Guinness PRO14 takeaways: Round 6

Joe Leavey
08 October 2018

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Round six of the Guinness PRO14 saw drama aplenty – tries, milestone wins and a sprinkling of local derby narrative to-boot, it was another set of games to remember.

Here are the weekend’s major talking points:

Edinburgh Rugby 37-21 Toyota Cheetahs

  1. Two home wins in a week have injected some momentum into Edinburgh ahead of their Champions Cup campaign next week. Questions remain over their performances on the road, but they have made BT Murrayfield a fortress this season, winning all four of their matches at the ground so far. There is a long way to go until we get a read on who will make the Guinness PRO14 Finals Series but if Edinburgh remain strong at home, they will be hard to overlook.
  2. The Toyota Cheetahs may be winless this season but as long as Sibahle Maxwane stays fit then they will frighten most teams in the Guinness PRO14. The winger was electric at BT Murrayfield and finished with two tries, one assist and 103 metres made – with his break for Nico Lee’s first-half score perhaps the highlight of the match. If he maintains that form the Cheetahs won’t be winless for long.
  3. Edinburgh showed a bit of everything in this match, with the fleet-footedness of Darcy Graham and the vision of Simon Hickey lighting up the back line. But No.8 Bill Mata was the star of the show and justifiably picked up the man-of-the-match award. He was powerful, energetic and relentlessly battered the Cheetahs defence with his direct approach. However, his game does not solely rely on power, and he showed that deep in the second half with a skilful pick-up off the back of a scrum five metres out before evading several tackles to dot down.

Glasgow Warriors 36-8  Zebre

  1. Glasgow Warriors made it five wins out of six in the Guinness PRO14 after downing Zebre at Scotstoun, but it could’ve been very different had Zebre maintained their first half form. The Warriors may have gone ahead early courtesy of a Huw Jones score but careless set piece play allowed the Italians to squeeze possession and ultimately got their reward on 34 minutes with a try from Apisai Tauyavuca. Had Johan Meyer not seen yellow 11-minutes into the second half, the contest could’ve gone either way but, as such, the Warriors showed just how clinical they can be, scoring four tries in little over 20 minutes to settle the contest.
  2. It was a fine evening for Scotland international Huw Jones, who showed off his skills with a try and an assist in a show-stopping performance in Glasgow. Jones timed his run to perfection to latch onto the end of an Adam Hastings pass before setting up George Horne on 65 minutes following another dazzling run. The Scot now has two tries in his last two outings and it looks like there’s plenty more in the locker.
  3. Zebre will be disappointed not to have stayed in the game following the yellow card to Meyer but they were simply no match for the champagne rugby on display at Scotstoun. The Warriors have prided themselves on fine rugby since bringing in Dave Rennie at the helm and their second half tries were things of beauty. Their fifth was the best of the bunch as a free-flowing move, including good moments from Nikola Matawalu and Lee Jones to give Peter Horne a try on his birthday.

Scarlets 20-17 Ospreys

  1. Scarlets’ title credentials came to the fore again with a gritty win over rivals Ospreys. Despite not being able to convert endless territory and possession deep in the visitors’ 22, Wayne Pivac’s men kept their patience and a second-half score from Rhys Patchell earned them a fourth win of the season in Conference B.
  2. Their inability to create any significant chances aside, Ospreys put up a stellar defensive effort and somehow held the hosts at bay for the majority of the contest. Alun Wyn Jones made 16 tackles, while Olly Cracknell even came off the bench to make 15 challenges.
  3. With Leigh Halfpenny’s prowess from the tee and Rhys Patchell’s ability to orchestrate, Scarlets have a division of labour that can put points on the board and secure results. With Jonathan and James Davies still to step into their side, their squad is the envy of every other team in the league.

Leinster 30-22 Munster 

  1. Leinster made 11 changes ahead of their Champions Cup match against Wasps next week, but their squad rose to the occasion to record a resounding victory over their bitter rivals. Munster showed a lot of fight in the second-half, but sloppy errors allowed Ross Byrne to settle the tie with his right boot.
  2. Byrne showed why he’s so highly regarded at Leinster when he made a stunning 13-point contribution in place of Jonathan Sexton at fly-half. The 23-year-old limped off injured with ten minutes remaining, but his impact had already been felt in what was labelled the battle of the fly-halfs prior to kick-off.
  3. While individual performances will undoubtedly be praised and scrutinised, it can’t be denied that Leinster proved to be the stronger unit on the day with an impressive defensive display soaking up Munster’s pressure after the break. Robbie Henshaw, Devin Toner, James Ryan and Dan Leavy made the difference with double figure tackles by the end of the match.

Ulster 15-22 Connacht

  1. Connacht’s first win in Belfast since 1960 was an emphatic endorsement of all the adjustments new head coach Andy Friend has made. His background in Sevens predicated a shift to a more enterprising approach, but in the first-half it was solidity at the set-piece that helped the Galway men earn supremacy. Tiernan O’Halloran’s try came from a smooth lineout taken off the top and their scrum forced a penalty try soon after.
  2. Jarrad Butler succeeded John Muldoon as Connacht captain over the summer and, just as he set about justifying Friend’s call, picked up an injury. So, the 27-year-old’s return for the trip to Ulster came as a big boost and he tipped his every sinew into the effort. The flanker made 25 tackles, an outstanding effort that prevented Ulster from building much in the way of phase play.
  3. It was a deflating evening for Ulster at the Kingspan, but the unfortunate circumstances of Matthew Rea’s red-card warped the contest and they were well worth a bonus point. Tries for Angus Kernohan and Peter Nelson were disallowed, and they sapped belief from the home side. But Jacob Stockdale showed his class on his return and third place in Conference B is a fair return on their efforts so far this season.

Dragons 15-23 Cardiff Blues

  1. The Dragons just cannot seem to buy a win against Welsh sides, and their defeat against Cardiff Blues condemns them to a 22-match losing streak against fellow Welsh regions. The result also means that the Dragons have not beaten the Blues in the league since Boxing Day 2014. Their first-half display would have given them hope, but they allowed the Blues back into the game during the second-half and were made to pay by their rivals.
  2. Cardiff Blues again showed their attacking prowess, maintaining their high-scoring start to the Guinness PRO14 this season. The Blues have now scored 17 tries over six games, averaging out at just under three per match. They have twice scored four times in a game and against the Dragons scored three for the third time this season. They were fluid going forward in the second-half against their rivals, and it was to be the telling difference.
  3. The Dragons defence proved leaky – they only made 78% of their tackles and gave away 11 penalties. The help that the club are receiving from Welsh head-coach Warren Gatland looked to be paying dividends as they were able contain the Blues early on. But it was easy for the Blues to turn the game around in the second-half, however, as gaps appeared for Owen Lane and Kristian Dacey to take full advantage of.

Benetton Rugby 28 – 5 Isuzu Southern Kings

  1. Benetton Rugby set their stall out from the off as they outmuscled Isuzu Southern Kings. The hosts, hurting from three consecutive defeats, powered the South African side into submission with driving mauls in the opening stages. An early try seemed inevitable – and it eventually came through Luca Bigi after just four minutes.
  2. Indiscipline cost Southern Kings dearly throughout, with the visitors receiving three yellow cards including two for Justin Forwood – who was sent for an early bath as a result. The numerical advantage allowed Benetton to establish a lead they never looked like blowing despite the Italians only adding seven points after the break.
  3. The Kings have now lost their last 14 games on the road in the Guinness PRO14 and only have one win from their opening six games so far this season. The difficult weather conditions didn’t help them, but they showed plenty of spirit in the second half and arguably scored the try of the game through Yaw Penxe’s first-half ingenuity.

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