Leaders Ulster fail to banish the Blues

Ulster let slip a golden oppor-tunity to take a significant lead in the Celtic League when they went down 19-15 away to Cardiff Blues last night. Yet after trailing 19-3, the Irishmen staged a stirring second-half fightback which at least earned them a bonus point to edge clear of Llanelli at the top.

A try double from Tom Shanklin and a touchdown from fellow international Rhys Williams put Cardiff in control. But after two Blues had been yellow-carded Ulster hit back, with flankers Neil Best and Warren Brosnihan going over.

Connacht rattled up 17 second-half points to shade Neath-Swansea Ospreys 24-21 in Galway and end the Welsh side's five-game unbeaten run. Mark McHugh, Andrew Farley and John O'Sullivan crossed for the Irish province, while Steve Tandy and James Bater replied for the visitors.

After several seasons of falling just short, Worcester at last earned promotion to the Zurich Premiership when they beat Bristol Shoguns 68-15 and secured the National League One title at Sixways yesterday.

Subject to the usual bureau-cratic processes relating to stadium suitability, Worcester will replace Rotherham in the top flight next season.

Their 10 tries included braces from Gary Trueman, Chris Garrard and Duncan Roke, while Tommy Hayes was successful with all but one of his conversion attempts.

Isaac Richmond ran in a hat-trick of tries in Manchester's 18-18 draw with Pertemps Bees, but his heroics were not enough to stave off relegation.

Martin Johnson will captain Leicester in his 200th Premier-ship game, away to Newcastle this afternoon. The Falcons' centre Jamie Noon is due to set a Premiership record of 47 consecutive appearances.

Northampton, with Ben Cohen and Paul Grayson injured, have named Matt Dawson and Steve Thompson as replacements for today's visit to Wasps. Lawrence Dallaglio, Josh Lewsey and Joe Worsley all return for Wasps, as does fit-again lock Simon Shaw.

Jason Leonard misses Harlequins' awayday against London Irish at the Madejski Stadium with a foot injury.

England kicked off the Singapore Sevens with big wins over Japan and Hong Kong.

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