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Who is favourite for the fourth Guinness PRO12 play-off spot?

Paul Eddison

1 Mar 2017

With most teams in the Guinness PRO12 having now played 16 games we’re entering the final stretch of the season with the race for play-off spots going down to the wire.

As it stands leaders Leinster, their closest chasers Ospreys and third-placed Munster are all separated by a single point and are in good shape to make the top four.

The final spot however is very much up for grabs with Scarlets currently in fourth, but Ulster just five points back having played a game fewer.

The 2015 champions Glasgow Warriors are also within striking distance, although they would need their rivals to slip up if they are to sneak in.

Here we take a look at the run-in and who might have the upper hand.

Position 4th
Played 16
Points 53

Remaining schedule: Leinster (away), Edinburgh (home), Benetton Treviso (home), Newport Gwent Dragons (away), Connacht (away), Ospreys (home)

The Scarlets have been on a sensational run in the league, having won 12 of their last 13 games since losing to Ulster back in mid-September.

That has seen them beat all four Irish provinces including a stunning comeback win over Munster last weekend that ended their rivals’ own winning streak.

Wayne Pivac’s side have lost four games all season in the league, but with such little margin for error they will need to keep their unbeaten run going if they are to make the top four.

Their run-in features games against current play-off sides, Leinster away this weekend and then the Ospreys at home on the final game of the season.

In between those two, they have four games against sides in the bottom half of the table, they might have to win them all to finish in the top four.

Position 5th
Played 15
Points 48

Remaining schedule: Benetton Treviso (home), Zebre (home), Newport Gwent Dragons (away), Cardiff Blues (home), Munster (away), Ospreys (away), Leinster (home)

With a re-arranged game against Zebre still to play, Ulster have an extra fixture to fit into their schedule, but they sit just five points back on the Scarlets.

They have won three straight, coincidentally their last defeat in the league came against the Scarlets back in early January, and Les Kiss’ side will be desperate to ensure that result doesn’t come back to haunt them.

Next up they face the league’s bottom three in successive games, followed by a home game against Cardiff Blues.

They will then finish the season with a daunting trio of games, away to Munster, Ospreys and then at home to Leinster.

With that in mind, they would dearly love to be in fourth before the later rounds of action, starting with back-to-back clashes with Italian opposition at the Kingspan Stadium.

Glasgow Warriors
Position 6th
Played 16
Points 41

Remaining schedule: Newport Gwent Dragons (home), Connacht (home), Munster (away), Zebre (home), Leinster (away), Edinburgh (home)

Sitting 12 points behind the Scarlets, Glasgow Warriors will likely have to win all six of their remaining games to have a shot at the play-offs.

They were in contention heading into 2017, but three successive losses to Scarlets and Ulster – their two main rivals for fourth – and then the Ospreys has left them with it all to do.

Next up is a home clash with Newport Gwent Dragons, which they simply have to win, and by the time they welcome Connacht to Scotstoun at the end of March they will welcome back all their internationals.

At the moment they look long shots to make the top four, but the Warriors finished last season on a tear to make the semi-finals and they will hope to do the same again this year, starting against the Dragons.

So with six (or seven in the case of Ulster) games to go, there’s everything to play for in the race for the top four!

Guinness PRO12 Final 2017, 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Ticket Information: Fans can still avail of an exclusive number of €35 tickets. Book via www.ticketmaster.ie. Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final