PREVIEW: Pro14, Round 12
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Hot on the heels of Round 11 comes a weekend of matches that will take us past the mid-way point of the campaign, and matters are intensifying as the Final Series draws ever closer.
The big winners from Round 11? Leinster beat the Cheetahs to make it an astonishing 11 from 11 while Glasgow Warriors are now back in touch with the Conference A top three – Ospreys also now just one point behind Zebre after their huge win over Ulster.
In Conference B Edinburgh fly on at the top while Connacht powered past Cardiff Blues to hit 30 points – just eight points separate an incredibly tight top four coming to the boil nicely.
Get the tissues 😢
Club legend? pic.twitter.com/HAgQk1tJdr
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) February 20, 2020
We take a closer look at all the matches in Round 12!
Friday, February 21:
Zebre v Munster
(Stadio Giovanni Mari, Milan – Kick-off: 20.35; 19.35 UK & Ireland time; 19.35 GMT)
Having hit top gear against the Kings last time out Munster, who lie second in Conference B, will be keen to back up that result when they travel to Zebre on Friday.
Their Italian hosts played some excellent rugby but struggled to keep up with Glasgow Warriors on Valentine’s Day in Round 11 – they will fare better on home turf.
That 24-56 defeat means Zebre have now conceded a Conference A high 342 points during the campaign, they will hope a change of venue to northern Milan’s Stadio Giovanni Mari will assist their goals.
Zebre: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Paula Balekana, 13 Jamie Elliott, 12 Tommaso Boni (captain), 11 Pierre Bruno, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Massimo Ceciliani, 1 Daniele Rimepelli.
Replacements: 16 Matteo Luccardi, 17 Riccardo Burgnara, 18 Matteo Nocera, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 George Biagi, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Pescetto Paolo, 23 Enrico Lucchin.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack O’Sullivan, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Arno Botha, 5 Darren O’Shea, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell (captain), 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Gavin Coombes, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Dan Goggin, 23 Darren Sweetnam.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Manuel Bottino (Italy), Rhys Jones (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
Ospreys v Leinster
(The Gnoll, Neath – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
Ospreys will look to upset the odds when they take on table-topping Leinster at the Gnoll on Friday. The Irish outfit arrive in imperious mood having won all 11 of their Pro14 games this season – scoring 400 on their way to taking a firm grip of top spot.
Ospreys, by contrast, are rooted to the foot of the Conference A table but will take confidence into the game after they stunned Ulster 26-24 in their most recent outing. That victory ended a four-month wait for a win for the Welsh side and took them to within a point of sixth.
Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Kieran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Luke Price, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Dan Lydiate (captain), 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Simon Gardiner, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Gheorghe Gajion, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 23 James Hook.
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Jimmy O’Brien, 12 Conor O’Brien, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ciarán Frawley, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Scott Fardy (captain), 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Jack Dunne, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Rowan Osborne, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Tommy O’Brien.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Aled Evans (Wales), Ben Breakspear (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Edinburgh v Connacht
(Murrayfield, Edinburgh – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
Edinburgh will be looking to maintain their place at the top of Conference B as Connacht visit Murrayfield on Friday. Richard Cockerill’s side will be in high spirits after emerging victorious in last weekend’s top of the table clash with Scarlets and will be looking for a sixth straight home Championship victory.
Sitting just two points from third spot, Connacht still have Final Series hopes of their own, and will be bouncing after returning to action with a 29-0 mauling of Cardiff Blues on Saturday.
Edinburgh: 15 Damien Hoyland, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Nic Groom (captain), 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Nick Haining, 5 Lewis Carmichael, 4 Stan South, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Fenton, 17 Murray McCallum, 18 Dan Winning, 19 Jamie Hodgson, 20 John Barclay, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 George Taylor.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Peter Robb, 11 John Porch, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jarrad Butler (captain), 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Paul Boyle, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Niall Murray, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Eoghan Masterson, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Tom Daly.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White (Scotland), Matteo Liperini (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)
Saturday, February 22:
Glasgow v Dragons
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
Glasgow Warriors will be hoping to steal a march in the race for the top three in Conference A as they welcome the Dragons to Scotstoun on Saturday.
The Warriors demolished Zebre last time out, with George Horne and Mesu Dolokoto both crossing twice in a 56-24 victory for Dave Rennie’s side, leaving them just two points behind third-placed Cheetahs.
The Dragons will be raring to get back in action after their home clash with Benetton was called off due to the winds on Saturday and will be looking to put an end to a run of three consecutive away defeats in the competition.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Nick Grigg, 11 Ratu Tagive, 10 Pete Horne, 9 Jamie Dobie, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Callum Gibbins (captain), 6 Leone Nakarawa, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Rob Harley, 3 Oli Kebble, 2 Grant Stewart, 1 Aki Seiuli
Replacements: 16 Mesu Dolokoto, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Ewan Mcquillan, 19 Andrew Davidson, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Niko Matawalu
Dragons: 15 Joe Goodchild, 14 Jared Rosser, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Harrison Keddie, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Huw Taylor, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Ellis Shipp, 1 Brok Harris
Replacements: 16 Rhys Lawrence, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Max Williams, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Connor Edwards, 23 Jacob Botica
Referee: Seán Gallagher (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ian Kenny (Scotland), Oisin Quinn (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Always in the right place at the right time 👌
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) February 20, 2020
Ulster v Cheetahs
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT; 21.35 SA time)
A late Luke Price penalty saw second-placed Ulster suffer an agonising 24-26 defeat at Ospreys last weekend and fall further behind leaders Leinster. There was also disappointment for Cheetahs who had moved into Conference B’s top three with back-to-back wins over Isuzu Southern Kings only to then lose to Leinster.
But the two sides will now look ahead to this crunch clash at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday, both aiming to get their campaigns back on track.
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 James Hume, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Bill Johnston, 9 David Shanahan, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Nick Timoney, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Adam McBurney, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Jonny Stewart, 22 Stewart Moore, 23 Craig Gilroy
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Craig Barry, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Boan Venter
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba;, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Aranos Coetzee, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Aidon Davis, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Louis Fouche, 23 Chris Smit
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Sunday, February 23:
Cardiff Blues v Benetton
(Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT; 18.15 Italy time)
While the rest of Conference B were slugging it out on the weekend, Benetton were given an extra week break after their match at Dragons was postponed. The Italian side will be eager to return to action and gain revenge over Blues, who sealed a 31-28 victory at the Stadio Monigo in late November thanks to Jason Harries’ last-gasp try.
But Benetton will come up against a side on Sunday smarting from their 0-29 defeat at Connacht. Cardiff Blues, in fact, have lost just one of their last six fixtures with Benetton: 27-25 at Stadio Monigo in September 2018.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Jason Harries, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Ryan Edwards, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Seb Davies, 4 James Ratti, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Rhys Gill
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Dan Fish
Benetton: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian Keatley (captain), 9 Charly Trussardi, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Federico Ruzza, 6 Michele Lamaro, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Nasi Manu, 21 Luca Petrozzi, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti
Referee: Frank Murphy Ireland
Assistant referees: Mike English (Wales), Rob O’Sullivan (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Scarlets v Southern Kings
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT; 19.35 SA time)
Brad Mooar’s Scarlets return to home turf this weekend no doubt hoping for a swift rebound from defeat to Edinburgh last time out. They now lie third in Conference B, three behind Munster and six behind Edinburgh, and will hope two of the Championship stat leaders come to the fore – Josh Macleod leads turnovers with 16 and Uzair Cassiem leads carries with 124.
For the Kings, meanwhile, it’s another tricky tie on their European tour but they did win the last time they visited Wales (at Ospreys in Round Six) and Robbi Kempson’s men can take advantage of Six Nations absences.
Scarlets: 15 Angus O’Brien, 14 Corey Baldwin, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Paul Asquith, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Tevita Ratuva, 3 Werner Kruger(captain), 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Phil Price
Replacements: 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Steve Cummins, 20 Dan Davis, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Ryan Conbeer, 23 Tom Rogers
Southern Kings: Southern Kings: 15 Courtney Winnaar, 14 Chris Hollis, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Erich Cronje, 10 Demetri Catrakils, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8, Elright Louw, 7 Ruaan Lerm, 6 Lusanda Badiyana, 5 JC Astle (captain), 4 Jerry Sexton, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Schalk Ferreira
Replacements: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Xandre Vos, 18 Pieter Scholtz, 19 Aston Fortuin, 20 Bobby de Wee, 21 Thembelani Bholi, 22 Josh Allderman, 23 Eddie Ludick
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Gareth John (Wales), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
🎙 And it’s @duhanvdmerwe on the ball..
He hands off one.. ✋
He hands off ANOTHER.. 👀
He steps inside.. 😳
AND HE’S THERE 💪
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) February 19, 2020