Pienaar stars at 10 for Ulster

GARETH DUNCAN looks at the South Africans who impressed in Europe over the weekend.

After kicking the winning drop goal in their win over the Newport Gwent Dragons last weekend, flyhalf Ruan Pienaar slotted another last-minute three-pointer in Ulster’s 22-19 away victory over Glasgow. The former Springbok and Sharks utility back has started most of Ulster’s games at scrumhalf, but has also performed well at pivot when named in the No 10 jumper. And he did so against Glasgow, scoring all 22 points via a try, conversion and five penalties.

The win sees Ulster jump into third spot on the Magners League log, and Pienaar should be creditted for their surge up the table as he has delivered several match-winning cameos this season.

Loosehead prop Wian du Preez’s Munster continued their reign at the top of the standings as they picked up a tight 16-15 win over the Cardiff Blues. Lowly Aironi recorded a big 25-13 win over Connacht in Viadana. Openside flanker Gareth Krause scored a crucial try while wing Danwel Demas also featured for the Italian club.

Loosehead prop Heinke van der Merwe and hooker Richardt Strauss fronted Leinster’s 26-16 triumph over Newport Gwent Dragons, which sees them jump to second.

In England, log leaders Leicester crushed captain Luke Watson, scrumhalf Michael Claassens, flyhalf Butch James and replacement hooker Pieter Dixon’s Bath 37-6. James could only kick two penalties in a defeat that dents Bath’s play-off hopes.

Saffa-laden Saracens are still in the race for top spot as they beat Newcaste 24-9 in Watford. Inside centre Brad Barritt, scrumhalf Neil de Kock, No 8 Ersnt Joubert, flanker Justin Melck and hooker Schalk Brits started for the home team while reserve prop Petrus du Plessis came on early in the second half.

Tighthead prop Brian Mujati scored a try in Northampton’s 39-3 win over the London Wasps while tighthead prop Faan Rautenbach’s London Irish thumped Exeter Chiefs 39-17, a win that sees them join the play-off race. Flanker Hendre Fourie’s Leeds Carnegie lost 15-12 against the Sale Sharks to remain rooted at the bottom of the table.

In France, inside centre Frans Steyn and No 8 Jacques Cronje started in Racing Metro’s 43-21 drubbing of table toppers Toulouse, who fielded No 8 Shaun Sowerby. Racing’s victory reduces Toulouse’s lead at the top of the standings to just one log point.

Loosehead prop Eduard Coetzee’s Biarritz jumped to fourth place and claimed bragging rights as they thumped Basque rivals Bayonne 40-10 in San Sebastian. Wing Sam Gerber started while replacement lock Rob Linde and reserve fullback Joe Pietersen came off the wood for the latter.

Inside centre Rudi Coetzee grabbed a brace in Perpignan’s 34-16 win over lock Cobus Grobler’s La Rochelle.

Seven Saffas featured in Brive’s 50-6 thrashing of last placed Bourgoin-Jallieu. Replacement lock Retief Uys scored a try and tighthead prop Pat Barnard, flyhalf Scott Spedding, flanker Gerhard Vosloo and reserve loosie Antonie Classen also played for the victors. Lock Coenie Basson was sin binned while flanker Wessel Jooste started for the latter.

Flyhalf Conrad Barnard kicked 16 points in Agen’s 26-17 win over centre Marius Joubert and replacement hooker Willie Wepener’s Clermont. Tighthead prop Gert Muller, lock Dewald Senekal and flanker Adri Badenhorst all started for the victors. No 8 Joe van Niekerk’s Toulon find themselves in the bottom half of the table as they lost 18-12 to replacement prop Michael Coetzee’s Castres.