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Stormers and Bulls: The big losers of Round 14

WEEKEND REVIEW: The Lions made a strong statement but the Bulls and Stormers stole the show and not in a good way.

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In a round where two South African teams, the Bulls and the Stormers, were expected to make their big moves in their respective quests to nail down either top two (in the Bulls’ case) or top four spots, the home teams suffered defeats in Pretoria and Cape Town.

The losses respectively saw the pair emerge as the biggest losers of the weekend and Munster and the Ospreys as the big winners.

Munster’s 27-22 win in Pretoria has enabled them to leapfrog the Bulls into third position. They are now just five points adrift of second-placed Glasgow Warriors, who thanks to the Lions’ shock and surprisingly comprehensive win over Leinster are now part of a quartet of teams on the same number of points in eighth place.

Munster’s bonus point win means they are now six points clear of fifth-placed Benetton and eight ahead of the Stormers, which means their top-four position that was under threat at the start of the round is now suddenly looking a lot more secure.

Conversely, the Stormers now have to win all their remaining four games, two of which are overseas, and rely on other results going their way if they want to secure a home play-off for the third consecutive year.

The Ospreys’ 27-21 win in Cape Town did not propel them up the log and they ended the round in the same position they started it, seventh. However, bonus point win means they are now firm contenders at the end of a weekend where it was anticipated they would drop out of the top eight.

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Not that there isn’t a lot of competition for places, and round 14 conspired to intensify the logjam not only at the top of the table but also in the middle reaches where the outcome of the bunfight for Champions Cup qualification and play-off places has become even more difficult to predict.

Apart from the gains made by Munster and the Ospreys, there were also important wins for Edinburgh.

Sean Everitt’s side are now back in the top eight after they bounced back from their failure in South Africa to bank a comfortable five points against the Scarlets, as well as Benetton, who moved to fifth thanks to a good away win over the Dragons.

Glasgow Warriors won against the Sharks but you’d hesitate to suggest they’ve gained because when it became clear that the Durbanites were going to Glasgow under-strength you would have anticipated that the hosts would pick up a full house of five log points.

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They didn’t do that, and were in fact lucky the Sharks’ changed-up team didn’t make better use of their opportunities in a dominant second half.

The other teams that did their top eight pretensions no harm at all were of course the Lions. The Johannesburg team took maximum points from their win over Leinster. Connacht were also comprehensive winners over Zebre as they ensured they remain part of the group of teams tied together with eighth-placed Edinburgh on 39 points.

The Stormers would have made it a quintet of teams on 39 had they not been awarded the penalty try off the last move of the Cape Town game that secured them the losing bonus point that lifted them to 40 points.

Ospreys coach Toby Flood said afterwards his players were disappointed to concede that bonus point and so they should have been, for it meant the Stormers remained ahead of the Ospreys on points difference.

But with two teams on 40 points and four on 39, and Champions Cup places up for grabs along with with a place in the playoffs, you could not ask for a more tense and intriguing log narrative as the competition heads into the last four rounds.

The logjam

Given the log situation, there are some massive games this coming weekend, with the Stormers and Leinster now going into their clash at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday with a lot on the line for both of them, while both the Stormers and the Bulls will be hoping the Lions can back up their great performance against Leinster with another against Munster.

After winning in Cape Town, and having won a Challenge Cup game against the Lions at altitude earlier in the season, the Ospreys also go to Pretoria thinking they have a chance of beating the Bulls.

Ulster scraped a two-point win over 12th-placed Cardiff to further underline just how competitive the URC has become, but their chances of getting back into the top eight from their current 10th will hinge heavily on the result of Friday’s home clash with a Benetton team that is back in form and pushing strongly for a top four place.

Round 14 results:

Ulster 19 Cardiff 17
Glasgow Warriors 21 Sharks 10
Benetton 36 Dragons 19
Lions 44 Leinster 12
Bulls 22 Munster 27
Stormers 21 Ospreys 27
Edinburgh 43 Scarlets 18
Connacht 54 Zebre 16

*For Round 15 fixture CLICK HERE!

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