Guinness PRO14 season review – February

Will Thompson
18 July 2018

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The new Guinness PRO14 season is ever-nearing, but the drama and thrilling action of the last campaign will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Ellis Jenkins, Cardiff Blues

We’ve been looking back on the memorable moments of the 2017/18 season, and the latest in the series highlights some of the best contests during February.

Cardiff Blues saw their first win of 2018 and backed it up with two more on the trot, Benetton Rugby began to show the form that would lead them to their best ever finish in the competition, and Edinburgh saw three dramatic displays to keep their hopes of a top spot alive.

No more blues for Blues

With only five wins before the New Year, Cardiff Blues then lost their first game of 2018 by a single point to Ospreys after a fascinating duel at the Liberty Stadium.

It looked as though their match against Toyota Cheetahs was heading the same way when Ox Nche powered through early on, until Rey Lee-Lo muscled over in response, before Ellis Jenkins added another and Nick Williams sealed a first victory for the Blues since Boxing Day.

Danny Wilson’s men used the momentum gained from the triumph to add two more in a row, the first an impressive win against high-riding Munster, putting three first-half scores past the Irish outfit and defending doggedly to keep them out late on.

Blues then narrowly beat Zebre in Parma after Jarrod Evans’ penalty on the stroke of half time gave them a 10-7 win to round off a resurgence in February that saw them climb the table.

Monty Ioane, Benetton

Italian stallions

Benetton continued their brilliant start to the New Year after a victory over Cheetahs in January with another win in February, this time an impressive 22-12 over 2017 champions Scarlets.

Monty Ioane made the headlines with an incredible hat-trick of tries, latching on to the end of two cross-field kicks from Marty Banks before finishing off a searing Italian counter attack.

The men of Treviso then set a club record with a fifth consecutive win, downing Dragons 18-15 at Rodney Parade in the mud thanks to tries from captain Alberto Sgarbi and Ioane and two penalties from Banks.

Benetton came so close to making it six in a row, falling short by three points to Connacht in the next round, but the progress they demonstrated with the winning run revealed the strides that Italian rugby made last season.

Edinburgh rugby

Edinburgh edging it

It was a dramatic month for Edinburgh, but certainly a successful one, winning all three of their fixtures.

The first came at home to Leinster and went down to the wire, with a manic first half that saw three tries from both teams and the scores all level with two minutes to play, before Mark Bennett crossed late on to snatch the points.

The next game was an even closer affair at the Kingspan Stadium, as Duncan Weir’s drop-goal on the stroke of full-time gave the Scots a one-point win over Ulster.

The final game of the month was again a tense contest, this time at Eugene Cross Park against the men of Gwent.

With 10 minutes to play, both teams had scored two tries apiece and Dragons ramped up the pressure, but Weir again came to the rescue with a touchdown and Cameron Fenton also dotted down after 85 minutes to seal a bonus-point victory.

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