PREVIEW: Pro14, Round Three
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: History was made in Round Two of the Pro14 as 53 tries were scored – more than in any other single round in Championship history.
The previous record stood at 51 and Connacht were the side who ensured a new high-water mark during the final game of the weekend against Benetton, as Tom McCartney crossed to surpass the total and Kieran Marmion then added a 53rd for good measure.
Round Three has a tall task to match the entertainment levels of Round Two’s unparalleled scoring but a septet of mouth-watering fixtures means there are plenty of stories to follow.
Two teams with perfect records so far – Conference A leaders Cheetahs and Conference B toppers Munster – begin the weekend with a clash in Bloemfontein, while Leinster and Edinburgh also square off with 100 percent streaks on the line on Friday night.
The fifth team with two wins from two, Scarlets, host winless Zebre and Dean Ryan’s Dragons – fresh off a first Pro14 away win in four-and-a-half years – return home to host Connacht.
Winless pair Ospreys and Benetton will face off at Liberty Stadium looking to kick-start their campaigns, as Southern Kings host Ulster and Cardiff Blues travel to Glasgow Warriors.
What’s at Stake
Cheetahs v Munster
Cheetahs have started the season on fire, racking up a mammoth 16 tries and 111 points in the first two rounds – including a 63-26 win over Ulster last time out. They are a tough side to beat on South African soil but in Conference B leaders Munster, they face a challenging test in a team who also have two wins from two so far. Johann van Graan’s side battled to a 31-20 triumph over Southern Kings in Round 2 and if they leave Bloemfontein with a victory, that will be as successful a South African road trip as they could have asked for.
Dragons v Connacht
Dragons head into this game on a massive high as a 52-28 victory over Zebre at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi was their first away win in the Pro14 since March 2015. New coach Dean Ryan admitted afterwards that the triumph was a huge monkey off their back and his side could well play with a renewed freedom as they head back home to Rodney Parade. Connacht will hardly be a pushover, however, as they brushed aside Benetton in Round Two – cruising to a 41-5 success and rubber-stamping the new Championship single-round try record by crossing on six occasions.
Leinster v Edinburgh
Two undefeated sides do battle in Dublin on Friday night as Leinster and Edinburgh go head to head at the RDS Arena. The defending champions have looked ominously good so far, even though many of their top players are currently at the World Cup. They blew the cobwebs off with a gritty win at Benetton before putting up more than 50 points in a home success against Ospreys. Edinburgh has a handsome win of their own in the locker, with a comfortable opening-day 50-12 success over Zebre. But it was an eight-point victory at Cardiff Blues in Round 2 that will perhaps please head coach Richard Cockerill most, a result which proves they have a steel as well as substance.
Scarlets v Zebre
The Brad Mooar era has got off to an electric start at Scarlets and the 2016-17 champions will be confident of a third win on the spin against Zebre this week. Scarlets have seen off Connacht and Glasgow Warriors thus far, the latter on the road in a performance of real steel. Up front, they have benefitted from Rob Evans and Samson Lee’s omission by the Wales national side, while Steff Evans has been outstanding on the wing, and Johnny McNicholl has picked up right where he left off last year. In contrast, Zebre has bruises to tend to. They are yet to win in 2019 and were beaten at home by Dragons last weekend.
Southern Kings v Ulster
The Southern Kings have not won a Pro14 match since January and face a tall task against an Ulster side desperate to set the record straight. Ulster went down heavily to the Kings’ South African rivals Cheetahs, shipping 63 points to the Championship’s in-form attack. Worryingly for Ulster, the Kings also have pace in abundance and, in scrum-half Stefan Ungerer, a major try-scoring threat. Ulster has plenty of those too though, with Craig Gilroy – back in the side after 11 months out – crossing three times in two games so far. With one win and one defeat, they sit third in Conference A.
Glasgow Warriors v Cardiff Blues
Two sides licking their wounds meet at Scotstoun on Saturday, as Glasgow Warriors host Cardiff Blues. The Warriors will hope for a better result than when they last hosted a Welsh region, with Scarlets taking the spoils in a thriller last weekend. Glasgow was outplayed for much of that battle but fought back impressively, with centre Huw Jones showing glimpses of the form that turned him into one of the Pro14’s most devastating centres. The Blues also suffered a home defeat on Saturday, as Edinburgh left the Welsh capital with an eight-point win. Both sides sit fifth in their respective conferences heading into Round 3.
Ospreys v Benetton
Ospreys and Benetton are both in need of an early-season boost and at least one of them will get that when they square off at Liberty Stadium this week. Ospreys have opened with a pair of heavy away defeats to Ulster and defending champions Leinster, while Benetton has also been on the wrong end of a result against the title holders, before Connacht left them down in the dumps. Both sides last victory came in Round 21 last season, a result which secured Benetton a spot in the Pro14 Finals Series for the first time.
It’s a gem of a #GuinnessPRO14 week 💎
In form teams duke it out ⚔️ others look to build on bright starts ✨ and ALL look to get their hands on more points.
Which games are must-see TV??ADVERTISEMENT
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) October 10, 2019
We take a closer look at all the matches in Round Three!
Friday, October 11:
Leinster v Edinburgh
(RDS Arena, Dublin- Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
This is the first time that Leinster has begun a Pro14 season with three consecutive victories. Their only defeat at home was back in April, 2019. The Leinstermen’s recent record against Scottish teams in the Championships is won two and lost four. Edinburgh, on the other hand, also have a 100 percent winning record after two rounds but have not won their opening three matches since 2015/16.
Edinburgh’s soul victory against an Irish province in any competition for the last twelve months was against Leinster at Murrayfield in the Pro14 in March. The last five meetings between the two sides have been won by the home team, whilst Edinburgh’s
most recent victory in Dublin was at Donny brook in November 2005.
Edinburgh: 15 Damien Hoyland, 14 Jamie Farndale, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 George Taylor, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Nic Groom (captain), 8 Nick Haining, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Mesulame Kunavula, 5 Murray Douglas, 4 Jamie Hodgson, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Fenton, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Sam Thomson, 20 Ally Miller, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 James Johnston.
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Joe Tomane, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Scotty Penny, 6 Max Deegan, 5 Scott Fardy (captain), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Vakh Abdaladze, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Josh Murphy, 21 Rowan Osborne, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jimmy O’Brien.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Sen Brickel
DRAGONS v CONNACHT
(Rodney Parade, Newport – KO 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
Dragons won their most recent match-up at Zebre 52-28 but have not won back-to-back fixtures in Pro14 since November 2016. They have also lost their last two matches at Rodney Parade in the Championship, since beating Ospreys by a single point last December.
The Welshmen’s most recent victory against an Irish province was in the equivalent fixture against Connacht at Rodney Parade two years back. Connacht’s 41-5 victory against Benetton on Saturday ended a three-game losing streak in Pro14. The Irishmen have been victorious just once away from home in the Championship since last December by a single point in 11 against Zebre in Parma in April. Connacht’s most recent victory in Wales was 19-13 at Cardiff Blues in February 2017.
The last four fixtures between these two sides have ended in the favour of the home team, Connacht’s most recent success at Rodney Parade was in February 2016.
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Lewis Evans, 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 Ryan Bevington, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Max Williams, 20 Harri Keddie, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Jacob Botica, 23 Jack Dixon
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Peter Robb, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Gavin Thornbury, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Cillian Gallagher, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Tom Farrell, 23 Stephen Fitzgerald.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Federico Vedovelli (Italy)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)
Cheetahs v Munster
(Stadium, Bloemfontein – Kick-off: 18.15; 17.15 UK; 16.15 GMT)
Cheetahs have won their last four matches but have never won five in a row since they joined the competition in 2017. Their victory last weekend over Ulster in Bloemfontein (63-26) was their first over an Irish province since beating Connacht by a solitary point at the same site in March 2018. Munster have started out with two victories to start the season, at home to Dragons and away to Southern Kings.
Munster’s only defeat in their last four games away from home in all tournaments was to Leinster in last season’s Pro14 semi-final. The Mustermen have won their last seven fixtures they have played against South African opponents in the Championship. The two sides have met four times previously in the Pro14, with Munster coming out on top each time.
Cheetahs: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Louis Fouche, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Sias Koen, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Clayton Blommetjies.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Nick McCarthy, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 James Cronin, 18 Keynan Knox, 19 Darren O’Shea, 20 Gavin Coombes, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Calvin Nash.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Griffin Colby, Paul Mente (both South Africa)
TMO: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Saturday, October 12:
SCARLETS v ZEBRE
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 15.00; 16.00 Italian time; 14.00 GMT)
Scarlets have started off their campaign with two victories in Pro14 but have not won three in a row in the Championship for twelve months. Their only defeat in the last seven fixtures at Parc y Scarlets in all tournaments was to Edinburgh in round of 19 last season.
The Welshmen’s last four matches against Italian opponents have all been won by the home team. Zebra’s most recent victory in Pro14 was 34-16 at home against Edinburgh in October 2018, whilst they have not won outside of Italy in the Championship since February 2018, when they beat Connacht.
The two squads have previously met on 12 occasions with the Scarlets winning each match but one which was a 16-all draw in Parma in October 2013. Zebre has only won once in their last 26 visits to Wales.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Ryan Conbeer, 13 Steff Hughes (captain), 12 Paul Asquith, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Tom Phillips, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Phil Price, 17 Marc Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Josh Helps, 20 Dan Davis, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Corey Baldwin
Zebre: 15 Charlie Walker, 14 Paula Balekana, 13 James Elliott, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Pierre Bruno, 10 Michelangelo Biondelli, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Iacopo Bianchi, 5 Ian Nagle (captain), 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Alexandru Tarus, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Daniele Rimpelli
Replacements: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Paolo Buonfiglio, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 George Biagi, 20 Apisai Tauyavuca, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Leonardo Mantelli, 23 Federico Mori
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones, Justin Williams (both Wales)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)
Southern Kings v Ulster
(Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth – Kick-off: 16.00; 15.00 UK; 14.00 GMT)
Southern Kings have lost their last four matches in the Pro14 since their last draw with the Dragons at Madibaz Stadium in April.
The Kings’ most recent victory at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was against Dragons in March 2018. In clashes against Irish provinces, the South African outfit’s record is 13 losses in 13 matches.
Ulster has lost their last two away games in Pro14, 20-50 to Scarlets in last season’s semi-final and 26-63 in Bloemfontein.
Ulster’s loss to Cheetahs in round two was their first reversal to a South African opponent in the Championship. The two squads have met four times previously in Pro14 competition with Ulster winning them all.
Southern Kings: 15 Masixole Banda, 14 Josiah Twum-Boafo, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 JT Jackson, 11 Courtney Winnaar, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Tienie Burger, 6 Lusanda Badiyana (captain), 5 Aston Fortuin, 4 Jerry Sexton, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Alandre van Rooyen, 1 Juan Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Alulutho Tshakweni, 18 Pieter Scholtz, 19 JC Astle, 20 Bobby de Wee, 21 Josh Allderman, 22 Sibusiso Sithole, 23 Elrigh Louw
Ulster: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Rob Herring (captain), 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Greg Jones, 21 Dave Shanahan, 22 Angus Curtis, 23 James Hume
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Ben Crouse (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
Glasgow Warriors v Cardiff Blues
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow – Kick-off: 19.35; 18.35 GMT)
Glasgow Warriors, last season’s finalist, have yet to come out victorious in their Pro14 2019/20 campaign, losing to The Cheetahs and at home to Scarlets. They have never lost three consecutive matches to open the season since 2003/04.
The Warriors have not lost successive fixtures at Scotstoun since December 2016. Cardiff Blues only win in their last five rounds of Pro14 competition was against Southern Kings in which they prevailed 31-27 in round 1. Blues only victory in their last seven fixtures against Scottish opponents in the Championship was 19-17 against Edinburgh at Murrayfield in February.
The Warriors have lost to The Blues just once in Pro14 competition since February 2011: 19-23 at the Arms Park in September 2016.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Stafford McDowall, 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Brandon Thomson, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Callum Gibbins (captain), 6 Bruce Flockhart, 5 Kiran McDonald, 4 Rob Harley, 3 Adam Nicol, 2 Grant Stewart, 1 Alex Allan
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 George Thornton, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Jamie Dobie, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Glenn Bryce
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams (captain), 8 Will Boyde, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dimitri Arhip, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Brad Thyer
Replacements: 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Harri Millard
Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ben Blain (Scotland), Johnny Erskine (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Ospreys v Benetton
(Liberty Stadium, Swansea – Kick-off: 19.35; 20.35 Italian time; 18.35 GMT)
Ospreys have lost both matches to start the Pro14 campaign with both losses coming away from home to Irish provinces. They have won their last two Championship matches at Liberty Stadium, against Dragons and Scarlets.
Ospreys record at home against Italian opponents in all competitions is played 23, won 23. Benetton has lost their last three Pro14 matches since beating Zebre 25-11 in Parma in round of 21 last season. The Italians have been victorious in their last two matches against Welsh opponents, but their only two victories in Wales since May 2013 were both at The Dragons in Pro14, in February and September 2018.
The last five fixtures between the two sides have all resulted in a victory for the home squad, whilst Benetton has failed to tally a single league point in any of their twelve previous visits to Liberty Stadium in all tournaments.
Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Luke Morgan, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Luke Price, 9 Matthew Aubrey, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Sam Cross, 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Lloyd Ashley, 4 Dan Lydiate (captain), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Rhodri Jones
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Gheorghe Gajion, 19 Will Griffiths, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Tom Williams, 23 Hanno Dirksen
Benetton: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Luca Petrozzi, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Giovanni Pettinelli, 6 Marco Lazzaroni, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Michele Mancini Parri, 2 Engjel Makelara, 1 Cherif Traore
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Damiano Borean, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Lodovico Manni, 20 Charly Trussardi, 21 Ian McKinley, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Joaquin Riera
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)