Guinness PRO14 stats: McNicholl, van der Merwe and the Dragons’ defence star in Round 15

Joe Leavey
20 February 2019

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After a brief period of respite, the Guinness PRO14 returned in typically swashbuckling style this weekend, with something for everyone across Round 15’s results.

Munster stayed top of Conference A with a commanding triumph over the Isuzu Southern Kings, while behind them Glasgow Warriors edged Ospreys in a thriller as they look to hunt down the Irish province.

In Conference B Leinster bested Zebre in Lombardy, while Edinburgh Rugby and Benetton Rugby ensured that the battle behind them would go to the wire as both sides won to draw level on 41 points.

In a matchweek from which several scorelines caught the eye, here’s a look at the men behind the points, those who delivered on the day and the numbers they posted that helped see their sides home.

DUHAN THE DESTROYER

Duhan van der Merwe’s performance against the Dragons on Friday night has already been poured over in minute detail, with the South African named the Guinness PRO14 player of the round.

But it’s worth taking a look at the statistics behind his two-try tirade at BT Murrayfield, a display that drove Edinburgh to a stirring turnaround against their Welsh adversaries.

Van der Merwe beat seven defenders with his characteristic mixture of power and trickery out wide as he takes his total for the season up to 57 – the most of anyone in the Guinness PRO14.

Add to that his 97 metres gained – leaving him second overall with 883m to his name – then addthree clean breaks and the reason for van der Merwe’s brilliance this season becomes clear.

DRAGONS BATTLE IN VAIN

On the flipside of Edinburgh’s triumph under the Friday night lights is a dogged Dragons performance that does not deserve to go unnoticed.

Ceri Jones’ men took a 17-14 lead into the half-time break and looked good value for their advantage, and a gritty start to the second 40 that staunchly oriented their performance around their defence initially looked as though it might bear fruit.

And but for a determined Magnus Bradbury and dazzling van der Merwe, it might well have, with the numbers certainly backing up their cause.

Three of their number occupied the top four tacklers of Round 15, with Harrison Keddie leading the lot with 25 brutish takedowns in an unerringly tenacious display.

MAESTRO MCNICHOLL

It was an all-round display of attacking brilliance from the Scarlets full-back Johnny McNicholl who, in spite of his side ending up on the wrong end of the scoreline against Benetton, grabbed a pair of tries, chalking up some imperious numbers in the process.

What makes his performance all the more remarkable is the efficiency with which he used the ball throughout.

On only 14 carries – six less than Andrew Conway – the 28-year-old made 115m and shipped four offloads, in both cases more than anyone else in Round 15.

He also beat five defenders and made two clean breaks to underline a devastating performance with ball in-hand, whether he was running, dodging, breaking tackles or dishing offloads.

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