PREVIEW: Pro14, Round Six
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Five rounds…five wins – Leo Cullen’s Leinster have been simply superb at the start of the 2019-20 Pro14 season.
Cullen’s men dismantled Dragons 50-15 at RDS Arena on Friday, marshalled around the field by 20-year-old fly-alf Harry Byrne, a display worthy of being the only unbeaten side left in the competition.
Could that run end in Round Six though? Some are predicting so with the defending champions heading to Connacht for Friday’s match. The men in Galway are in fine form themselves following their impressive 20-10 victory on the road at Ospreys last weekend.
At the same time on Friday Dean Ryan’s Dragons will face another tricky away trip as they head to Richard Cockerill’s fortress Edinburgh, while the action on Saturday kicks off Ospreys v Southern Kings and Zebre vs Glasgow Warriors.
That home fixture looks like a good opportunity for Zebre to get their first win on the board while the Cheetahs still seek that elusive away win. They travel to Cardiff Blues after being narrowly edged out 13-17 by Scarlets, their second close defeat on the road in as many weeks.
There are two cracking fixtures still to come on Saturday, Benetton search for their third win on the spin, at Parc y Scarlets, and there’s a small matter of a superb-looking Interprovincial Derby at Thomond Park. Munster versus Ulster, both on four wins, both on 19 points, and local rivalries into the mix? That one’s going to be big.
What’s at Stake
Edinburgh v Dragons
A word of warning to Dragons fans: Edinburgh has won both home games they have played this season in the Championship, scoring seven tries in each, against Zebre and Scarlets. Dean Ryan will be busy plotting a defence that can prevent the same happening but likely won’t be helped by Edinburgh coming off the back of 16-18 defeat at Benetton – exactly the type of match Cockerill would have wanted to win in super-competitive Conference B. Dragons will put up a fight and are in decent shape despite the loss to Leinster, winning three of their last six, and will be inspired by that 52-28 victory on the road at Zebre in early October.
Connacht v Leinster
Two of the standout sides in the first five rounds of the Pro14, Irish rivals Connacht and Leinster have won a sum total nine of their 10 matches so far. Someone’s proud record will fall, therefore, with Leinster dropping just one point all season to unsurprisingly perch atop of Conference A with Connacht currently sitting pretty behind only Munster in Conference B. And the reigning champions will look to spring a repeat of last season’s visit to Galway, where they emerged with a 20-3 victory thanks to scores from Sean Cronin and Garry Ringrose. Connacht, on the other hand, will look to their seven-try 47-10 blitz of the reigning champions back in April 2018.
Zebre v Glasgow Warriors
Zebre will have to do something that they have never done before if they are to get their first win of their Pro14 season: topple the Glasgow Warriors. 14 times the two sides have met, and on all 14 occasions, last year’s finalists have emerged with the points. To make things worse, now could well be a tough time to face Dave Rennie’s side: with a plethora of World Cup stars now settled back in and in the wake of their 50-0 win over the Southern Kings last time out. Zebre, however, will take heart from their last match on home soil, where they lost out only narrowly to Leinster.
Ospreys v Southern Kings
Two teams desperate for a result do battle in south Wales on Saturday as the Southern Kings continue their European tour with a visit to Ospreys. With just one win between them this season, the clash could prove the perfect opportunity for either outfit to kick-start something. The Kings will look for a vast improvement after they shipped 50 points without themselves making an impression on the scoreboard against the Warriors, while Ospreys get a second bite of the cherry at the Liberty, after they were last week beaten 20-10 by Connacht. With only two meetings between the two, there is a small sample size to assess, but Ospreys’ pair of wins against the South Africans – home and away – will give the Welsh side hope for a third.
Cardiff Blues v Cheetahs
Since their opening day victory against the Kings in South Africa, Cardiff Blues have endured a frustrating start to their 2019/20 Pro14 campaign, slipping to four straight defeats against Edinburgh, Glasgow Warriors, Ulster and Munster. As they prepare to right their wrongs against their second South African opponents, John Mulvihill’s side will be pleased to know the odds are in their favour. The Blues have won five of their seven showdowns with South African opponents in the Championship, while the Cheetahs have not won away from home since beating the Kings in January. With the Blues not having lost three matches in a row at the Arms Park since December 2016, it will take some performance from the Cheetahs to steal victory in Cardiff.
Munster v Ulster
Both Munster and Ulster have only suffered one defeat in five rounds of the Pro14 so far this season, and both were to the same team – Cheetahs. Saturday’s fixture is set to be a close one with both sides gunning to keep up their winning form, particularly hosts Munster, who currently sit top of Conference B. The Munstermen are unbeaten at home in their last 24 games in all tournaments since Leinster beat them in Round 11 of the 2017/18 season, and they have not lost to Ulster on home turf since the 2013/14 campaign.
Scarlets v Benetton
Benetton will be on a mission to secure their first away win at Parc y Scarlets since May 2013 when they make the trip to Wales on Saturday but face a stern test against a Scarlets side flying high in Conference B. The Welshmen have only lost one of their last nine fixtures at Parc y Scarlets in all tournaments and have lost just twice to Benetton in their last 14 encounters in all competitions, a statistic sure to boost confidence that they can keep pace with Munster and Connacht at the summit of the table.
We take a closer look at all the matches in Round Six!
Friday, November 8:
Edinburgh v Dragons
(Murrayfield, Edinburgh – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
Edinburgh have lost two of their last three Pro14 matches, but both have been away from home, at Leinster and at Benetton. Edinburgh have won both home games they have played this season in the Championship, scoring seven tries in each, against Zebre and Scarlets. Edinburgh have won their last three matches against Welsh opponents. Dragons record in the last six rounds of the Pro14 is won three, lost three. Dragons have won just once away from home in the Championship in the last six seasons: 52-28 at Zebre on October 5, whilst Dragons most recent victory in Scotland was on a visit to Glasgow in November 2013. • Edinburgh’s only loss in their last five fixtures against Dragons was 12-18 at Rodney Parade just under twelve months ago, whilst the Welshmen’s most recent victory at Murrayfield was in March 2012.
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Henry Pyrgos (captain), 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Lewis Carmichael, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Fenton, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Jamie Ritchie, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 George Taylor.
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Harrison Keddie, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Huw Taylor, 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 James Benjamin, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Tyler Morgan.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ian Kenny (Scotland), Graeme Ormiston (Scotland),
TMO: Colin Stanley (Ireland)
Connacht v Leinster
(The Sportsground, Galway – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT)
Connacht have won their last four Pro14 matches but have not won five in a row since their Championship winning season in 2015/16. Connacht have lost just once at The Sportsground in any competition since September 2018: 24-31 to Munster on January 5. Connacht have lost their last three encounters with fellow Irish provinces. Leinster Rugby have won their last seven Pro14 matches, whilst the only previous occasion that they have won their opening six matches of a new campaign was in the inaugural year of the Championship in 2001/02. The Leinstermen have lost just two of their last nine encounters with fellow Irish provinces in all tournaments. Leinster’s only defeat in their last six fixtures with Connacht since Connacht beat them to take the 2016 title was in this equivalent fixture in Galway two years ago.
Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Peter Robb, 11 Stephen Fitzgerald, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Cillian Gallagher, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Sean O’Brien, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Bundee Aki, 23 Kyle Godwin.
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Joe Tomane, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Will Connors, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Scott Fardy (captain), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Rob Kearney.
Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ireland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Jonny Erskine (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Saturday, November 9:
Zebre v Glasgow Warriors
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 16.00; 15.00 UK & Ireland time; 15.00 GMT)
Zebre’s most recent victory in any competition was at home to Enisei in the European Challenge Cup last December. Zebre have won only one of their last nine matches against Scottish opponents: 34-16 over Edinburgh in Parma in October 2018. Glasgow Warriors have won just two of their last six Pro14 matches, but both have been in the last three rounds, at home to Cardiff Blues and Southern Kings. The Warriors’ solitary defeat to an Italian opponent in their last twenty-nine such meetings was 17-20 in Treviso last January. The two sides have met on fourteen previous occasions with Glasgow winning them all.
Zebre: 15 Michelangelo Biondelli, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 James Elliott, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 David Sisi, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Giovanni Licata, 5 Ian Nagle (captain), 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Alexandru Tarus, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Renato Giammarioli, 21 Marcello Violi, 22 Tommaso Boni, 23 Pierre Bruno.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Tommy Seymour, 14 Ratu Tagive, 13 Kyle Steyn, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 George Horne, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Ryan Wilson (captain), 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Oli Kebble.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Kiran McDonald, 20 Tom Gordon, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Huw Jones.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Kelvin Short (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
Ospreys v Southern Kings
(Liberty Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT; 17.00 SA time)
Ospreys’s only victory in the opening five rounds of the Pro14 was 24-20 at home to Benetton on October 12. Ospreys record against South African opponents in the Championship is won five, lost one, with the only defeat being on their first such fixture at Cheetahs in September 2017. Southern Kings have lost their last seven Pro14 matches since their 18-all draw with Dragons in Port Elizabeth in April. Kings are still yet to record a victory on the road in the Championship, whilst their only previous victory anywhere against a Welsh region was 45-13 at home to Dragons in March 2018. The two sides have met just twice before with Ospreys victorious on both occasions.
Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Lesley Klim, 10 Luke Price, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Dan Lydiate (captain), 5 Lloyd Ashley, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Guido Volpi, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 James Hook, 23 Tom Williams.
Southern Kings: 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Christopher Hollis, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Howard Mnisi (captain), 11 Josiah Twum-Boafo, 10 John-Thomas Jackson, 9 Josh Allderman, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Martinus Burger, 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 Jerry Sexton, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Xandre Vos, 18 Lupumlo Mguca, 19 Aston Fortuin, 20 Ruaan Lerm, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Siyabonga Masuku, 23 Sibusiso Sithole.
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse (Wales), Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Cardiff Blues v Cheetahs
(Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT; 19.15 SA time)
Cardiff Blues began the 2019/20 Pro14 season with victory in South Africa against Southern Kings but have lost in the four subsequent rounds. Cardiff Blues have lost their last two matches at the Arms Park, to Edinburgh and Munster but have not lost three in a row at the venue since December 2016. Blues record against South African opponents in the Championship is won five, lost two. Cheetahs’ last seven matches have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst they have not won away from home since beating Southern Kings on 18 January. The South Africans have made eight previous visits to Wales in the Championship with their solitary victory being against Dragons at Rodney Parade in March 2018. The two sides have met on four previous occasions with each match going with homefield advantage.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Harri Millard, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Jarrod Evans, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Lloyd Williams (captain), 8 Nick Williams, 7 Will Boyde, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Seb Davies, 4 Josh Turnbull, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Jason Harries.
Cheetahs: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Luan de Bruin.
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Sias Koen, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Louis Fouche.
Referee: Ben Blain (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Finlay Brown (Scotland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Munster v Ulster
(Thomond Park, Limerick – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)
Munster’s only defeat in the five rounds of the Pro14 so far was 16-40 against Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on October 11. The Munstermen are unbeaten in their last twenty-four home games in all tournaments since Leinster beat them at Thomond Park in Round 11 of the 2017/18 the Pro14 season. Ulster’s only defeat so far this season was 26-63 against Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on October 5. The Ulstermen have won their last two matches against fellow Irish provinces but have not won three in a row in such meetings since season 2012/13. The last thee fixtures between the two rivals have been evenly split with a win apiece plus a draw. Ulster have not been victorious in Limerick since a 19-17 win in the final round of the 2013/14 campaign.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Liam Coombes, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Jeremy Loughman, 17 Kevin O’Byrne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Arno Botha.
Ulster: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Rob Lyttle, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Angus Curtis, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring (captain), 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Matthew Rea, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Robert Baloucoune.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Robert O’Sullivan (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Scarlets v Benetton
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 19.35; 19.35 GMT; 20.35 Italy time)
Scarlets only defeat this season came in Round Four on a trip to Edinburgh. The Welshmen have lost only one of their last nine fixtures at Parc y Scarlets in all tournaments: 12-20 to Edinburgh in Round 19 last season. Benetton have won their last two Pro14 fixtures, but both were played at home, against Southern Kings and Edinburgh. The Italians only away victory in their last seven Championship visits was across Italy against Zebre in Parma in April. Benetton have lost on their last three visits to Wales. Scarlets have lost just twice to Benetton in their last fourteen encounters in all competitions, although both defeats were in Treviso in the last eighteen months. Benetton’s only previous victory at Parc y Scarlets was 41-17 in May 2013.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Corey Baldwin, 13 Steff Hughes (captain), 12 Paul Asquith, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Juandre Kruger, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Kieron Fonotia.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Engjel Makelara, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Giovanni Pettinelli, 22 Dewaldt Duvenage, 23 Antonio Rizzi.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Stuart Gaffkin (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)