Guinness PRO14 Takeaways: Round 8

Max Chesterton
05 November 2018

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The eighth round of Guinness PRO14 said goodbye to one of the legends of the game as Gethin Jenkins wore the colours of Cardiff Blues for one last time.

Glasgow Warriors and Leinster’s reign at the top of the conference tables continued as the side’s battled for ascendancy in another thrilling week of action.

If you missed any of the fixtures, don’t worry we have you covered here:

Ospreys 20-29 Glasgow Warriors

  1. He would of course have hoped to start this match but boy did he finish it. Utility man Niko Matawalu started on the bench but was thrust into action due to an early injury to full-back Ruaridh Jackson and had two tries inside 15 minutes. His hat-trick score came inside 50 minutes, with all three finishes displaying just how deadly a poacher the creative back is. Not a bad man to have in your squad at all and someone we could be seeing a lot more of off the back of this performance.
  2. Despite his heroics Matawalu somehow managed to be pipped to the man-of-the-match post by centre Nick Grigg. The 26-year-old Scotland man has a fantastic all-round game and displayed it well at the Liberty Stadium, his determined and pacy break setting up Matawalu’s second try and his resolute defence hammered Ospreys back at every turn. 13 tackles, 90 metres made, four defenders beaten and one try is not a bad night’s work – Grigg lead from the front for Dave Rennie on a tricky away trip.
  3. A frustrating night for Ospreys but one amidst a very strong start to the season and a defeat where lessons were learned and sparks were seen. The Welsh region have five wins from eight and missing some key leaders on the night will have noted the performances of a few. Full-back Dan Evans was strong again and wings Hanno Dirksen and Keelan Giles both beat eight defenders each, with Dirksen claiming a whopping 156 metres and Giles showing more progression to full speed after long-term injury.

Edinburgh 31-21 Scarlets

  1. In the absence of some key men what with the international break now in full swing, Richard Cockerill needed his senior players to step up, and that’s exactly what Bill Mata did. The big Fijian scored twice, including an improvised effort five minutes from time, killing off Scarlets’ hopes in the process. Edinburgh’s forwards were dominant throughout – quick in the breakdown and devastating at the maul and scrum, and Mata was a big part of that. It was a true man of the match performance from the number eight.
  2. Scarlets will take heart from the fact that they stayed in the game despite not being at their best. Their first-half performance left much to be desired as they spent most of the first 40 mired in their own half, and yet they entered the break just three points down. They took the lead early in the second period, and looked to be favourites, but Edinburgh wrestled back momentum at just the right time.
  3. This game turned on ten second-half minutes. When Simon Hickey was sent to the bin early in the second period, Scarlets were in the ascendancy. Johnny McNicholl crossed to give them the lead, and it looked as though they would go on to take victory. But Edinburgh were resolute, holding onto the ball and refusing to let their opponents make the most of their man advantage. Perhaps Scarlets could’ve done more; they’ll certainly rue it as a missed opportunity.

Connacht Rugby 33-12 Dragons

  1. Dragons No.8 Taine Basham, 19, was left to rue the poor handling of his teammates early on. The back-rower burst tackles and made breaks in the opening quarter when it was scoreless, but his side was unable to take advantage. Basham ran 81 metres and had 14 carries, both more than any other player on his team. He ran in a very late try to mark his 19th birthday in style.
  2. Colby Fainga’a had his best game in a Connacht shirt and scored his first try for the Irish club in their win. The flanker, 27, showed his pace as he sprinted in from 35m out as he touched down after an 85-metre break involving Tiernan O’Halloran, Colm de Buitlear and Thomas Farrell. As well as his pace to the try line, Fainga’a showed his all-round skills notching up seven tackles, six carries and 72 metres gained.
  3. Connacht inside centre Thomas Farrell showed he can attack in more ways than one for his side. He was happy to work as his team’s battering ram early in the game taking the ball to the gain line as he racked up 14 carries for the Irish side – more than any other back on either team. Late on Farrell picked the perfect line as he glided around two defenders to register his club’s fifth try of the game.

Benetton 10-15 Ulster

  1. For a side that had only beaten Ulster once in the Guinness PRO14, Benetton made the perfect start to the match and they were ahead inside three minutes when Hame Faiva had too much strength to power over the line. Benetton’s dominated all the ball in the first half but were unable to capitalise on their possession and territory which led to their eventual downfall as Ulster could call on more strength in depth from the bench.
  2. Youngster James Hume on his first start for Ulster was at hand to prevent Benetton from scoring their second try of the afternoon when he forced Tommaso Benvenuti to knock on and stop the Italian from scoring in impressive style just before the break. It marked a crucial moment in the match as Ulster turned the game on its head immediately after the restart.
  3. It was a classic game of two halves in Treviso as tries from Sean Reidy and Rob Herring settled the tie in Ulster’s favour. The words of Dan McFarland clearly had an effect as Ulster saw more of the ball and their set-piece structure vastly improved to claim their fifth win of the season.

Toyota Cheetahs 26-30 Munster

  1. A thriller of a match took place in Bloemfontein and Munster had to dig deep for their win with a number of first team players away on international duty for Ireland. The players that were involved rose to the challenge and Mike Haley rounded off the victory with 12 minutes to play by completing a stunning flowing Munster move.
  2. Toyota Cheetahs certainly earned their stripes as they roared back into the game after Munster led at the break. Their prop forwards used their weight to their advantage with three tries coming from that position as Joseph Dweba scored two and Ox Nche the other.
  3. Munster had never lost to Toyota Cheetahs in their previous three outings and it was much closer this time as Munster secured their fifth win of the campaign. A loss would have had major repercussions as they aimed to close the gap that Glasgow Warriors have established at the top of Conference A. But win they did, and now the gap is eight points between top and second.

Isuzu Southern Kings 31-38 Leinster

  1. Even before the match Leinster coach Leo Cullen recognised the windy conditions could influence the game. It proved the case early on with both teams’ opening tries coming from kicks which were not gathered by the last defender. It was even more evident with both conversions swirling wide of the posts from out wide.
  2. The Kings were left to rue poor discipline as they were given three yellow cards in the first half. The South African side had started well taking the lead but were well behind by half time, with three of Leinster’s five first half tries coming when the Kings’ were down to 14 men.
  3. With just six men due to yellow cards, the Isuzu Southern Kings forwards managed to hold the powerful Leinster pack steady at a scrum at centre field in the first half. Their work was rewarded when scrum half Stefan Ungerer intercepted the ball and scored under the posts later in the play as Leinster looked to spin it wide.

Cardiff Blues 37-0 Zebre

  1. Whatever the result, the day belonged to Gethin Jenkins – who said a fond farewell to BT Cardiff Arms Park as he played his last game before retirement. The prop came on in the second half to a rapturous reception from both the players and fans, before making a positive contribution to the Blues’ win. The warmth he received was a fitting tribute to one of the Guinness PRO14’s great forwards and although he has featured less this season, he will be greatly missed by the club and the league.
  2. Jenkins leaves the Blues with his team bang in form ahead of a two-week break. After a difficult start, they have now won four of five and sit fourth in Conference A. Back-to-back away games at Glasgow Warriors and Ulster will certainly be tough but the Blues have sky-high confidence and players hitting form – with Rey Lee-Lo superb against Zebre and Steve Shingler also effective.
  3. It’s a familiar tale for Zebre, with this marking their fourth away defeat of the season and if they want to drag themselves into contention in Conference A then that record must change. They struggled to break down Cardiff’s resilient defence here and could not cope with their power runners in midfield or physicality at the breakdown. That must chance when they face Munster next up.

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