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McMahon stars in Pro D2, Butler returns for Pau and all the exiles action

Donnacha Ryan’s Racing 92 closed the gap to leaders Montpellier in the Top 14.

THE WEATHER MEANT three of the four Irish provinces didn’t play at all over the past weekend but there were still many Irish rugby players in action in France and England.

Here, we round-up the Irish involvement in the Top 14, Premiership, Championship, Pro D2 and Rugby Americas Championship in recent days.

Aviva Premiership

Exeter moved seven points clear at the top of the Premiership in England thanks to a 24-12 win over Mark McCall‘s Saracens yesterday.

Ulsterman Ian Whitten played the final 25 minutes off the bench for the Chiefs in the important win at home, while out-half Gareth Steenson featured for the closing five minutes after head coach Rob Baxter opted to give impressive 21-year-old Joe Simmonds a start in the 10 shirt.

Mark Flanagan Mark Flanagan came off the bench for Saracens. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Former Leinster and Munster lock Mark Flanagan was a late substitute for McCall’s defeated Saracens, making his fifth appearance in the Premiership this season.

Wasps sit second in the Premiership after a 24-16 victory over London Irish at home yesterday, with ex-Leinster centre Brendan Macken starting at outside centre in his sixth appearance of the league campaign.

The losing London Irish team included former Leinster openside Conor Gilsenan in the number seven shirt, the Clongowes alumnus having forced his way into the starting team in recent times.

Elsewhere, Donncha O’Callaghan came off the bench in Worcester’s 34-5 home defeat to Leicester Tigers, whose assistant coach Geordan Murphy will have been pleased with his side scoring five tries.

On Saturday, Gloucester – where David Humphreys is director of rugby – suffered a 21-20 defeat at home to Newcastle.

Sale Sharks enjoyed a 34-25 win away to Northampton, with Irish-qualified, Munster-bound fullback Mike Haley picking up a yellow card in his 16th appearance of the season for the victors, while also providing an assist for a Denny Solomona try.

Outside centre and club captain Will Addison, who is also Irish-qualified, was in the 13 shirt again for Sale.

Top 14

The recent upsurge in form for bottom side Oyonnax continued yesterday as they beat relegation rivals Stade Français 33-27.

Mike Prendergast Mike Prendergast is doing an excellent job at Oyonnax. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

While Oyonnax’s defence has been poor all season, their attack has increasingly done damage under former Munster scrum-half Mike Prendergast‘s coaching and another four tries against Stade were important.

Oyonnax remain bottom of the Top 14 but – having also beaten Clermont away two weekends ago – are now just six points off the safety of 12th position.

There was a huge result for Agen on Saturday, as they beat league leaders Montpellier 31-29, with former Munster tighthead Dave Ryan coming off the bench for the closing 35 minutes of the victory.

Agen are now sitting 11th in the Top 14 table and looking increasingly like staying up this season.

Pau’s superb form continued with a 29-27 win away to Castres, taking them above Toulon and into fourth in the league standings.

Ex-Munster back row Paddy Butler started in the seven shirt for Pau and completed the full 80 minutes in what was his first league appearance since November due to injury.

His fellow ex-Munster man Dave Foley was part of the Pau bench, having also recently recovered from injury.

Paddy Butler with Jacopo Sarto Butler was back in action for Pau. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

Racing 92 closed the gap to leaders Montpellier to just three points thanks to a 17-13 win at home against Brive, with Ireland international Donnacha Ryan making his seventh league start in the second row.

Bordeaux, for whom Jeremy Davidson is forwards coach, suffered a 25-19 defeat at home to Toulouse on Saturday.

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Greene King IPA Championship

Pat Lam’s Bristol went down to their first defeat of the season as they were beaten 38-34 at home by Jersey yesterday.

Ireland international Ian Madigan kicked two penalties and converted all four of Bristol’s tries, while ex-Leinster and Connacht hooker Jason Harris-Wright started and former Leinster loosehead Jack O’Connell and ex-Ireland U20s lock Joe Joyce featured off the bench.

But it was Jersey who celebrated at the end, with key man Jerry Sexton scoring a try from the second row.

Former Ulster back row Conor Joyce was in the seven shirt for the Reds, while another ex-Ulster player, centre Mark Best, was at outside centre.

Conor Joyce Ulsterman Joyce helped Jersey to a big win. Source: Craig Watson/INPHO

Bristol, for whom Conor McPhillips is attack coach, remain 15 points clear at the top of the Championship despite a first defeat in 17 games.

Elsewhere, the Cornish Pirates beat Doncaster 22-19, with former Ulster scrum-half Michael Heaney featuring off the bench for the beaten Knights. 27-year-old Heaney will join Worcester Warriors next season on one-year contract.

The only other Championship fixture to go ahead over the weekend saw Bedford Blues, including ex-Leinster loosehead Sean McCarthy, beat Yorkshire Carnegie 41-22 on Saturday.

Pro D2

Fourth-placed Grenoble’s fine recent run in the Pro D2 continued with a 28-14 win over Dax on Friday night that saw former Munster hooker Duncan Casey make his fourth start since joining the club.

Former Munster academy fullback Steve McMahon was vital as Carcassonne’s excellent form continued with a 40-14 win over Aurillac.

Dungarvan man McMahon scored a try and was named in Midi Olympique’s Pro D2 team of the week after his 16th appearance of the campaign, with Carcassonne having moved from the bottom of the table up to 14th in recent weeks.

Steve McMahon scores a try McMahon scored for Carcassonne. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ex-Munster lock John Madigan was in the second row for Massy once again as they moved up to 11th with a 42-18 victory over Narbonne, the Charleville man starting for the 18th time this season.

Meanwhile, Nevers jumped up to 10th with a 34-9 win over a Perpignan side including Lifeimi Mafi, with former Shannon lock Frank Bradshaw-Ryan continuing his fine season with another start in Nevers’ second row.

Rugby Americas Championship

The USA secured their second consecutive championship success with a comprehensive 61-19 victory over Uruguay on Saturday.

Attack coach Greg McWilliams, who previously worked with Ireland Women and coached at St. Michael’s College, will have been happy with a nine-try haul as the US ensured five wins from five in this year’s competition.


Former Greystones, Blackrock College and St. Mary’s hooker Dylan Fawsitt scored his first Test try in what was his second start for the US.

In the second row was the US-born Brendan Daly, whose mother hails from Leitrim and whose father is a Cork man.

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Murray Kinsella

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