Preview: Pro14, Round Three
NEW BEGINNINGS: Round Two of the Pro14 continued the trend of games going down to the wire with two matches decided with last-gasp penalties, while just four teams are still unbeaten even at this early stage.
For the first time in their history, Benetton have won their opening two games of the campaign, while Ospreys, Ulster and Glasgow Warriors are the other teams who have gone two from two.
Round Three will provide more mouth-watering fixtures in the Pro14 including Glasgow Warriors travelling to the Cheetahs, Scarlets entertaining Benetton and Munster playing host to high-flying Ospreys.
The season may only be beginning but all sides will have their hopes on reaching the Pro1414 Final on May 25 which will take place at Celtic Park.
What’s at Stake
The action begins at Murrayfield on Friday as Edinburgh welcome Connacht in a game that could be crucial in the race for a Pro1414 Final Series spot. Edinburgh finished last season on fire but have lost each of their first two games, both on the road, against Ospreys and Ulster. They will be keen to put that right against a Connacht team who had won four straight games between the teams prior to last year’s 29-22 Edinburgh success at the Sportsground. Connacht have also won on three of their last four visits to Murrayfield.
Saturday’s action begins in West Wales where Scarlets host in-form Benetton at Parc y Scarlets. The Scarlets come into the game in confident mood after their narrow win over champions Leinster last time out. That was some form of revenge for defeat in last year’s final and was an important win after succumbing to Ulster in Round One. Benetton, meanwhile, will still be bouncing from Tommaso Allan’s last-gasp conversion that saw them beat Cardiff Blues and go top of Conference B. Their recent record against Welsh opposition is good, including victory over the Scarlets in Treviso in February.
Leinster return to Dublin on Saturday against the Dragons with both teams having won one and lost one so far. Leinster have been virtually unbeatable at home in recent times, with Benetton the only side to come away from Dublin with a win of the last 15 teams to travel to the Irish capital. Dragons were victorious away to Leinster in 2015, their only away win against the Irish province but they come in with confidence following victory over the Kings. Bernard Jackman also returns to the team he played for as the Dragons director of rugby looks to get one over former teammate Leo Cullen.
The first game of the Pro14 season in South Africa will take place in Bloemfontein where the Cheetahs entertain Glasgow Warriors. This was one of the games of last season as the Warriors became the first time to win away to the Cheetahs, earning a 29-26 success. The Warriors, under Dave Rennie, have made a strong start to the campaign with wins away to Connacht and at home to Munster to date. However, they take on a Cheetahs side who were beaten just twice on their own patch in all of their debut year. This is also a clash between two of last year’s Final Series teams in Conference A.
On Saturday Zebre entertain Cardiff Blues in Parma with both teams looking to bounce back from defeats in Round Two. Zebre saw their four-match winning streak in the competition ended away to Connacht, while the Blues were downed by that last-gasp Allan conversion away in Benetton. John Mulvihill’s team are still searching for a first win of the campaign, having come out on the wrong side of two heart-breaking finishes so far. Zebre will have fond memories of playing Cardiff Blues, it was against the Welsh side that they won their first-ever match in the competition.
The action continues on Sunday when the Southern Kings play host to Ulster in Port Elizabeth. Ulster won a 79-point thriller the first time these two met in South African, at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium last November. They have picked up two late wins to start this campaign and face a Kings side who will take some confidence from their two bonus points in defeat to Dragons.
Pick of the Round: Munster v Ospreys
On Friday, Munster will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to Glasgow Warriors when they host the Ospreys at Irish Independent Park in Cork. Munster have lost just once at home in any competition since February 2017, but they welcome an Ospreys team on a roll thanks to two straight wins over Edinburgh and the Cheetahs. This could turn out to be a crucial clash in the race for Final Series spots in Conference A even at this early stage in the season.
We look at all the Round Three matches!
Friday, September 14:
EDINBURGH V CONNACHT
(Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh – Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
Edinburgh have slipped to three successive Pro14 defeats but have not begun a Pro14 campaign with three straight losses since season 2010/11. Edinburgh have won their last two matches at Murrayfield, against Scarlets and Glasgow last April. Connacht had a bonus point victory at home to Zebre over the weekend but have not beaten any Scottish opponent since they visited Myreside in April 2017. The Irishmen have won only once on the road in the Championship since then, on a visit to Treviso last February. Edinburgh won the only clash between the two last season in Galway and have not achieved successive victories over Connacht since 2009. Connacht have won on three of their last four visits to Murrayfield.
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (captain), 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Magnus Bradbury, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Juan Pablo Socino.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun,13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Ultan Dillane, 4 Gavin Thornbury, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Conan O’Donnell.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 James Cannon, 20 Colby Fainga’a, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Bundee Aki.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans, Ian Kenny (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
MUNSTER V OSPREYS
(Irish Independent Park, Cork – Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
Munster’s last four Pro14 encounters have been won by the home side on the day, whilst they have only lost once at home in any competition since February 2017: to Leinster at Christmas 2017. Munster’s most recent defeat in Cork was by a single point to Cardiff Blues in September 2016. Ospreys have won both games in the Pro14 so far, at home to Edinburgh and Cheetahs. The Welshmen won just twice away from home in the Championship last season, at Dragons and at the Blues, whilst the last time they were successful outside of Wales in the Pro14 was on a trip to Edinburgh in March 2017. Munster have lost just one of their last eight fixtures with Ospreys: 17-21 at Cork in February 2016. Ospreys record at Irish Independent Park is won two, lost five.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Darren Sweetnam, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Darren O’Shea, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 James Hart, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Jaco Taute.
Ospreys: 15 James Hook, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Joe Thomas, 12 Cory Allen, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Tom Habberfield, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Sam Cross, 6 Olly Cracknell (captain), 5 Adam Beard, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Rhodri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Nicky Smith, 17 Ifan Phillips, 18 Alex Jeffries, 19 James Ratti, 20 Guido Volpi, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 23 Hanno Dirksen.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Saturday, September 15:
SCARLETS V BENETTON
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 17.15; 18.15 Italy time; 16.15 GMT)
Scarlets beat Leinster 23-21 at Parc y Scarlets last weekend and are unbeaten at the venue in their last twenty-two Pro14 matches since Munster beat them there in September 2016. Benetton have lost just one of their last six Pro14 encounters: 17-22 at home to Zebre in the final round of last season. This is the first time that Benetton have begun a campaign with two straight victories. The Italians have won five of their last six fixtures against Welsh opponents and have been victorious on two of their last three visits to Wales. Benetton’s victory over Scarlets at Stadio Monigo last February ended a run of eleven straight defeats to
the West Walians in all competitions.
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 James Davies, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Phil Price
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 David Bulbring, 20 Dan Davis, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Paul Asquith, 23 Ioan Nichola
Benetton: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Marco Zanon, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Robert Barbieri (captain), 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Marco Lazzaroni, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Engjel Makelara, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Alessandro Zanni, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Alberto Sgarbi
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Simon Mills (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)
LEINSTER V DRAGONS
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 17.15; 16.15 GMT)
Leinster’s four game winning run in all competitions ended at Scarlets last weekend. Leinster’s only defeat in their last fifteen home matches in all tournaments was to Benetton at the RDS Arena in Round 20 of the Pro14 last season. Dragons victory over the Southern Kings in Round Two ended a seventeen-game winless run in the Pro14. Dragons most recent away win in the Championship was on a visit to Treviso in March 2015. Leinster have won their last four encounters with Dragons whilst the Welshmen’s only previous success on Leinster soil was with a 16-14 victory at the RDS Arena in February 2015.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Max Deegan, 5 James Ryan, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Ed Byrne
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Caelan Doris, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Joe Tomane
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Dafydd Howells, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Josh Lewis, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Ross Moriarty 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Cory Hill (captain), 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Harris,
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Brandon Nansen, 20 Ollie Griffiths, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Arwel Robson, 23 Jarryd Sage
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Joy Neville (Ireland), Mark Patton (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
CHEETAHS V GLASGOW WARRIORS
(Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein – Kick-off: 19.30; 18.30 UK & Ireland time; 17.30 GMT)
Cheetahs have lost their last three Pro14 encounters and have never lost four in a row in the Championship. The South Africans lost only twice in Bloemfontein last season, to Glasgow in Round Six and Munster in Round 20. Glasgow Warriors have won their opening two games on the road, in Ireland to Connacht and Munster – they won their opening six games last season. The Warriors won all three games they played against South African opposition last season. Glasgow beat Cheetahs 29-26 last season in Bloemfontein and 37-23 at Scotstoun in the return fixture.
Cheetahs: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Nico Lee, 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Charles Marais
Repacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Gunther van Rensburg, 19 Dennis Visser, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Marnus van der Merwe, 22 Shaun Venter, 23 Ryno Eksteen
Glasgow: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Pete Horne, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Callum Gibbins (captain), 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Oli Kebble
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’Arcy Rae, 19 Matt Fagerson, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 George Horne, 22 Nick Frisby, 23 Huw Jones
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
ZEBRE V CARDIFF BLUES
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 20.35; 19.35 UK & Ireland time; 18.35 GMT)
Zebre’s four-match winning run in the Pro14 ended with their defeat to Connacht last weekend. Zebre have won their last three home games (two in Parma and one in L’Aquila) but have never won four in a row at home. Cardiff Blues have lost their last three Pro14 matches but won four times on the road last season in the Championship. The Blues 25-27 defeat in Treviso last weekend ended an eight-game winning run against Italian opponents. Zebre’s only victory over the Blues since 2014 was in Parma in October 2015.
Cardiff Blues: TBC
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Jonny Erskine, Matteo Liperini (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (Italy)
Sunday, September 16:
SOUTHERN KINGS V ULSTER
(Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth – Kick-off: 14.15; 13.15; 12.15 GMT)
Southern Kings have lost their last six Pro14 matches since beating Dragons in Port Elizabeth in March, they did however tally two league points in their defeat at Dragons last weekend. Ulster are unbeaten in their last seven Pro14 encounters and are bidding to win their opening three matches for a third successive season. The Ulstermen have won just once on the road in any tournament since last December: 32-20 in Edinburgh in April. Ulster won all three games they played against South African opponents last season, two against Kings, a 43-36 victory at Isaac Wolfson Stadium and in the return leg in Belfast 59-10.
Southern Kings: 15 Michael Botha, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Harlon Klassen, 12 Berton Klassen, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Masixole Banda, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Andisa Ntsila, 7 Martinus Burger, 6 Stephan de Wit, 5 John-Charles Astle, 4 Schalk Oelofse, 3 Luvuyo Pupuma, 2 Michael Willemse (captain), 1 Schalk Ferreira
Replacements: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Xandre Vos, 18 Justin Forwood, 19 Bobby de Wee, 20 Ruaan Lerm, 21 Rudi van Rooyen, 22 Martin Du Toit, 23 Ntabeni Dukisa
Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Rob Herring (captain), 1 Andy Warwick
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Matthew Rea, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Amgus Curtis, 23 Angus Kernohan
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Ben Whitehouse, (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)