There were classy wins for defending champions Leinster, a 14-man victory for Munster and an impressive Connacht victory as the Irish teams made a clean sweep in round one of the 2020/21 season.
Ulster were in for the fight of their lives when Coetzee, who this week was honoured as the Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season and Rugby Personality of the Season at the club’s annual awards, went over to seal the bonus point and break the spirit of the plucky Italian side.
Before then they had fought back with three tries – including one to South African-born Italian international Braam Steyn to leave the teams deadlocked at 21-all.
But Coetzee’s try and a late finish by his team-mates ensured a positive start for the Belfast side as they look to build on the final appearance a few weeks back.
Munster coach Johann van Graan would have been a relieved man after his side suffered a red card – thanks to two yellows to captain Peter O’Mahony – but rallied for a sensational win despite their own indiscretions.
The team were trailing 27-17 when O’Mahony received his second yellow card and had 11 minutes to go, but somehow surged back with 14 men to claim a famous win against the Scarlets, winning 30-27 with a late penalty.
Scarlets were outscored three tries to nil, but a magnificent kicking performance by Leigh Halfpenny, who contributed nine penalties for all his side’s points, should have been enough.
Instead Damian de Allende provided the assist for a vital try to midfield partner Chris Farrell and a rolling maul saw them draw even before Ben Healy held his nerve with the big penalty at the end to win the game.
James Lowe scored a brace to see Leinster to an easy 35-5 win over the Dragons on Friday night as the Guinness PRO14’s defending champions continued their march in the competition.
Leinster have now won their last 18 matches in Guinness PRO14 and will take some stopping this season.
Bundee Aki was celebrated as the two-try hero as Connacht downed Glasgow Warriors 28-24 at the Sportsground, with Quinn Roux adding a try to his name as the Irish side kicked off the season in style.
Huw Jones was one of the Warriors try-scorers on the night, but despite slugging it out they fell just short on a bad weekend for the Scottish sides.
Matt Protheroe scored a brace as well as the Ospreys ensured one of two Welsh wins on the weekend, beating Edinburgh 25-10 at Murrayfield.
The result at Murrayfield marks only Ospreys’ second victory since October 2019, while Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh have now lost four successive matches in all competitions for the first time since April 2017.
A Josh Adams try and great defence allowed Cardiff to grind out a 16-6 win over Zebre in the weekend’s other fixture.
Round one results:
Zebre 6 Cardiff Blues 16
Leinster 35 Dragons 5
Ulster 35 Benetton 24
Scarlets 27 Munster 30
Connacht 28 Glasgow Warriors 24
Edinburgh 10 Ospreys 25