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RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster extend lead with bonus-point win
- Natoga hat-trick sinks Blues
- Ulster battle past Edinburgh
- Glasgow see off Scarlets
- Munster too strong for Treviso
- Connacht cruise past Dragons
Jordi Murphy scored the bonus point try in injury-time as Leinster beat Zebre 27-0 to move six points clear at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12.
In a penalty-ridden first half at the RDS, place-kickers Ian Madigan and Tommaso Iannone missed two shots apiece in a difficult swirling wind.
Centre Noel Reid's fifth try of the league campaign - while Iannone was in the sin-bin - gave Leinster an 8-0 interval lead.
Matt O'Connor's men gradually lifted the intensity and Luke Fitzgerald's brace of tries, scored after 59 and 66 minutes, confirmed Leinster's ninth straight win in all competitions.
The defending champions pushed for a late bonus point and the tiring Italians conceded a fourth try right at the death, Leinster building from a close-in lineout and flanker Murphy was mauled over.
Leinster were back in action after a three-week break and as Zebre leaked four penalties in the opening seven minutes, only desperate defence kept the hosts scoreless.
They settled for a three-pointer from Madigan with bulldozing runs from Murphy and man-of-the-match Richardt Strauss driving Leinster forward from the restart.
The scrum offered Zebre some reward but Iannone knocked a long range penalty wide. He had another unconvincing strike in the 22nd minute, after a good kick chase from Giulio Toniolatti and a subsequent collapsed maul.
The Italians managed to disrupt the breakdown as Leinster's wait for a first try continued, with Darragh Fanning missing an opportunity to release Reid from a Madigan cross-field kick - it was one of a number of breaks that the province failed to finish off.
The same attack ended with Zebre out-half Iannone being penalised for hands in the ruck and referee Marius Mitrea reached for his yellow card.
After Madigan missed the resulting penalty from the right, the Leinster pack built through the phases and had Zebre under intense pressure in their 22 before Reid stepped inside two defenders to touch down to the left of the posts.
The sloppiness continued from both sides early in the second period, with successive attacks spoiled by loose kicking, dropped passes and a general anxiousness.
Fitzgerald, the game's most dangerous runner, had precious few chances to threaten but he was fed by replacement Reddan to dive over in the left corner following a powerful lineout maul.
Madigan, celebrating his 25th birthday and his 100th Leinster cap, nailed a terrific conversion from the touchline and the home side quickly added their third try.
Reddan supplied quick ruck ball and after a wraparound move between Madigan and Shane Jennings, Reid passed for Fitzgerald to go over again in the left corner.
This time Madigan's conversion went narrowly wide and after Zebre failed to capitalise on some pressure, Leinster ended the game in the ascendancy with recent Ireland debutant Murphy grounding a final converted score.
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Friday 13th February|
|19:35||Ulster vs Treviso|
|20:05||Edinburgh vs Ospreys|
|Saturday 14th February|
|19:35||Munster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Sunday 15th February|
|12:45||Scarlets vs Connacht|
|13:00||Zebre vs Glasgow Warriors|
|15:00||Leinster vs Dragons|
|Friday 20th February|
|19:05||Treviso vs Cardiff Blues|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Ulster|
|19:35||Leinster vs Zebre|
|Saturday 21st February|
|14:40||Scarlets vs Munster|
|17:15||Glasgow Warriors vs Ospreys|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|16:00||Dragons vs Connacht|
|Friday 27th February|
|19:35||Ospreys vs Leinster|
|19:35||Ulster vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 28th February|
|19:15||Munster vs Glasgow Warriors|
|Sunday 1st March|
|12:45||Cardiff Blues vs Edinburgh|
|17:00||Zebre vs Dragons|
|17:15||Connacht vs Treviso|
|Friday 6th March|
|19:35||Cardiff Blues vs Connacht|
|19:35||Glasgow Warriors vs Zebre|
|Saturday 7th March|
|14:40||Ospreys vs Munster|
|17:15||Scarlets vs Leinster|
|18:00||Treviso vs Edinburgh|
|Sunday 8th March|
|16:00||Dragons vs Ulster|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:35||Leinster vs Glasgow Warriors|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com