Guinness PRO14 Takeaways: Round 13

Luke Baker
07 January 2019

Share this article

Round 13 in the Guinness PRO14 threw up plenty of fascinating clashes as all 14 teams jockeyed for position ahead of the European break.

Leinster stayed in control of Conference B with a convincing home win, although the picture behind them is incredibly murky with second-placed Edinburgh and fifth-placed Ulster separated by just two points.

Munster went to the summit of Conference A with a battling win on the road at Connacht and Glasgow Warriors slipping up against Benetton Rugby, while Toyota Cheetahs were impressive in beating Zebre in Parma.

Here are the major talking points from the weekend’s fixtures.

Benetton Rugby 20-17 Glasgow Warriors

  1. The biggest takeaway from this match is Benetton Rugby’s red-hot form that sees them up to third in the Conference B table. The Treviso-based side have won seven of their 13 matches and have now won four on the trot – one of their best runs ever in the competition. The Isuzu Southern Kings, Zebre (twice) and now Glasgow Warriors have all been vanquished, with plenty of talk about Benetton reaching the Guinness PRO14 Finals Series.
  2. Benetton’s win was set up by the power of second row Dean Budd, who crashed over on 14 and 28 minutes, proving unstoppable from five metres out each time. Skippering the side, Budd led from the front all afternoon with an unrelenting display that meant Benetton looked the more dominant side for most of the game. The 32-year-old will be a crucial cog in the push for the Finals Series, as well as for Conor O’Shea’s national side.
  3. Glasgow never looked out of this one and despite their third Guinness PRO14 defeat in a row will be buoyed by the display of centre Sam Johnson. With the likes of Alex Dunbar, Nick Grigg, Huw Jones and Peter Horne, the Warriors are blessed in this department but Johnson gave a reminder of his talents with an excellent display. The 25-year-old beat five defenders and took 44 metres from his 12 carries, one of which was over the line for his try and another stepping move set up George Horne for the second score.

Ospreys 20-11 Cardiff Blues

  1. Tries from Scott Williams and George North ensured Ospreys got their season back on track as they came out on top in a scrappy Welsh derby. The hosts were in control from the start and while the Blues showed plenty of fight, especially in the tight second half, they never looked like ending their 14-year losing streak at the Liberty Stadium.
  2. It was a good response from Allen Clarke’s side after they became the first Welsh region in four years to be beaten by the Dragons in their previous outing. A win for the Blues would have seen them complete a hat-trick of Welsh derby victories over the festive period, but Garyn Smith’s try and two penalties from Gareth Anscombe was not enough to achieve the clean sweep.
  3. Justin Tipuric was a constant thorn in the side of Cardiff, with the Ospreys captain setting the standard throughout as he kept popping up all over the pitch. The victory did come at a cost for Ospreys, though, with Wales lock Adam Beard leaving the field on a stretcher wearing a neck brace after two minutes, while fellow international Rhodri Jones was also forced off.

Leinster Rugby 40-7 Ulster Rugby

  1. ‘You are most vulnerable after you score’ – that is what how the old saying goes and Ulster proved it to be true in this instance. Sean Cronin’s early double put Leinster in control before the visitors dragged themselves back into the contest on 17 minutes through Adam McBurney. However, they leaked a try just 60 seconds after that as Conor O’Brien danced through tackles to dot down and they didn’t look back after that.
  2. Young fly-half Ciaran Frawley ironically missed his easiest kick of the match after O’Brien’s try to relinquish his perfect record in the competition, but he was otherwise very impressive with the boot throughout the game. The 21-year-old slotted his other four conversions and controlled the game with his kicking out of hand. Leinster appear to have unearthed another gem and No.10 to provide further depth behind Johnny Sexton and Ross Byrne.
  3. Leinster’s pack rarely looked under pressure as they controlled the breakdown and the set-piece to create a platform for their backs. And the loss of loosehead prop Kyle McCall – who had already made 14 tackles in a little over a half – to injury on 48 minutes appeared to be the final blow to the Ulster forwards as they struggled to cope.

Scarlets 22-13 Dragons

  1. If Scarlets were to get back to winning ways and end a five-game losing streak, the visit of Dragons historically presents a welcome relief to Wayne Pivac’s men. The Dragons had never won at Parc y Scarlets in 11 visits and their sorry away record once again showed as a second-half try from Sam Hidalgo-Clyne claimed the spoils for the injury-struck hosts.
  2. With injuries forcing Ken Owens to start at No.8 – with centre Hadleigh Parkes apparently the next option to fill the position – penalties appeared to be the order of the day in the first half as Dan Jones fired four kicks between the posts in an otherwise cagey opening. But the game swung after the restart when the ball was switched wide to Ioan Nicholas who extended Scarlets’ advantage after a neat flowing move.
  3. The game was sealed when replacement scrum-half Hidalgo-Clyne showed a fine piece of enterprise by kicking and running before diving straight over the line to score his side’s second try of the match. The feat ensured Dragons slipped to their 39th successive away defeat despite a stunning late consolation try by James Benjamin after a fine breakaway.

Connacht Rugby 24-31 Munster Rugby

  1. Dominant in collision and with Joey Carbery and Andrew Conway dictating play in the backs, Munster looked every inch the Guinness PRO14 title contenders at the Sportsground. Connacht had won four of their last five games heading into the clash with their fierce rivals, but were regularly kept at arm’s length despite Tom Farrell’s early try. Backing up victory over Leinster with success on the road in Galway shows that Johann van Graan’s side are hitting top form at just the right time.
  2. It was fitting that Joey Carbery’s delightful try was the decisive moment at the Sportsground. Not only did it put the game beyond Connacht, but it also served as just rewards for a player that is growing in stature in a Munster jersey. After controlling much of the game with his boot, the Ireland international beautifully stepped the home defence to put his province 14 points ahead. His form gives the reigning Six Nations champions another fine option at fly-half ahead of the upcoming Championship and validates his decision to swap Dublin for Limerick in search of more game-time. An honourable mention, too, for Connacht’s Tom Farrell in a losing cause. The scorer of one try and the creator of another, Farrell may well have just advanced his own case for inclusion in Joe Schmidt’s Guinness Six Nations squad.
  3. It’s rare that a side already in the ascendancy can call on players of the quality of Conor Murray and CJ Stander off the bench, but that’s just what Johann van Graan was able to do at the Sportsground. Murray added extra poise to the visitors’ play, while Stander injected dynamism into the Munster back-row. From then on, there was only one winner. Both will be crucial not just to the province’s chances of success in the coming months, but also their national team’s too.

Edinburgh Rugby 38-0 Isuzu Southern Kings

  1. At the start of the day, Cameron Fenton could never have dreamed of scoring off the bench as he wasn’t initially included in it. He was only called among the replacements when David Cherry picked up an injury in the warm-up but came on just before the hour mark to replace Ross Ford and five minutes later had his try by barrelling over.
  2. Three tries in the first ten minutes effectively killed the game and put Edinburgh out of sight. To their credit, Kings did well not to concede again right up until the half-time whistle, when they let their guard down once more and Rory Sutherland sealed the four-try bonus point.
  3. The resounding victory means that Edinburgh are up into second and an all-important Guinness PRO14 Finals Series spot in Conference B but they still trail leaders Leinster by a mammoth 19 points. Furthermore, the battle for positioning behind the Irishmen is incredibly tight, with fifth-placed Ulster only trailing Edinburgh by two points – making the next few rounds of fixtures all-important.

Zebre Rugby Club 12-27 Toyota Cheetahs

  1. Toyota Cheetahs clinched their third Guinness PRO14 victory of the campaign with a comfortable 27-12 away victory against Zebre Rugby. A brace from Benhard Janse van Rensburg put the South Africans in the ascendancy and they never looked back after pulling off a barnstorming second period. Zebre were unable to hit back – failing to score a point after the restart.
  2. Key to the Cheetahs’ victory came from the enigmatic figure of van Rensburg, who crossed either side of half-time to put his side ahead. The bulldozer of a centre powered his way over the line and his big frame couldn’t be stopped by the Italians on either occasion.
  3. Franco Smith’s men truly started to turn the screw in the last ten minutes when George Biagi was given a yellow card for collapsing the scrum. With the man advantage, Cheetahs notched up their bonus point as Reinach Venter and Daniel Maartens crossed the whitewash from rolling mauls. The win puts daylight between them and Zebre with two games in hand.

Share this article