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European Opta Rankings: Guinness PRO14 clubs impress

Charlie Talbot-Smith

23 Jan 2018

Tadhg Beirne

After an exhilarating weekend the European Champions Cup pool stages are done and we now know which clubs will play in the last eight of the famous competition.

The good news is that three Guinness PRO14 clubs have progressed, with Leinster the top-ranked side of all the qualifiers and Munster and Scarlets also securing home draws.

The Guinness PRO14 players have been some of the standout performers in the competition so far, and we take a look at the OPTA statistics to back that view up.

SCARLET FEVER

Scarlets’ win over Toulon means they’ve set up a mouth-watering clash with La Rochelle, the first time Scarlets have reached the last eight since 2007.

In the process they’ve played some wonderful rugby and broke all kinds of records, including Saturday’s win being watched by 14,476 spectators at Parc y Scarlets – a record for a European Cup game at the stadium.

Scarlets are the first club since Bath Rugby in 2014/15 to qualify for the quarter-finals after losing their opening two pool matches, and they were helped by Tadhg Beirne’s four turnovers against Toulon – the highest in the round.

Scarlets also possess the third highest try-scorer in the competition in Gareth Davies who has four.

Hooker Ken Owens has made 88 tackles so far, second only to Bath’s Tom Dunn.

IRISH STRENGTH

Munster and Leinster are usually strong in the Champions Cup and there was no change to that this year as the Red Army qualified for the last eight for a record 17th time.

Simon Zebo’s try in Munster’s win over Castres Olympique was his 22nd in the European Champions Cup, as he closes in on the late Anthony Foley’s club record of 23.

No.1 ranked Leinster’s 27 match points is the highest total recorded in the pool stage by the three-time winners – Biarritz Olympique’s 29 points in the 2006/07 season remains the benchmark.

ULSTER ATTACK

Ulster Rugby were unfortunate not to make it to the quarter-finals but have had an excellent campaign that saw them reach 17 points in Pool One.

Looking at the overall statistics it’s clear that a large part of Ulster’s success derives from their backs and two men in particular – Charles Piutau and Jacob Stockdale.

Piutau has made the third-highest amount of carries in the competition, 81, whilst also making 527 metres, second only to Nemani Nadolo’s 553.

And his young protégé Stockdale has had fun too, making 13 breaks, second only to that man Nadolo once again, and beating 22 defenders which makes him the fourth best in that area.

OSPREYS SOAR

The Ospreys are another side that were unfortunate to qualify but in doing so impressed many, with some quality rugby displayed throughout.

The OPTA statistics are littered with hints at this and the Ospreys also possess the tournament’s top tryscorer – Dan Evans, shared of course with Nadolo – both have scored six.

The Welsh province have also had the extremely useful Dan Biggar, who has kicked with 94 percent accuracy to become the competition’s second-most accurate kicker.

Special mention also to Owen Watkin, who beat an eye-catching 13 Toulon defenders at the weekend to take his total to 28 for the pool stages, the second highest in the competition.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie