Guinness PRO14 season review – April

Joe Leavey
22 July 2018

Share this article

With the new Guinness PRO14 season just around the corner, we take a look back at what was a thrilling 2017/18 campaign.

Our month-by-month review continues as we assess some of April’s action.

The business end of the year, April is always chocked full of nervy fixtures between sides trying to ensure their place in the play-offs, and last season was no different.

Cheetahs claw past Blues

In what was a finely poised battle for third place, and with it the final automatic quarter-final spot in Conference A, the Toyota Cheetahs hosted the Cardiff Blues with just three matchdays remaining.

Having only lost once at the Free State Stadium all season, the Cheetahs went into the match as favourites, and with a slim lead over the Blues in the table.

And after a nightmare journey to South Africa for Cardiff – two cancelled flights meant that they spent 55-hours in transit – the Cheetahs perhaps understandably dominated the first-half.

Sixteen points up at the half-time whistle, the Cheetahs looked good value for the win, were it not for an exceptional comeback by the Blues.

Tries from Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo and Owen Lane gave Cardiff the lead with just minutes remaining.

And they looked to have wrapped up an unlikely victory before the game delivered one final twist in the tale.

An 87th minute penalty try gave the Cheetahs a win and – more significantly – a nine-point advantage over the Blues in the table.

Judgement Day

No Guinness PRO14 season is complete without Judgement Day.

The annual curtain-call for the four Welsh regions, the double-header at the Millennium Stadium has quickly become a rugby institution since its inception in 2013.

In front of a season-high 62,000 fans, the Dragons, Scarlets, Ospreys and Blues treated everyone in attendance to two exciting fixtures.

Kicking off proceedings, the Dragons faced the Scarlets, with pride at stake.

A typically professional display from Wayne Pivac’s side saw them pick up the bonus-point win that secured a home draw in the quarter-finals.

What followed was a topsy-turvy affair between Ospreys and the Blues, with the Cardiff-based side eventually prevailing 26-23 thanks to a late Dan Biggar drop-goal.

Results meant that Scarlets finished runners-up in Conference B, while Cardiff and Ospreys were fourth and fifth respectively in Conference A.

Ulster miss out

Jono Gibbes’ side went into their final match of the regular season knowing exactly what they needed to do.

Only a bonus-point win against their old rivals Munster, and a Glasgow Warriors win over Edinburgh would give them a chance at making the play-offs.

And things got off to a bad start, when Duncan Williams crossed for the Red Army in the second minute of the match.

But belief was restored for Ulster when Stuart McCloskey reacted first to a loose ball to level the scores immediately.

And the away support at the Kingspan Stadium was rocking by the time the Ulstermen had surged into a 24-14 lead by half-time, thanks to two tries from Rory Best.

But a scoreless second half for Ulster left the bonus-point that they required out of reach, and Munster’s fightback – levelling the scores at 24-24 – added insult to injury.

And that was how it finished, it wasn’t to be for Ulster, and Edinburgh’s win over Glasgow later in the day offered only scant consolation.

Share this article