Top non-derby games to look forward to in the new season

Peter White
21 July 2019

Share this article

With the fixtures having been announced ahead of the new Guinness PRO14 season, clubs and fans alike will have by now noted some of the more obvious dates in their diaries.

Plans will be in place for the first few opening rounds and match-ups against fierce rivals, while thoughts have perhaps even stretched to the closing rounds of regular action, ten months down the line at the end of May.

But with the prospect of 14 of the globe’s top teams battling it out on a weekly basis once again, there are a number of key fixtures that may have escaped the initial search for a blockbuster tie.

Whether it’s because the fixture produced a mouth-watering spectacle last time out, there’s more than victory at stake, or that the result could prove crucial to the final standings, there are certain games you will not want to miss.

Here are five of the top non-derby games to look out for in the new campaign:

Glasgow Warriors v Leinster, Scotstoun, Sat 30 November

The Warriors entertain defending champions Leinster in the sides’ first match-up since going head-to-head in last season’s Guinness PRO14 final at Celtic Park.

Dave Rennie’s men pushed the Dublin-based side all the way in a tight encounter in May, eventually going down 18-15 in front of a record 47,128 crowd.

But having started the final so promisingly – racing into a 7-0 lead– and beaten Leo Cullen’s men 39-24 at the RDS Arena in April, last season’s Conference A winners will be confident of exacting revenge on home soil.

Victory over six-time champions Leinster will be no mean feat however, and with Stuart Hogg having departed Scotstoun for Exeter, the Warriors will have to be at their best to force a result in what is sure to be a breath-taking tie.

Zebre v Toyota Cheetahs, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Sat 4 January

Cheetahs fans will be hoping for more of the same after January’s reverse fixture saw the South African side overwhelm Zebre 61-28 in what was the highest-scoring fixture of last season’s Guinness PRO14.

Despite having finished beside one another at the foot of Conference A, the Cheetahs – who scored just three tries fewer than eventual conference winners Glasgow Warriors – ran in nine scores to punish their Italian counterparts in Bloemfontein.

While Zebre’s struggling away form was a theme of their 2018-19 season, Michael Bradley will be confident of a closer encounter having overturned the likes of Edinburgh and Cardiff Blues at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi last term.

But in contrast to the Cheetahs’ free-flowing points-scoring, the Parma-based side were the lowest points scorers in the Guinness PRO14 last year, so will they find the necessary spark to get their revenge?

Edinburgh v Ospreys, BT Murrayfield, Fri 24 April

After narrowly missing out on a spot in the Final Series last term, both Edinburgh and Ospreys will be determined to re-establish themselves among the league’s top sides this time out.

A final day defeat to Glasgow Warriors condemned Edinburgh to fifth place in Conference B, meaning Richard Cockerill’s side will also be absent from the Champions Cup despite reaching the last eight for the first time in seven years last season.

It was a campaign of mixed emotions for the Scottish club, who will be looking to convert performances into points after kicking more goals, enjoying more possession and having the best scrum of any side in the Guinness PRO14.

Ospreys managed to squeeze into Europe’s premier competition following an impressive, 21-10 play-off win over Scarlets and will be looking to build on an impressive first campaign under Allen Clarke.

The Welsh side edged a tight, 17-13 encounter in the opening round of last year against Edinburgh, and with this fixture due to take place in round 18, the result could prove pivotal in determining whether each team can finish in the top-three of their respective Conferences.

Cardiff Blues v Connacht, Cardiff Arms Park, Fri 8 May

Conference A’s third and fifth-place finishers played out two tight-knit affairs last season, and their round 19 matchup in May could prove crucial to who makes it to the Final Series, with the teams now both in Conference B.

John Mulvihill’s Blues edged this fixture 8-7 last year but dropped away from the top three because of three consecutive defeats at the end of the last campaign, including one at the Sportsground against Connacht.

Andy Friend made an immediate impression at Connacht last season and following a top-three finish and a quarter-final appearance, the Galway-based side will be aiming higher once again.

If they can replicate April’s home 29-22 win over Cardiff at Cardiff Arms Park, they will be confident of cementing their spot in the knockout rounds once again.

Benetton v Munster, Stadio Monigo, Sat 21 March

Following their epic quarter-final showdown at the end of last season, fans will be hoping for more of the same when Benetton and Munster face off in Italy next March.

Having trailed 13-6 on the hour mark, a late, long JJ Hanrahan penalty sealed a dramatic 15-13 comeback win for the Irish side against surprise package Benetton.

But having become the first Italian side to make the knockout stages of the Guinness PRO14 last term, Kieran Crowley’s men showed no signs of being overawed and will be confident they can challenge their Conference B rivals this time out.

Victory over the domestic and European semi-finalists won’t be easy however, and with the three-time champions looking to go one better this season, the fans could be set for another classic.

Share this article