Preview: Pro14, Round Five
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: As the plot thickens in the Pro14 last weekend confirmed a number of things for us: Leinster are going to take some stopping in defence of their title, Dragons are onto something this season and Conference B is going to chop and change all season long.
The pace only quickens with two successive game-weeks ahead of Europe’s return, with all the action back on Friday with a superb triple-header.
After Cheetahs and Scarlets both stumbled at the weekend that one remaining unbeaten side – Leo Cullen’s Leinster – host Dragons at the RDS Arena and will be wary of slipping up against Dean Ryan’s men, who punished Glasgow Warriors 18-5 on Saturday.
The Warriors themselves, looking for the second win of their season, host the Southern Kings at the same time, while the third match on Friday sees John Cooney-led Ulster host Zebre, who appear to have found a new star in Marco Manfredi.
Try picking any of the matches lined up for Saturday. In Halloween week fireworks are promised as Scarlets host the Cheetahs, Ospreys host Connacht, Edinburgh travel to Benetton and Cardiff Blues welcome Munster.
All four of those games appear very well matched, the home sides all on less points and attempting to rein-in their visitors on the day with home support behind them.
What’s at Stake
Warriors v Southern Kings
Warriors host the Kings at Scotstoun on Friday, a side who beat them 38-28 in Port Elizabeth in September last year, the last time the two met. Having said that, the last time this fixture was played in Glasgow the Warriors prevailed 43-13 (in October 2017) – the Kings will have hoped to have closed the gap since then. Finalists in May, the Warriors have stumbled at the start of 19/20 without their international contingent, while the Kings almost pulled off a miraculous comeback at Benetton in Round Four (losing out 36-30). True, that maiden season win has not yet come, but the Kings have won two of their last three fixtures against Scottish opponents and will do their utmost to make that three in four.
Ulster v Zebre
A winless Zebre side will head into this contest determined to build on their resilient performance against Leinster, while Ulster will be buoyed by their 23-14 triumph over Cardiff Blues that consolidated their position in the Conference A table. The Italian team were defiant under the Parma lights in Round Four despite their 3-0 loss, but have been blown away by Edinburgh, Dragons and Scarlets in recent weeks and conceded no fewer than 156 points in the process. The Ulstermen, meanwhile, will be hoping the talismanic Cooney will continue his prolific Pro14 exploits seen so far, as he sits top of the pile in terms of points scored with an impressive 48 – an average of 12 per game.
Leinster v Dragons
It has been an imperious start to Conference A for Leo Cullen’s dominant Leinster side, who sit just one point shy of a perfect tally after their hard-fought 3-0 victory over Zebre in Parma and who will be eager to continue their run against mid-table Dragons. The Welsh side toppled Glasgow Warriors 18-5 in Round Four to show their improvements but have failed to string together two Pro14 wins since November 2016, and two successive away triumphs since March 2012. With the RDS representing something of a fortress – Leinster have lost just once there since April 2018 – the defending champions will surely be confident of extending their flawless start to the season so far.
Scarlets v Cheetahs
The Cheetahs were stopped in their tracks by an impressive Connacht outfit in Round Four, suffering their first defeat of the Pro14 season in a narrow 22-24 loss. Scarlets, meanwhile, were blown away by a ruthless Edinburgh side in what was also their maiden defeat of the campaign, but will be confident of getting back to winning ways at a venue where they have lost just once in since the beginning of the year. With Cheetahs having lost their last five away games in the Championship and Scarlets coming out on top in last season’s two encounters, Brad Mooar’s side will enter the game confident of keeping the South Africans’ overall victory tally in Wales to just one.
Ospreys v Connacht
Conference B leaders Connacht are now three games unbeaten and will aim to make it four when they travel to Wales to face an Ospreys side who have won just the once so far in this campaign. The Irish side, who left it dramatically late to win against Cheetahs last time out, have also won three of their last four fixtures against Welsh opponents. Hosts Ospreys however have won their last three matches at Liberty Stadium while Connacht’s only victory in 13 previous visits to Liberty Stadium was in October 2015, so the visitors should not expect things to go all their own way.
Benetton v Edinburgh
Having got their campaign up and running at the fourth time of asking, Benetton will be looking to build on their first win when they face Edinburgh in Treviso on Saturday evening. The omens are good for the Italians, they have lost just twice at Stadio Monigo in any competition since this weekend last season and edge the head-to-heads over the past five encounters. Richard Cockerill’s men are the top scorers in Conference B and will be looking to maintain their momentum by getting their first win at Stadio Monigo since October 2017.
Blues v Munster
Since their opening round victory in South Africa at Southern Kings Cardiff Blues have been on a downward trajectory, slipping to three straight defeats. Blues have not lost four in a row in the same season since 2015/16 but face a stiff test against second-place Conference B outfit Munster. The Munstermen have lost only one of their last six encounters with Welsh regions but the last four fixtures between the two sides have all been won by the home side on the day. Munster have not been victorious at the Arms Park since March 2017 but will feel they have a great chance to put that right on Saturday.
We take a closer look at all the matches in Round Four!
Friday, November 1
Warriors v Southern Kings
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow – Kick-off: 19:35; 19.35 GMT; 21.35 SA time)
Glasgow Warriors’ only victory in the first four rounds of Pro14 was 17-13 at home to Cardiff Blues on October 12. The Warriors have lost two of their last three fixtures against South African opponents, but both of those defeats were played south of the equator. Southern Kings have not been victorious in the Pro14 since beating Edinburgh in Port Elizabeth on January 26, although they have picked up two losing bonus points this campaign, against the Blues and Benetton. Southern Kings have won two of their last three fixtures against Scottish opponents. The two sides have met just twice before with both sides winning once at home.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Niko Matawalu, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 George Horne, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Callum Gibbins (captain), 6 Rob Harley, 5 Kiran McDonald, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Grant Stewart, 1 Oli Kebble.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Andrew Davidson, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Jamie Dobie, 22 Stafford McDowall, 23 Ratu Tagive.
Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Christopher Hollis, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Tertius Kruger, 11 Sibusiso Sithole, 10 JT Jackson, 9 Josh Allderman, 8 Ruaan Lerm (captain), 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Bobby de Wee, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Juan Schoman.
Replacements: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Xandre Vos, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Jerry Sexton, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Gavin Mills, 22 Siya Masuku, 23 Scott van Breda.
Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Keith Allen (Scotland), John Carvill (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Ulster v Zebre
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 19:35; 19.35 GMT; 21.35 Italy time)
Ulster only defeat in the first four rounds of the Pro14 was on a trip to South Africa to face the Cheetahs on October fifth. The Ulstermen are unbeaten in their last thirteen matches in Belfast in all competitions since Connacht won there in the Championship on October 5, 2018. Ulster’s only defeat to an Italian opponent since September 2014 was to Zebre in Parma in September 2017. Zebre are without a win in the Pro14 for twelve months since beating Edinburgh in Parma in Round Seven last season. Zebre’s only victory outside Italy in the Championship since September 2017 was on a visit to Connacht in February 2018. The two sides have met on a dozen previous occasions with Ulster’s only two defeats both coming in Parma, in 2014 and 2017.
Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Matt Faddes, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Bill Johnston, 9 David Shanahan, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Rob Herring (captain), 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Angus Curtis, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Zebre: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 James Elliott, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Giovanni Licata, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 George Biagi (captain), 4 Ian Nagle, 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Apisai Tauyavuca, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Enrico Lucchin, 23 Joshua Renton.
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Patterson (Scotland)
Leinster v Dragons
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 19:35; 19.35 GMT)
Reigning Pro14 champions Leinster are now the only remaining unbeaten side in this season’s Championship, although their run of maximum point victories was abruptly halted with their 3-0 victory at Zebre last weekend. The Leinstermen have lost just once at the RDS Arena in any competition since April 2018: 24-39 to the Warriors in Round 20 of last season’s Championship. Dragons have won three of their last five Pro14 encounters but have not managed successive victories in the Championship since November 2016. The Welshmen won their most recent away game at Zebre in Round Two but the last time they won successive away games in the Pro14 was in March 2012. Leinster have won their last six fixtures against Dragons, whilst the Men from Gwent were the last Welsh region to taste victory at the RDS Arena with a 16-14 win in February 2015.
Leinster: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Conor O’Brien, 11 James Lowe, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Max Deegan, 5 Ryan Baird, 4 Devin Toner (captain), 3 Michael Bent, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Will Connors, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Cian Kelleher.
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Connor Edwards, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Taine Basham, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Harri Keddie, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Brok Harris,
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Max Williams, 20 Huw Taylor, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Tyler Morgan.
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Matteo Liperini (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Saturday, November 2:
Scarlets v Cheetahs
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 15:00; 15.00 GMT; 17.00 SA time)
Scarlets winning start to the new Pro14 campaign ended with their 7-46 reversal to Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Saturday. The Welshmen have lost just once in any competition at Parc y Scarlets in 2009: 12-20 to Edinburgh in the Championship in April. Scarlets have faced South African opponents on seven previous occasions in the Pro14 and lost just once, on a trip to Bloemfontein in December 2017. Cheetahs five game winning run in the Pro14 ended with a last gasp defeat at Connacht last weekend. Cheetahs have lost their last five away games in the Championship since beating their closest rivals, Southern Kings, in January. The South Africans have made seven previous visits to Wales in the Championship, but their solitary victory was over Dragons in Newport in March 2018. The two sides have met on three previous occasions with Scarlets having the edge by two wins to one, and all matches going with home field advantage.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Ryan Conbeer, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Steff Hughes (captain), 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Phil Price, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Juandre Kruger, 20 Dan Davis, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Corey Baldwin.
Cheetahs: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Louis Fouche, 11 Clayton Blommetjies, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Sias Koen, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Boan Venter
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 Walt Steenkamp, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Anthony Volmink
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: David Sutherland (Scotland, Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Neil Patterson (Scotland)
Ospreys v Connacht
(Liberty Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 17:15; 17.15 GMT)
Ospreys only victory so far in the Pro14 this season was 24-20 at home to Benetton in Swansea on October 12. The Welshmen have won their last three matches at Liberty Stadium since Munster beat them there in February. Ospreys have lost their last seven matches against Irish provinces since beating today’s opponents, Connacht, at Bridgend in October 2018. Connacht began their 2019/20 Pro14 campaign with defeat at Scarlets but three subsequent maximum point victories have seen them rise to top Conference B. Connacht have won three of their last four fixtures against Welsh opponents and were victorious on their most recent visit to Wales, against Dragons in round 3 – they have not won on successive trips to Wales since 2004. The last five fixtures between the two sides have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst Connacht’s only victory in thirteen previous visits to Liberty Stadium was in October 2015.
Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 11 Tom Williams, 10 Luke Price, 9 Matthew Aubrey, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Dan Lydiate (captain), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Rhodri Jones
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Sam Cross, 20 Morgan Morrs, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Lesley Klim
Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Peter Robb, 11 John Porch, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Conor Kenny, 19 Cillian Gallagher, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Tom Daly, 23 Stephen Fitzgerald
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Manuel Bottino (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)
Benetton v Edinburgh
(Stadio Monigo, Treviso – Kick-off: 19.15 Italy time; 17:15 UK & Ireland time; 17.15 GMT)
Benetton’s 36-30 home win over Southern Kings in Round Four ended a four-game losing streak in the Pro14. Benetton have lost just twice at Stadio Monigo in any competition since this weekend last season, and that was in successive matches to Irish provinces Munster and Leinster in April and September. The Italians have won their last two matches against Scottish opponents. Edinburgh’s only defeat in the Pro14 this season was 14-40 at Leinster in Round Three. The Scotsmen’s last four matches against Italian opponents have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst they have won just once on their last four visits to Italy. The last five fixtures between the two sides have been edged by Benetton, three wins to two. Edinburgh’s most recent victory at Stadio Monigo was in October 2017.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Tommaso Allan (captain), 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Irnè Herbst, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Federico Zani
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Michele Mancini Parri, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Giovanni Pettinelli, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Antonio Rizzi
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Damien Hoyland, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos (captain), 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Ally Miller, 5 Lewis Carmichael, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Jamie Bhatti
Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Sam Thomson, 20 Viliame Mata, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 George Taylor
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
Cardiff Blues v Munster
(Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff – Kick-off: 19:35; 19.35 GMT)
Cardiff Blues began their 2019/20 Pro14 campaign with victory in South Africa at the Southern Kings but have since slipped to three straight defeats. Blues have not lost four in a row in the same season since 2015/16. The Welshmen have lost their last three matches against Irish provinces, but all have been played away from home, whilst Blues only defeat to an Irish opponent at the Arms Park since March 2017 was by a single point to Leinster on the opening weekend of last season. Munster’s only defeat in the first four rounds of the Pro14 was 16-40 at the Cheetahs in Round Three. The Munstermen have lost only one of their last six encounters with Welsh regions: 6-10 on a trip to Scarlets in March. The last four fixtures between the two side have all been won by the home side on the day. Munster have not been victorious at the Arms Park since March 2017.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Jason Harries, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Garyn Smith, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams (captain), 8 Will Boyde, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Josh Turnbull, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Corey Domachowski
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Willis Halaholo
Munster: 15 Shane Daly, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (captain), 5 Darren O’Shea, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Keynan Knox, 2 Kevin O’Byrne, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Rory Scannell
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Richard Brace (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)