Guinness PRO14 takeaways: Round 17 rearranged

Will Thompson
23 April 2018

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This weekend saw two rearranged games from Round 17 of the Guinness PRO14, when adverse weather restricted play.

Mattia Bellini, Zebre

But the sun shined on Ulster and Zebre as they stormed to victory in their respective matches, both earning bonus points by scoring five tries each and only conceding two.

The Italians’ triumph over Ospreys means they will end their season with the most points in their Guinness PRO14 history, while Ulster’s win over Glasgow Warriors secured them a Champions Cup play off spot.

Zebre 37-14 Ospreys

  1. In racking up back-to-back wins for only the second time this season, Zebre are in with a shout of avoiding finishing bottom of Conference A before the end of the 2017-18 Guinness PRO14 season. Michael Bradley’s troops require victory over Italian rivals Benetton Rugby in Round 21 coupled with a Connacht defeat at home to Leinster to snatch sixth place.
  2. There was no doubting the star of the show in Parma. Mattia Bellini had already proved the Ospreys’ chief tormenter with two tries in the space of three first-half minutes before the 24-year-old winger crashed over again with 14 minutes to go.
  3. With only Adam Beard and Sam Cross retained from the Ospreys side that had been narrowly beaten by Ulster in Round 20, interim head coach Allen Clarke failed to bring about a change in fortunes for his side, who were comprehensively beaten at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

Ulster 36-15 Glasgow Warriors

  1. It has been a tough campaign for Ulster but there is still plenty of fighting spirit, and they showed they won’t give up on a Guinness PRO14 Final Series place without a fight. Needing a bonus point against Glasgow Warriors to keep their hopes of overturning Edinburgh alive, Nick Timoney rumbled over in the 83rd-minute in what of the dramatic moments of the season. Whether they make it or not, that moment and that noise, will go down in Kingspan folklore.
  2. It was a brave move for John Cooney to switch from Connacht to Ulster last summer but the scrum-half has excelled this season. Against Glasgow, he scored all of Ulster’s first-half points – including a superb try where he pierced their defence off the back of a scrum, while he continually terrorised them with his busy style, flat passing and sniping runs. As Ulster seek another bonus-point win against Munster next week, utilising his full repertoire of skills is a must.
  3. Glasgow Warriors are already in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series but they still have a major role to play. Next week, they tackle rivals Edinburgh in the 1872 Cup decider – and there is more than bragging rights up for grabs. Edinburgh need a point to secure their place in the Final Series, but there is no tougher task than facing Glasgow this season. The Warriors hold Edinburgh’s fate in their own hands.

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