Guinness PRO14 takeaways: Round 19

Andrew Lawton
09 April 2018

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There was plenty of action in Round 19 of the Guinness PRO14 as clubs across both conferences looked to take another step towards the Guinness PRO14 Final Series.

Gareth Davies, Scarlets

Ulster and Munster both recorded away victories while Toyota Cheetahs earned an important win over Cardiff Blues at the Toyota Stadium.

Elsewhere there were wins for Ospreys, Leinster and Benetton and you can catch up with all the major talking points with our handy takeaways.

Scarlets 26-8 Glasgow

  1. Gareth Davies is a master of intercepts. With the battle for dominance ongoing in this match Davies decided to repeat his heroics from the 2018 Six Nations, intercepting an Ali Price pass wide on the left, around the halfway line, to sprint into the corner and evade the remaining defence. Across the 80 minutes Davies ran 77 metres, made one clean break and beat two defenders, also making six tackles.
  2. The debate over Rhys Patchell’s best position goes on, but the Welshman was back at fly-half against La Rochelle last week, scoring a try, and went one better this week with a double to help edge Scarlets past Glasgow Warriors. Both were excellent finishes and crucial in securing the win, with the first try piercing a first half that was scoreless up until that point.
  3. These two sides have certainly been amongst the best in the Guinness PRO14 this season and finish the match well-placed. Glasgow still have a healthy lead at the top of Conference A and are at home to Connacht next whilst Scarlets are second in Conference B, four points behind Leinster and six ahead of Edinburgh, with a game against Edinburgh next up.

Toyota Cheetahs 29-27 Blues

  1. This match was all about the drama. Cardiff Blues hoped they had the game won and led 27-22 for the final ten minutes. They survived a disallowed try right at the death but after five penalties conceded at the scrum and the loss of Brad Thyer to a yellow card, the referee awarded an 87th-minute try to delight the home support.
  2. The Cheetahs remain third in Conference A, now nine points ahead of the Blues and six points below Munster, who they play next week in what will be a fascinating clash. The Cheetahs have lost at home just once this season, to the Glasgow Warriors, and another win would give them huge amounts of momentum with the Final Series approaching.
  3. Ospreys’ win over Connacht on Friday means Champions Cup qualification is still possible for both Welsh regions, who are both in good form. The Blues will be encouraged by a superb effort that yielded tries for Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo and Willis Halaholo and are still in excellent form having won their previous five fixtures.

Benetton 29-27 Dragons

  1. Benetton toiled in their win over Dragons and should really have cruised to victory after being 20 points to the good at half-time. The main positive they can take from the game, aside from the win, is the fact that they kept going right until the end and took it away from Dragons right at the death with Tito Tebaldi’s penalty. That kind of resolve and determination is what every coach wants to see and could be crucial in Benetton’s push for a Champions Cup spot.
  2. Inconsistency has been Dragons’ downfall this season. In the second half, the Welsh side did not look like a team that has won just twice in the Guinness PRO14 this season, but their disappointing first-half display is what ultimately cost them.
  3. Benetton’s wingers came good in this match as the Italians used the width very effectively. Monty Ioane showed phenomenal power to brush aside Owain Leonard with a strong hand off and Luca Sperandio’s good work on the right flank set up Tommaso Allan for his score. Towards the end of the game, Benetton missed an opportunity to spread the ball wide, choosing instead to go infield.

Edinburgh 20-32 Ulster

  1. Duncan Weir once again demonstrated his class and experience against Ulster. He helped himself to 13 points on Friday night and got a first-half try for the home side, putting a stop to Ulster’s repeated line breaks resulting from lineouts, intercepting for a 60-metre run to the posts.
  2. When they’re on song Ulster have one of the best backlines in Europe. Led on by scrum-half John Cooney – Darren Cave, Charles Piutau and Jacob Stockdale all caused havoc in a 20-minute spell in the first half, with Cave and Piutau dotting down and Stockdale setting up Cooney’s try.
  3. This match was billed as a battle between third and fourth and whilst both sides are still in those positions, third-placed Edinburgh can still hope to overhaul Scarlets and Leinster above them, whilst Ulster are now eight points behind the Scottish side and doing their best to make up ground. Iain Henderson’s late bonus-point score could prove crucial come the end of the season.

Southern Kings 22-39 Munster

  1. Munster are coming into form just at the right time. They may have been rocked by the Southern Kings but faith in their power-base game saw them through and they are now just still within striking distance of Glasgow Warriors at the top of the tree. With their European campaign going well, the men in red are looking well-placed for a run at a double.
  2. The Southern Kings are desperate to pip Dragons to sixth place in Conference B and judging by this performance they will take that particular fight down to the wire. With home games against Cardiff Blues and the Toyota Cheetahs still to come, the Kings will eye another win. Although they out-muscled by Munster in the end, this was another encouraging display.
  3. While Munster’s place in the Guinness PRO14 Finals Series may be secure, they are going to play a key role in the final two weeks of the season. Next weekend, they face a titanic battle against the Cheetahs on the second leg of their South African tour. Then on the final day, they face Ulster – a side right in the thick of it in Conference B.

Leinster 41-6 Zebre

  1. Leinster’s Max Deegan won man of the match and was the standout performer for his side as they struggled to take a firm grip on the game, despite scoring seven tries. The No.8 showed great opportunism for his first try and quick-thinking for his second, but his desire to get out into the back line and be on the end of that try-scoring move was particularly impressive.
  2. Zebre were made to rue missed half-chances, breaking into the Leinster 22 on more than one occasion. Both Leonard Krumov and Valerio Bernabo found themselves bearing down on the Leinster try line, but a lack of support runners led them to missing their chances.
  3. Leinster have found a way to win when they are not at their best. With only a few games left in the regular season they have almost secured a home semi-final in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series. They have games against Benetton and Connacht to find their best form before the Guinness PRO14 becomes a knockout competition.

Ospreys 39-10 Connacht

  1. The Ospreys have found excellent form as we approach the end of the regular season. This bonus-point 39-10 victory over Connacht boosts their Champions Cup chances and comes off the back of wins over Leinster, Toyota Cheetahs and the Southern Kings.
  2. Fly-half Dan Biggar has played his last Guinness PRO14 home match at the Liberty Stadium and went out with a bang. The 28-year-old picked up the man-of-the-match award, 14 points and was instrumental in the majority of Ospreys’ five tries.
  3. Connacht were beaten but still offered plenty of attacking threat themselves. A period of early dominance was unfortunate to be punctured by Jeff Hassler’s breakaway try, and Connacht were also unlucky not to get over in the final ten minutes as they fought to the end.

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