.

THE ENGLISH AND French rugby leagues are heading into decisive weeks, with one final regular-season round remaining in the Premiership and Top 14 before the play-offs. 

Here, we round-up the Irish exiles’ contributions during last weekend’s action.

Aviva Premiership

Exeter’s stunning run of form continued on Saturday as they recorded their seventh consecutive bonus-point win with a 36-12 success over Northampton.

Out-half Gareth Steenson kicked two conversions, while fellow Ulsterman Ian Whitten was among the try-scorers from the 13 shirt.

Whitten Ian Whitten scored a try for Exeter.

Exeter are joint-top of the Premiership with Wasps on 79 points and – after their final regular-season clash with Gloucester this coming weekend – will bring superb form into the play-off semi-finals.

On the beaten Northampton side was Munster-bound JJ Hanrahan, who scored an early intercept try and also slotted a conversion after being handed the starting 10 jersey.

It was Hanrahan’s fifth Premiership start of the season for the Saints, and his first since January.

Leicester are in the fourth and final play-off spot with one round to go, having secured a bonus-point win over Sale that saw former Ireland U20s hooker George McGuigan scoring a try off the bench.

JJH JJ Hanrahan scored an early intercept try for the Saints.

39-year-old scrum-half Peter Stringer was among the Sharks replacements, making his 11th Premiership appearance of the season.

Meanwhile, former Leinster loosehead Jack O’Connell was in the number one shirt for Bristol in their 27-9 defeat away to Saracens.

Although Bristol have already been relegated, O’Connell has worked his way back into the first team in recent months and last weekend was his first Premiership start of the season. Irish-qualified wing/centre Jack Tovey started in Bristol’s 11 shirt.

Finally, former Ulster prop Paddy McAllister came off the bench as David Humphreys‘ Gloucester lost 44-20 to Bath, the loosehead making his 14th league appearance of the campaign.

Top 14

In the same week that he announced he will be retiring from playing at the end of the season, James Coughlan started at number eight for Pau in their 32-27 win over Brive.

James Coughlan James Coughlan was at number eight for Pau. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

That victory means Pau are a single point off the play-off spots with one regular-season round to go. Simon Mannix’s side will travel to Toulon, who have already secured their play-off place and Coughlan will hope to be part of a huge win for the club.

Ronan O’Gara‘s Racing 92 are currently in sixth place, the final play-off spot, after a 27-23 defeat to Parisian rivals Stade Français on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the already-relegated Grenoble were beaten 43-35 by Bayonne. Mike Prendergast has been the interim boss since Bernard Jackman’s departure from Grenoble, but he will join Oyonnax this summer.

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Guinness Pro12

Ex-Ulster and Ireland U20 wing Rory Scholes was on the left wing for Edinburgh as they beat the Dragons 24-20 on Friday night.

The 24-year-old had struggled for game time in the first half of the season after his move from Ulster, but has racked up nine Pro12 appearances in total after a fine run in recent months.

Rory Scholes on the attack Scholes has enjoyed a run of games in recent times. Source: Craig Watson/INPHO

Former Leinster lock Tadhg Beirne and the Scarlets continued their superb season with a 30-8 win over Connacht in Galway on Saturday, the Irishman starting in the second row again.

Beirne has been in excellent form and has played 14 league games as the Scarlets have secured a play-off spot.

Ian McKinley, another former Leinster man, was at out-half for Treviso in their 34-14 defeat at home to Munster.

McKinley, who has extended his contract with the Italian side into next season, kicked a conversion for Treviso.

Today saw the 27-year-old called into Conor O’Shea’s Italy training squad, having qualified on residency grounds.

Greene King IPA Championship

Promotion favourites London Irish enjoyed a comprehensive 35-3 victory away to Doncaster in the first leg of their Championship semi-final last weekend.

Former Ireland and Ulster loosehead prop Tom Court played 23 minutes off the bench for the Exiles, as did ex-Leinster flanker Conor Gilsenan. Irish-qualified centre Fergus Mulchrone had another fine game in midfield.

Conor Gilsenan on the attack Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

On the beaten Doncaster team was ex-Ulster scrum-half Michael Heaney, while former Munster out-half Declan Cusack played the closing 30 minutes off the bench.

Yorkshire Carnegie beat Ealing Trailfinders 34-16 in the other semi-final first-leg to ensure an 18-point advantage ahead of their home tie, meaning London Irish will expect to face Carnegie in the play-off final, which also takes place over two legs.

Pro D2

Oyonnax were confirmed as champions of Pro D2 last weekend thanks to a 19-9 win over a Perpignan side that included Lifeimi Mafi at outside centre. That means the aforementioned Prendergast will be joining a Top 14 club this summer.

Agen remain in second position ahead with one regular-season round to go before they take part in the promotion play-offs, with former Munster man Dave Ryan starting at tighthead prop in a 20-18 defeat to Albi on Friday, his 26th appearance of the season.

Elsewhere, ex-Ulster wing Conor Gaston made his 25th appearance of the campaign for Aurillac. 

After a promising start to the season, Jeremy Davidson‘s side have faded slightly and are out of the running for the play-offs in eight position. Given their tiny budget, it’s still a good season for the club and Davidson will leave them in a good place when he moves on to become Bordeaux’s forwards coach this summer.

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Murray Kinsella

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