2017/18 Guinness PRO14 season review – September

Rich Dore
02 July 2018

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Excitement is already building ahead of the new Guinness PRO14 season but while summer is here we’ve decided to take a look back at what was a memorable 2017/18 campaign.

With the division moving to 14 teams and including two South African clubs for the very first time many observers spoke of 2017/18 as the best season yet.

In the first of our series looking back at the season month-by-month, we start with September.

SCARLETS MAKE A STATEMENT

With the setting up of Conference A and Conference B the new season began like a rocket with three away wins in Round One.

Perhaps the most eye-catching of results was Richard Cockerill’s perfect start in charge of Edinburgh Rugby as the Scottish outfit travelled to Cardiff Blues and left with a 20-10 win.

Edinburgh full-back Blair Kinghorn began his miraculous season with a try in that one, as did Chris Dean, while a brace for Keelan Giles helped Ospreys to a 22-13 victory over Zebre.

Cockerill’s dream start was echoed by fellow Scots Glasgow Warriors, where new head coach Dave Rennie began with an 18-12 win at Connacht in challenging conditions.

The third away win saw Leinster Rugby beat Dragons 39-16, with Dan Leavy and Jordan Larmour on the scoresheet, while Munster Rugby powered past Benetton Rugby 34-3.

The Southern Kings’ first game in the Championship saw a 57-10 defeat at Scarlets and the Toyota Cheetahs showed signs of the attacking intent we would see more of later in the season in the 42-19 loss at Ulster Rugby.

IRISH PROVINCES SET THE AGENDA

Rounds two and three were all about four early pacesetters who claimed 100 percent records, whilst the Cheetahs also claimed a historic first win in Round Three.

We now know of course how good the 2017/18 season was for Irish rugby, with Leinster claiming a famous double and the national side taking the 2018 Six Nations title – with September showing hints of what was to come.

Leinster, Munster and Ulster all won their first three games while the fourth side to achieve that feat were Glasgow.

The Warriors defeated Ospreys 31-10 and claimed a nervy 20-19 victory away at the Blues, while Leinster also beat the Cardiff-based side and won on the road at the home of the Kings.

Munster would beat Ospreys 21-16 and Alex Wootton hit the headlines with a superb four-try display in a 51-18 win over the Cheetahs.

Scarlets hit five tries against Zebre in Italy and in Round Three the Dragons picked up their first win of the campaign with a 21-8 defeat of Connacht.

Benetton caught the eye as they came from 14-0 down to edge Edinburgh 20-17 at Myreside, thanks in part to a try in each half from Angelo Esposito.

The Cheetahs’ maiden victory came in style as they led Zebre 19-18 at half-time in South Africa, but then stormed to an eight-try 54-39 win.

WARRIORS POWER ON

With four sides maintaining unbeaten runs heading into Round Four only one team would end September with that record intact – Glasgow Warriors.

The fourth round saw Munster visit Scotstoun but come away well beaten as Finn Russell kicked 17 points in a resounding 37-10 win for Rennie’s men.

Elsewhere in Round Four Ulster ran riot at the Kingspan Stadium with a 52-25 win over Dragons and the Blues sealed a nervy 17-15 victory on the road at Connacht.

Zebre picked up their first win in fine style, beating the Kings 43-17 in South Africa, just as the Cheetahs were putting together their second and third wins on the trot.

First the Cheetahs were able to overcome a hat-trick from Barry Daly to down Leinster in Bloemfontein, with doubles from Torsten van Jaarsveld and Makazole Mapimpi then inspiring a 44-25 win over Ospreys.

Zebre and Dragons finished September in excellent fashion, with the Italian side edging Ulster 27-23 and the Welsh region recording a victory over the Kings.

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