Pro14, Round two: Teams and Predictions
NON-STOP ENTERTAINMENT: The opening exchanges of the 2020/21 PRO14 season certainly lived up to expectation as all six games provided a feast of stunning tries, individual brilliance and late drama.
Reigning champions Leinster resumed where they left off in the competition’s showpiece last month as they ran in five tries against a new-look Dragons side to secure a bonus-point triumph.
Fellow finalists Ulster were also quick off the mark as they racked up five tries of their own in an absorbing end-to-end encounter against a dogged Benetton side at the Kingspan Stadium.
Elsewhere, Cardiff Blues were given a tough examination by Zebre before prevailing despite playing the second half with 14 men while Munster and Connacht opened their accounts with narrow wins.
Ospreys rounded off the weekend’s drama with a hard-fought victory over last season’s Semi-Finalists Edinburgh at a sodden BT Murrayfield, much to the delight of head coach Toby Booth.
But with the opening round in the rearview mirror, teams must quickly put those results behind them and focus on another blockbuster weekend of action as Round 2 looms on the horizon.
The Round Two predictions and teams follow below …
Friday, October 9
Dragons v Zebre
(Rodney Parade, Newport – kick-off: 20.15; 21.15 Italian time; 19.15 GMT)
Dean Ryan always knew his side were up against it on the opening weekend with a match-up against the defending champions Leinster and so it proved as the blue machine won 35-5 in Dublin.
But the Dragons certainly showed enough during the 80 minutes to suggest there is reason for the Welsh region to be optimistic as new signings Jamie Roberts and Jonah Holmes made their debuts.
They will hope to build on those positives, including Ashton Hewitt’s remarkable try, when they welcome Zebre to Rodney Parade as the Italians also look to get off the mark at the second attempt.
Michael Bradley’s men were left to rue their missed chances against Cardiff Blues but having won on their last visit to Newport in November 2019, Zebre will hope to put that right on Friday.
@rugby365com: Dragons by seven points
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Harris
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Ben Fry, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Adam Warren
Zebre: 15 Jacopo Trulla, 14 Junior Laloifi, 13 Giulio Bisegni (captain), 12 Federico Mori, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 David Sisi, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Daniele Rimpelli
Replacements: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, 19 Cristian Stoian, 20 Mick Kearney, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Lorenzo Masselli
Referee: Chris Busby
Assistant referees: Adam Jones, Craig Evans
TMO: Sean Brickell
Saturday, October 10
Ospreys v Ulster
(Liberty Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 17.15; 16.15 GMT)
Two teams who made a winning start to the 2020/21 campaign, Ospreys and Ulster, will both be determined to maintain that feel-good mood when they lock horns in Swansea on Saturday.
Ospreys put last season’s miserable campaign behind them as they staged a comeback against Richard Cockerill’s high-flying Edinburgh with tries from Nicky Smith and Mat Protheroe to win 25-10.
It was the perfect start to the Toby Booth revolution, but they must recharge quickly for the visit of Dan McFarland’s Ulster to the Liberty Stadium, who they beat in their most recent meeting.
The Irish province have won on four of their last seven visits to the Welsh region and having seen off Benetton in the opening round, the 2019/20 PRO14 Finalists will fancy their chances.
@rugby365com: Ulster by 10 points
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Mat Protheroe, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Harri Morgan, 22 Josh Thomas, 23 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler
Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Matt Faddes, 13 James Hume, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Marcus Rea, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Greg Jones, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Louis Ludik, 23 Sean Reidy
Referee: Mike Adamson
Assistant referees: Dan Jones, Gwyn Morris
TMO: Ian Davies
Benetton v Leinster
(Stadio Monigo, Treviso – kick-off: 17.15; 16.15 UK time; 15.15 GMT)
Leo Cullen’s men showed no signs of complacency in Dublin as they began the defence of their PRO14 crown with a comfortable bonus-point win against Dragons at the RDS Arena.
A trip to Treviso will provide a completely different test of their credentials, though, with the Italian outfit coming close to beating Leinster on their last visit before eventually losing 32-27.
The Leinstermen have won their last 20 PRO14 games, including all 17 matches during their invincible 2019/20 campaign, and are unbeaten in their last five meetings with Benetton.
But Kieran Crowley’s side demonstrated the threat they possess during their opening round defeat to Ulster and are more than capable of producing an upset on their day.
@rugby365com: Leinster by 25 points
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Toa Halafihi 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Cherif Traore
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Giovanni Pettinelli, 22 Callum Braley, 23 Edoardo Padovani
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose (captain), 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Will Connors, 6 Caelan Doris, 5 James Ryan, 4 Ryan Baird, 3 Michael Bent, 2 James Tracy, 1 Ed Byrne
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Tom Clarkson, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jimmy O’Brien
Referee: Ben Whitehouse
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi, Andrea Spadoni
TMO: Marius Mitrea
Munster v Edinburgh
(Thomond Park, Limerick – kick-off: 19.35, 18.35 GMT)
Replacement Ben Healy was the hero for Munster in the opening round as he came off the bench to strike the winning penalty for the 14-man Red Army in a 30-27 triumph at Scarlets.
And while Johann van Graan will be pleased by the spirit of his team, who trailed right up until Healy’s decisive penalty, he will be hoping for a less nerve-shredding display against Edinburgh.
Munster have a formidable record at Thomond Park, but Edinburgh were victorious when the two sides last met in Cork last November, with Richard Cockerill’s men prevailing 18-16.
Following their defeat to Ospreys last time out, Edinburgh are on a run of three consecutive Guinness PRO14 defeats – a stat they will want to put to bed when they visit Limerick.
@rugby365com: Munster by five points
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Alex McHenry, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Craig Casey, 8 CJ Stander (captain), 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 John Ryan, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 James Cronin, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Gavin Coombes, 20 John Hodnett, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Dan Goggin
Edinburgh: 15 Damien Hoyland, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 George Taylor, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Andrew Davidson, 20 Mesulame Kunavula, 21 Dan Nutton, 22 Nathan Chamberlain, 23 James Johnstone
Referee: Nigel Owens
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher, Peter Martin
TMO: Joy Neville
Cardiff Blues v Connacht
(Rodney Parade, Newport – kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
John Mulvihill’s men showed their character as they overcame Zebre in the opening round despite playing most of the second half with 14 men after Josh Turnbull saw red.
The attacking prowess of Josh Adams and a massive defensive effort proved enough to get the visitors over the line in Italy and they will be feeling buoyant ahead of a meeting with Connacht.
Connacht also enjoyed a morale-boosting victory to kick start their 2020/21 campaign, seeing off Glasgow Warriors thanks to a brace from Ireland international Bundee Aki at the Sportsground.
The Blues will welcome the Irish province to their temporary home at Rodney Parade, where they will hope to make it three successive PRO14 wins for the first time since last December.
@rugby365com: Cardiff Blues by three points
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 James Botham, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Cory Hill, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Corey Domachowski
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Ben Murphy, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Garyn Smith
Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Peter Sullivan, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jarrad Butler (captain), 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Gavin Thornbury, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Jordan Duggan, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Paul Boyle, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Tom Daly
Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi
Assistant referees: Craig Evans, Adam Jones
TMO: Jon Mason
Sunday, October 11
Glasgow Warriors v Scarlets
Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow – kick-off: 17.15; 16.15 GMT)
The weekend’s entertainment will be concluded at Scotstoun Stadium where Glasgow Warriors will host Scarlets as both teams look to shake off disappointing defeats in their season curtain-raisers.
Warriors came up short against Connacht in Galway despite leading at the interval while Scarlets were stunned by 14-man Munster as they conceded 13 points in the final ten minutes to lose in Llanelli.
Although the new season is still in its early stages, neither side will want to start the campaign with back-to-back defeats and that means the stakes will be high when they collide on Sunday afternoon.
Leigh Halfpenny’s record-breaking feat against Munster, kicking all 27 of his side’s points, would certainly come in handy for the visitors, who narrowly missed out on a Semi-Final spot last season.
@rugby365com: Glasgow Warriors by five points
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Huw Jones, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Stafford McDowall, 11 Ratu Tagive, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Tom Gordon, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Rob Harley, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown (Captain), 1 Oli Kebble
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 George Horne, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Niko Matawalu
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Blade Thomson, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil Price, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 James Davies, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Steff Hughes.
Referee: Frank Murphy
Assistant referees: Ben Blain, Hollie Davidson
TMO: Andrew McMenemy
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) October 7, 2020