Guinness PRO14 takeaways: Semi-Final Qualifiers

Luke Baker
07 May 2018

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The Guinness PRO14 Final Series kicked off with a pair of fascinating Semi-Final Qualifiers on Saturday.

Munster set up a mouth-watering all-Irish Semi-Final with Leinster in a fortnight’s time by edging past a valiant Edinburgh at Thomond.

Meanwhile, Toyota Cheetahs’ impressive debut season in the Guinness PRO14 finally came to an end as Scarlets remain on course to defend their title with a trip to Glasgow Warriors next up.

And if you missed the action, our takeaways will fill you in, starting with the an enthralling match-up in Limerick.

Munster 20-16 Edinburgh

  1. If Simon Zebo’s Munster career is to end in fairytale fashion, he’ll need to help them lift the Guinness PRO14 title for the first time since 2012 but his Thomond Park farewell has already gone to plan. The winger will join Racing 92 in the summer and if his final performance at Thomond is anything it go by, the French side are getting an electric player still capable of changing a game with a moment of magic. That’s exactly what he did early in the second half on Saturday with the score at 7-6 to the hosts. He seized on a loose ball in midfield, dinked ahead and collected his own chip before producing a raking pass to Keith Earls on the left touchline for his fellow Ireland international to dot down in the corner. A moment of true brilliance.
  2. Games of knockout rugby are often won by the team that makes fewer mistakes and Edinburgh were made to pay for an error early on. Stuart McInally has been superb for club and country all season but the Scottish hooker overthrew a lineout deep in his own 22 early on and watched opposite number Rhys Marshall gleefully catch it, barrel through a couple of tackles and force his way over the whitewash. This was the only try of a competitive, low-scoring first half and would ultimately prove vital.
  3. Edinburgh may have been defeated but Richard Cockerill can be incredibly proud of what he’s achieved in his first season as coach because they came agonisingly close to causing the upset in Limerick. They look set up for sustained success and in Blair Kinghorn have a sure-fire superstar. The full-back is simply electric was ball in hand and scythed through the Munster defensive line seemingly at will with his incredible speed and deceptive power. At just 21 years old, he will get even better with experience – a scary thought for opponents – and between him and 25-year-old Glasgow Warriors Stuart Hogg, Scotland look set at full-back for the next decade.

Scarlets 43-8 Toyota Cheetahs

  1. Scarlets cruised into the semi-finals of the Guinness PRO14 Final Series, making the most of home advantage as they ran in six tries against Toyota Cheetahs in Llanelli. They appear to be coming into form at just the right time and look in good shape to defend their title, following their 46-22 victory against Munster in last year’s final.
  2. Man of the match Steff Evans was at his dazzling best on the wing, with his second try the pick of the bunch by some way. He picked the ball up 45 metres out before stepping and swerving his way through the orange jerseys, kicking ahead and touching down. A special mention should also go to Scott Williams, who was a constant threat in his final home match before moving to Ospreys.
  3. Cheetahs have acquitted themselves well in their first season in the Guinness PRO14 and impressed on their way to the Final Series Semi-Final Qualifier. While they ultimately proved toothless at Parc y Scarlets, they did show huge character as Clayton Blommetjies grabbed a late consolation try and they will take huge encouragement from their first campaign.

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