The Guinness PRO14’s toughest away fixtures

Joe Leavey
19 July 2019

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The Guinness PRO14 boasts some of the most famous stadia in some of the most celebrated rugby cities across the globe.

From Free State Stadium to the Aviva, from Rodney Parade to Murrayfield; it is a veritable bucket list of the sport’s most iconic landmarks.

While for fans it offers the chance to travel the world and tick each trip off, for the players, there are certain places that have built up a fearful reputation over the years.

Several stirring home records are boasted by notable Guinness PRO14 outfits, sides who have taken the term ‘fortress’ literally.

And with next season’s fixtures due to be announced imminently, teams will get a chance to circle the trips that will need extra special attention.

Here is a look at some of the most fearsome.

The Parc y Scarlets curse

Teams visiting Llanelli between the dates of 4 September 2016 and 28 December 2018 made the trip knowing that they would be in need of more than skill to emerge with victory; the stars would have to be aligned to the millimetre.

After losing to Munster on the opening day of the 2016/17 season, Scarlets went on a truly remarkable run on home turf; it would be 26 games and over two years until they would be defeated on their own patch again.

It was a run that took in a 23-21 triumph over eventual champions Leinster in Round 2 this season, a 26-8 win over Glasgow Warriors, and a 40-17 downing of local rivals Ospreys.

The combination of a fervent home support in the stands and a menacing red army on the field formed a combination that was, for a time, unbeatable, and feared throughout the lands.

It was only when compatriots Cardiff Blues came to town in a festive derby weekend that the proud record was snapped, Ray Lee-Lo’s double giving the visitors day to remember; but the home fans will forever have those two years to look back on.

Toyota Stadium flutters

When the Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs turned 12 into 14 at the start of the 2017/18 season, their arrival did not merely herald a sunny fortnight in South Africa, but a pair of tricky away trips to navigate.

That proved particularly resonant when sides turned up in Bloemfontein at the Toyota Stadium to face the Cheetahs on home turf, with many emerging with their tails between their legs.

Statement triumphs over Leinster (38-19), Edinburgh Rugby (33-13) and the Ospreys (44-25) led them all the way to a third-place finish in Conference A, where their run was eventually ended by the Scarlets, who were in the midst of their own exceptional home stand.

Leinster’s grand stage

Reigning Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster have not only one, but two world-class stadiums for opponents to consider.

And while the RDS serves primarily as their home, on the occasion that they play the hosts at the Aviva, it seldom goes well for those visiting.

Last season 50,120 baying fans roared on as they toppled rivals Munster 30-22, while the year before they sealed their title at the same stadium, downing the Scarlets 40-32.

All in all, Leo Cullen’s men have faced off 28 times in all competitions at the Dublin ground since it was reopened in 2010, winning 24 of them – a frightening 86% record.

Thomond torment

The side possessing of what is currently the most daunting Guinness PRO14 record at home, however, is Johann van Graan’s Munster.

It is rare indeed for a side to go through a whole season with an unblemished record at home (even the Scarlets were foisted in 2017/18 by a pesky 10-10 draw with Leinster), but Munster did just that in 2018/19.

Eleven matches played, 11 won, with Glasgow Warriors, Connacht, Ulster, Edinburgh and Leinster all among those felled in the famous Limerick stadium, while Benetton completed the list when they missed out 15-13 in the quarter-finals.

In fact, the Red Army have lost only once at home in the Guinness PRO14 since February 2017 – a 34-24 defeat to Leinster in December of that year.

When the fixtures for the 2019/20 season are released, therefore, teams will be best advised to circle, underline and bolden up their trip to Thomond Park, for it will require a superhuman effort to roll over the Munstermen in Limerick.

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