Preview: Pro14, Round 10
SCINTILLATING PLAY: The next round of the Pro14 is swiftly approaching and comes hot on the heels of a weekend filled with plenty of eye-catching results.
Glasgow Warriors and Leinster continue to play scintillating to top the Conferences, with big Round Nine wins, but just over their shoulders Munster and Scarlets are maintaining the heat.
The west Walians faced off against Ulster on Friday night and impressed in a 29-12 win to leapfrog the men from Belfast into second in Conference B, while Cheetahs and Dragons grabbed their second and third wins of the campaign, respectively.
What’s at stake?
The round numbers hit double figures on Friday when Munster host Edinburgh in a repeat of last season’s intense semifinal qualifier. The match will have to go some to replicate that knockout game from May of this year when Edinburgh came so close to a famous victory but eventually succumbed to a 20-16 defeat.
Friday’s game is to take place at Irish Independent Park and features a home side who have won their last three Pro14 matches, including last week’s 32-7 victory at Zebre. Edinburgh lost out to Dragons 18-12 in Round Nine and will look to transfer their home form – where they’re four from four – into a winning away performance.
At the same time on Friday, Zebre travel to take on Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium, as both sides look to get back to winning ways. Ospreys and Zebre both won in Round 7 but have fallen to defeats in the subsequent two rounds and will fight out an intriguing battle. Wing Hanno Dirksen has scored in the last two for Ospreys and will be keen for a hat-trick but Zebre will put up a fight, welcoming back their large contingent of Italy players for the encounter.
On Saturday there’s a cross-conference, mid-table match-up on the cards that sees Ulster welcome Cardiff Blues to Kingspan Stadium. Both teams are looking to bounce back from Round 9 defeats to push their way up the Conference tables and look well-matched opponents having drawn the last time this fixture was played in Belfast (24-24 in April 2017). The Blues lost out at Glasgow Warriors 40-15 last time out, with Jarrod Evans and Kristian Dacey touching down, while Dave Shanahan and Jonny Stewart both scored tries in Ulster’s 29-12 defeat to Scarlets.
Also on Saturday, there’s a fixture between two teams on the rise. Cheetahs and Connacht have both won twice in the last three rounds and come together in Bloemfontein. Daniel Maartens was the hero for Cheetahs last time out as his double helped sink Benetton 31-25, with the South Africans just pipped by Munster in Round Eight (30-26) and overcoming the Blues 21-10 in Round Seven. Connacht, meanwhile, has been impressive in their last two, downing Dragons 33-12 at the start of November and defeating the Southern Kings 31-14 at the weekend, with flyhalf Jack Carty delivering a man-of-the-match performance.
Dragons are at home once again in Round 10 and will look to take down conference leaders Leinster at Rodney Parade on Saturday. Jared Rosser’s double-edged Dragons to the win over Edinburgh last time out and the Welsh region are a force to be reckoned with at home, losing just one of their last four Pro14 matches at Rodney Parade – 23-15 to Blues in Round 6. Seven different try-scorers helped Leinster to a 52-7 victory over Ospreys on Friday; the men from Dublin have won their last seven Pro14 matches but have also won just once in their last four visits to Wales.
The final game of the round on Saturday sees the Southern Kings take on Benetton in a crucial Conference B clash at Madibaz Stadium. Since downing Glasgow Warriors in round four at home, it has been a tough time for the Kings who have lost five in a row in the league. Their Italian visitors are also in something of a rut, they have only won one of their last seven in the Pro14 and that was against the Kings at home in Round Six, a comfortable 28-5 success. But the Italians will welcome back their internationals this weekend and hoping for a first away win since the opening round of the season.
Pick of the round
Glasgow Warriors v Scarlets
All eyes will be on Scotstoun on Saturday night when two of the Championship’s top sides in Glasgow Warriors and the Scarlets face off.
And revenge is on the menu for Dave Rennie’s side who were brought crashing down to earth by the Welsh region on the same ground in last season’s semifinal.
Scarlets remain the last team to win here in the Pro14 – indeed Glasgow has won 14 of their last 15 Championship clashes at home. But the Welsh side will need to halt their poor away form – they only have won once the road all season – and Scotstoun is a hard place to end a slide. The Warriors have only lost twice in the first nine rounds of games to open up an eight-point lead in Conference A and after Niko Matawalu inspired them past the Cardiff Blues last time out, they are looking to head back into Europe on a high.
We look at all the Round 10 matches!
Friday, November 30
OSPREYS v ZEBRE
(Liberty Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
Ospreys’ only win in the last four rounds of the Pro14 was against Connacht at Bridgend on 26 October.
The Welshmen’s 20-29 reversal to Glasgow at Liberty Stadium in round 8 ended a nine-game home winning run in all competitions.
Italian opponents have visited Liberty Stadium on 22 previous occasions in all competitions and lost them all.
Zebre has won just one of their last six Pro14 fixtures: 34-16 at home to Edinburgh in Round Seven.
The Italians have lost all five away games they have played this season in all tournaments, and have won just once before in Wales, on a trip to Cardiff Blues in September 2013.
Zebre’s only two previous victories over Ospreys were both in Parma, in May 2014 and April 2018.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 George North, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Justin Tipuric (captain), 7 Sam Cross, 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Alex Jeffries, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 James King, 21 Harri Morgan, 22 James Hook, 23 Cory Allen.
Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Paula Balekana, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 George Biagi (captain), 4 David Sisi, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Massimo Ceciliani, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau.
Replacements: 16 Luhandre Luus, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, 19 Apisai Tauyavuca, 20 Samuele Ortis, 21 Joshua Renton, 22 Maicol Azzolini, 23 Jacopo Bianchi.
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Elgan Williams (Wales)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)
MUNSTER v EDINBURGH
(Irish Independent Park, Cork – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
Munster are unbeaten in their last five matches in all tournaments since Leinster beat them at Aviva Stadium in Round Six of the Pro14.
The Munstermen are also unbeaten in their last thirteen home games since losing out to Leinster at Thomond Park last December.
Munster have won their last eight matches in Cork since Cardiff Blues beat them there by a single point in September 2016.
Edinburgh’s last fourteen matches in all tournaments have all been won by the home side on the day. The Scotsmen have not been victorious away from home since a trip to Connacht in March.
Munster’s only defeat in their last seven encounters with Edinburgh was 6-12 at Murrayfield in round 17 last season.
Munster have lost just once at home to the Scotsmen since 2006:13-14 at Thomond Park in September 2014 whilst Edinburgh’s only previous victory at Irish Independent Park was on their first ever visit in April 2004.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Gavin Coombes, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Sammy Arnold.
Edinburgh: 15 Dougie Fife, 14 Tom Brown, 13 George Taylor, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Luke Hamilton (captain), 7 Lewis Wynne, 6 Ally Miller, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 4 James Hodgson, 3 Murray McCallum, 2 David Cherry, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Callum Atkinson, 20 Senitiki Nayalo, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Jason Baggott, 23 Chris Dean.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Saturday, December 1
ULSTER v CARDIFF BLUES
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Ulster has won just twice in the last seven rounds of the Pro14, at home to Dragons and away in Treviso in Rounds Seven and Eight.
The Ulstermen have lost only once in Belfast since February: 15-22 to Connacht in Round Six.
Only one Welsh team has won at Kingspan Stadium since February 2013: Scarlets by a single point in the Pro14 in February 2016.
Cardiff Blues two defeats in their last six Pro14 matches were both away from home, to Cheetahs in Round Seven and to Glasgow in Round Nine.
The Blues have not been victorious outside Wales in The Championship since a visit to Southern Kings in April.
The last three encounters between the two sides have been evenly split with one win apiece, plus a draw, whilst Blues most recent victory in Belfast was in April 2010, although they did draw there last April.
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Henry Speight, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andy Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 Dave Shanahan, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Jacob Stockdale.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Harri Millard, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Jason Harries, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams (captain), 8 Nick Williams, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Samu Manoa, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 George Earle, 20 James Down, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Garyn Smith.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Nigel Correll, Paul Haycock (both Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
CHEETAHS v CONNACHT
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein – Kick-off: 17.00; 15.00 UK time; 15.00 GMT)
Cheetahs have won two of their last three Pro14 matches, both at home, to Cardiff in Round Seven and Benetton in Round Nine.
Cheetahs only two victories over Irish provinces in the Pro14 were both in Bloemfontein, to Leinster in September 2017 and Connacht in March 2018.
Connacht has won their last two Pro14 matches, but have not won three in a row in the Championship since March 2017.
Connacht has not won successive away matches since February 2017.
The two sides have met on two previous occasions with each team winning its respective home game last season in the Pro14.
Cheetahs: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Nico Lee , 11 Darren Adonis, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Shaun Venter (captain), 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Abongile Nonkontwana, 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Erich de Jager, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Marnus van der Merwe, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Aranos Coetzee, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Daniel Maartens, 21 Rudi Paige, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Benhard Janse van Rensburg.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Tom Farrell, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Paul Boyle, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Conor Carey, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 James Cannon, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 James Mitchell, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Cian Kelleher.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Ben Crouse (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
GLASGOW WARRIORS v SCARLETS
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)
Glasgow Warriors have lost just once in the first five rounds of the Pro14, at Munster on 27 October.
The only team to have beaten Warriors at Scotstoun in their last fifteen Championship matches was Scarlets in last season’s semifinal.
Scarlets have lost just once in the last five rounds of the Pro14: 21-31 at Edinburgh on 2 November.
Scarlets have won just once away from home in any tournament this season, over Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on 26 October.
Scarlets have won their last four fixtures against Glasgow since the Warriors 46-10 win at Parc y Scarlets in April 2016.
Glasgow has only ever lost eleven home games at Scotstoun in the Pro14 and four of those have been to Scarlets.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Robbie Nairn, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Stafford McDowall, 11 Niko Matawalu, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 George Horne, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Chris Fusaro (captain), 6 Matt Smith, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 D’Arcy Rae, 2 George Turner, 1 Alex Allan.
Replacements: 16 Kevin Bryce, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Siua Halanukonuka, 19 Kiran McDonald, 20 Tevita Tamielau, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Paddy Kelly, 23 Ratu Tagive.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Jonathan Davies (captain), 12 Kieron Fonotia, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Dan Davis, 6 Will Boyde, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Dafydd Hughes, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 Tom Phillips, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Paul Asquith, 23 Clayton Blommetjies.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Kieran Barry (Ireland), Dunx McClement (Scotland)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)
DRAGONS v LEINSTER
(Rodney Parade, Newport – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)
Dragons 18-12 victory over Edinburgh on Sunday ended a four-game losing run in the Pro14.
Dragons have lost just one of their last four home games in the Championship: 15-23 to Blues in Round Six.
The Welshmen have recorded only two victories against Irish provinces in their last twenty such encounters – both at home to Connacht, in 2016 and 2017.
Leinster have won their last seven Pro14 matches since Scarlets beat them in Llanelli on 8 September.
The Leinstermen have won just once in their last four visits to Wales and that was by a single point in 65 at Cardiff Blues in the opening round this season.
Leinster have won their last five fixtures against Dragons since the Men from Gwent’s 23-13 victory at Rodney Parade in January 2016.
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Jared Rosser, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jarryd Sage, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Aaron Wainwright, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Lewis Evans, 4 Rynard Landman, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Richard Hibbard (captain), 1 Ryan Bevington .
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Adam Warren.
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Jimmy O’Brien, 12 Conor O’Brien, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Scott Fardy (captain), 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 James Tracy, 1 Ed Byrne.
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Paddy Patterson, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Tom Daly.
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White (Scotland), Dewi Phillips (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)
SOUTHERN KINGS v BENETTON
(Madibaz Stadium, Port Elizabeth – Kick-off: 19.15; 18.15 Italian time; 17.15 GMT)
Southern Kings have lost their last five Pro14 matches since their 38-28 victory over Glasgow at Madibaz Stadium in Round Four.
The Kings have played five previous games against Italian opponents and lost them all.
Benetton’s only win in their last seven Pro14 encounters was 28-5 at home to Southern Kings in Round Six.
The Italians have not won away from home since beating Dragons at Rodney Parade in Round One.
The two sides have met on three previous occasions with the Italians winning all three, although the only previous clash in South Africa the margin of victory was just one point in a 71-point thriller in March.
Southern Kings: 15 Botha Michael, 14 Penxe Yaw, 13 Rokoua Meli, 12 Kruger Tertius, 11 Basson Bjorn, 10 Banda Masixole, 9 Ungerer Stefan, 8 Lerm Ruaan, 7 Burger Martinus, 6 Velleman Cyril-John, 5 Astle John-Charles (captain), 4 Greeff Stephan, 3 Scholtz Pieter, 2 Van Vuuren Kerron, 1 Oosthuizen Nicolaas.
Replacements: 16 Balekile Tango, 17 Tshakweni Alulutho, 18 Pupuma Luvuyo, 19 Oelofse Schalk, 20 Van Schalkwyk Andries, 21 Masimla Godlen, 22 Beyers Ulrich, 23 Klaasen Harlon.
Benetton: 15 Angelo Esposito, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Marco Barbini (captain), 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Engjel Makelara, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Giuseppe Di Stefano, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Alberto Sgarbi.
Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ireland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Ruhan Meiring (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)