Pro14, Round 16 - Teams and Predictions
PREVIEW: History will be made this weekend when Round 16 of PRO14 action sees Hollie Davidson take charge of the match between Munster and Benetton on Friday.
Davidson’s appointment, along with that of Joy Neville as the Television Match Official for the fixture means it will be the first time in a top tier professional rugby clash that a match has featured a female referee and TMO.
This all adds to a final official round where the focus will be on European Cup places and a chance for the two finalists to consolidate their game plans ahead of the Cup showdown.
In Conference A, Ospreys will secure third spot should they beat group winners Leinster but defeat opens the door for Glasgow Warriors ahead of Sunday’s potentially crucial clash with fourth-placed Dragons.
Things don’t look great for the Ospreys though, as they are on a three game losing streak after losses to Ulster, Dragons and Glasgow in the past three weeks and have not won their last four outings against Leinster.
In fact the last time Leinster lost to a Welsh side was two and a half years ago and unless Ospreys can find some inspiration it may well be more of the same.
That may leave the door open for Glasgow, who head to Cardiff looking for a third consecutive victory and a chance to secure third spot in the conference.
Conference B is just as tight, with the Scarlets needing to beat Connacht on Monday night to seal the crucial third spot but face some pressure from Cardiff Blues who face a resurgent Edinburgh at the same time with Cardiff just three points behind.
Scarlets have won their last two encounters against Connacht, who have already secured the runners-up spot in Conference B, and know the Irish side has not won in Llanelli for almost 16 years.
Edinburgh still have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the European Cup with two games in hand over Cardiff and Scarlets.
While this is the final official round, next week will still see games as teams catch-up postponed fixtures that were forced to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Edinburgh will be buoyed by the fact they beat Cardiff in their last three games, while the added pressure of European qualification will weigh heavily on all three teams.
Munster and Ulster will be looking for some confidence-boosting victories when they travel to Italy to take on Benetton and Zebre respectively.
We take a closer look at all the matches in Round 16!
Friday, March 19
Munster v Benetton
(Thomond Park, Limerick – Kick-off: 18.00, 19.00 Italy time, 18.00 GMT)
Johann van Graan’s men are already in the final and wrap up the Conference phase against winless Benetton, who were the last Italian team to beat Munster in any competition seven and a half years ago.
Their last two meetings have been settled by just two points and it took a last-gasp drop goal from JJ Hanrahan to give a much-changed Munster side an 18-16 victory at the end of January.
The Munstermen extended their winning run in the PRO14 to five games with last Friday’s 28-10 victory over Scarlets thanks to tries from Gavin Coombes, Shane Daly, Niall Scannell and Kevin O’Byrne.
Benetton were in sight of a first victory of the PRO14 season on Sunday when they took an 11-point lead approaching half-time, only to succumb to a 14-29 defeat against the Cardiff Blues.
@rugby365com: Munster win by 20 points
Munster: 15 Jake Flannery, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Alex McHenry, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Liam Coombes, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Paddy Patterson, 8 Jack O’Sullivan, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (captain), 5 Thomas Ahern, 4 Cian Hurley, 3 Keynan Knox, 2 Diarmuid Barron, 1 Liam O’Connor
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Jack Daly, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Matt Gallagher
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Giovanni Pettinelli, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Alberto Sgarbi, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Filippo Alongi, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Nicola Piantella, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Luca Petrozzi, 22 Tommaso Benvenuti, 23 Leonardo Sarto
Referee: Hollie Davidson
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy, Rob O’Sullivan
TMO: Joy Neville
Here is your Munster team to face Benetton at @ThomondStadium tomorrow at 6pm 😍
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) March 18, 2021
Ulster v Zebre
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 20.15; 19.15 Italy time, 20.15 GMT)
South Africa backrow Marcell Coetzee scored four tries in a 57-14 victory over bottom-of-the-table Zebre when Ulster travelled to Parma in mid-November.
Ulster have already guaranteed the runners-up spot on the back of 13 wins and just two losses, both of which came against Leinster this year.
Dan McFarland’s side are unbeaten against Italian sides since losing 27-23 to Zebre three and a half years ago and they have won all seven home meetings against Friday’s opponents.
Zebre lost a high-scoring encounter with Leinster last weekend and are four points behind fifth-placed Dragons, who have a game in hand.
@rugby365com: Ulster win by 15 points
Ulster: 15 Ethan McIlroy, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 James Hume, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Michael Lowry, 9 John Cooney, 8 David McCann, 7 Jordy Murphy (captain), 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Cormac Izuchukwu, 3 Marty Moore, 2 John Andrew, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 Brad Roberts, 17 Callum Reid, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Matty Rea, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Ben Moxham
Zebre: 15 Gabriele Di Giulio, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Tommaso Boni (captain), 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Paolo Pescetto, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 Potu Junior Leavasa, 7 Lorenzo Masselli, 6 Iacopo Bianchi, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Matteo Nocera, 2 Massimo Ceciliani, 1 Paolo Buonfiglio
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Charles Alaimalo, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Antonio Rizzi
Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant referees: Eoghan Cross, Peter Martin
TMO: Brian MacNeice
Leinster v Ospreys
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 20.15, 20.15 GMT)
Leinster’s last match before next week’s final comes against Ospreys, a team they have beaten in their previous four meetings.
Tries from James Tracy, Dave Kearney, Peter Dooley and Scott Penny gave them a 26-7 victory at the Liberty Stadium last time out.
Ospreys head to the Irish capital hoping to avoid a fourth successive defeat following losses to Ulster, Dragons and Glasgow in the last three weeks, but they may need a win to guarantee third spot.
That will be a tough task as Leinster have not lost to a Welsh region since a trip to Llanelli two and a half years ago.
@rugby365com: Leinster to win by 10 points
Leinster: 15 Max O’Reilly, 14 Rory O’Loughlin, 13 Jamie Osborne, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Rowan Osborne, 8 Josh Murphy, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Scott Fardy (captain), 5 Devin Toner, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Seán Cronin 1 Peter Dooley
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Marcus Hanan, 18 Thomas Clarkson, 19 Jack Dunne, 20 Seán O’Brien, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Tim Corkery, 23 Andrew Smith
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans (captain), 14 Dewi Cross, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Cai Evans, 10 Luke Price, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Morgan Morris, 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Rhys Davies, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Rhys Henry
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Garyn Phillips, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Olly Cracknell, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Josh Thomas, 23 Joe Hawkins
Referee: Chris Busby
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher, Stuart Gaffikin
TMO: Olly Hodges
Sunday, March 21
Dragons v Glasgow
(Principality Stadium, Cardiff – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
There could be plenty at stake in the Welsh capital where Glasgow visit the Principality Stadium for the first time needing a win to maintain their bid for a top-three finish, although even that will not suffice should Ospreys upset champions Leinster on Friday evening.
Glasgow are chasing a third successive win for the first time in over a year thanks to victories over Zebre and Ospreys in the last couple of weeks, but it could be a close encounter if previous meetings are anything to go by.
In December, Glasgow flyhalf Brandon Thomas missed a simple conversion with the last kick of the game to hand Dragons a 23-22 victory at Scotstoun to square the series at two wins apiece and one draw in their last five games.
Dragons failed to follow up their win against Ospreys from a fortnight ago with a narrow defeat against Ulster last weekend which extinguished their hopes of competing at Europe’s top table.
@rugby365com: Glasgow to win by five points
Dragons: 15 Josh Lewis, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Aneurin Owen, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Harrison Keddie (captain), 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Brok Harris
Replacements: 16 Rhys Lawrence, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Chris Coleman, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Ben Fry, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Jordan Williams
Glasgow: 15 Adam Hastings, 14 Rufus McLean, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Robbie Fergusson, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Ross Thompson, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Ryan Wilson (captain), 7 Thomas Gordon, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Kiran McDonald, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Aki Seiuli
Replacements: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Leone Nakarawa, 20 Fotu Lokotui, 21 Jamie Dobie, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Ollie Smith
Referee: Daniel Jones
Assistant Referees: Aled Evans and Gwyn Morris
TMO: Sean Brickell
Monday, March 22
Scarlets v Connacht
(Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli – Kick-off: 20.00, 20.00 GMT)
Monday has a thrilling double-header in Conference B which could determine the European places for next season.
Scarlets’ two-game winning run ended in a 10-28 defeat at Munster last Friday but they host Connacht in confident mood having won their last couple of matches against the Irish province, the latest a 20-14 victory at a rainy and wind-swept Sportsground thanks to two tries from Ryan Conbeer.
Connacht have won their last four games outside Ireland but narrow back-to-back defeats by Munster and Edinburgh have left them facing three successive losses for the first time in 14 months.
The Irishmen, who have already secured the runners-up spot, have also not won in Llanelli in the PRO14 since a victory at the old Stradey Park more than 16 years ago.
@rugby365com: Connacht to win by three points
Scarlets: 15 Tom Rogers, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Steff Hughes (captain), 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Steffan Thomas
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Will Homer, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Johnny Williams
Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Ben O’Donnell, 13 Sean O’Brien, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Abraham Papali’i, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Paul Boyle (captain), 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Niall Murray, 3 Jack Aungier, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Jordan Duggan
Replacements: 16 Dylan Tierney-Martin, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Oisin Dowling, 20 Sean Masterson, 21 Colm Reilly, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Peter Sullivan
Referee: Ben Whitehouse
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies and Rhys Jones
TMO: Jon Mason
Cardiff v Edinburgh
(Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff – Kick-off: 20.00, 20.00 GMT)
Edinburgh may be in fifth place but they still have a mathematical chance of bagging a top-three spot with two games in hand on Monday’s opponents and Scarlets.
The Scots also have an excellent recent record against Cardiff having won the last three, the latest coming four months ago when tries from Lee-Roy Atalifo and Dave Cherry wrapped up an impressive 18-0 victory at Murrayfield.
Not only have Edinburgh dominated Cardiff lately, they have also won on their last four visits to Wales, so Richard Cockerill’s side will be in good heart.
Blues bounced back from successive defeats with a 29-14 win at Benetton to move to within three points of third-placed Scarlets, giving added significance to Monday’s matches.
@rugby365com: Edinburgh win by five points
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Jason Harries, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull (captain), 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Olly Robinson, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Rhys Gill
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 James Ratti, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Hallam Amos
Edinburgh: 15 Damien Hoyland , 14 Blair Kinghorn, 13 James Johnstone, 12 George Taylor, 11 Eroni Sau, 10 Charlie Savala, 9 Charlie Shiel, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Mesu Kunavula, 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Magnus Bradbury, 3 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 2 Mike Willemse , 1 Boan Venter
Replacements: 16 Sam Kitchen, 17 Murray Mccallum, 18 Angus Williams, 19 Jamie Hodgson, 20 Ally Miller, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Tbc, 23 Mark Bennet
Referee: Nigel Owens
Assistant Referees: Adam Jones and Wayne Davies
TMO: Rhys Thomas