Cardiff Blues will travel to an undefeated Glasgow Warriors side on Friday night in an attempt to claim their third victory in a row.
Warriors have only lost one Guinness PRO14 game at Scotsoun Stadium since February, and will look to continue this impressive record against the resurgent Blues.
What’s at stake?
Glasgow are 12 points clear at the top of Conference A and are in excellent form having beaten the Ospreys 47-6 last weekend. The Blues are enjoying a positive run of form enabling them to take fourth spot in the table and are just six points adrift of third-placed Toyota Cheetahs. A win here would see them close in on the Cheetahs who have a hugely-important match against the Scarlets in South Africa.
Team news (Glasgow Warriors): Head Coach Dave Rennie makes five changes to the side who dispatched Ospreys at the weekend – bringing in his international stars. Despite a fantastic performance last week, scrum-half George Horne is replaced by Henry Pyrgos who partners Peter Horne in the halfbacks. Alex Dunbar returns from Scotland duty to make up the centre pairing with Sam Johnson – whilst the back three is unchanged due to Stuart Hogg’s hip injury. Tongan International Siua Halanukonuka makes his first start in the front row alongside George Turner and Alex Allen.
Team news (Cardiff Blues): After an impressive display off the bench last week, Gareth Anscombe will captain the side for the first time from full-back. He is joined by returning USA international Blaine Scully and Owen Lane, who received his first professional contract earlier this week. Three changes are made to the pack with Josh Turnbull returning to the blindside whilst Macauley Cook moves to second row to partner George Earle. Brad Thyer and Kirby Myhill come into the front three.
Talking points: Despite Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson’s injury worries this week, he’s confident heading into the game after a run of six wins in their last eight matches in all competitions.
He said: “We’re still able to put out a side that I’m confident that can go out to perform against the in-form team in the Championship at the moment. We took them as close as can be at our place and could’ve had a home win, which would’ve been quite a feat considering the form they’re now in.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge, we know they’re going to have some internationals back, but it comes off the back of some good wins in the PRO14 so we can go up there with a bit of confidence.”
Key Battle: Gareth Anscombe v Ruaridh Jackson
Anscombe came off the bench against Connacht and proved to be the difference last week. The full-back scored ten points with the boot and also set up a try for Lane. The Welsh international will be wearing the captain’s armband on Friday and will look to hurt Glasgow from the back. Jackson will have some big boots to fill due to the absence of Hogg, who without the injury sustained at the weekend would likely have been in the No.15 shirt.
Key Stat: Warriors wing Leonardo Sarto was one of the top performers across the Guinness PRO14 last week, running for a whopping 170 metres.
Did you know? Glasgow’s only defeat at Scotstoun since February in the Guinness PRO14 came in round 22 of last season, against their fiercest rivals, Edinburgh.
Glasgow Warriors: Ruaridh Jackson, Lelia Masaga, Alex Dunbar, Sam Johnson, Leonardo Sarto, Peter Horne, Henry Pyrgos, Alex Allen, George Turner, Siua Halanukonuka, Kiran McDonald, Scott Cummings, Callum Gibbins (C), Matt Smith, Ryan Wilson
Replacements: James Malcolm, Jamie Bhatti, D’Arcy Rae, Brian Alainu’uese, Samu Vunisa, George Horne, Adam Hastings, Niko Matawalu
Cardiff Blues: Gareth Anscombe (C); Owen Lane, Garyn Smith, Willis Halaholo, Blaine Scully; Jarrod Evans, Tomos Williams; Brad Thyer, Kirby Myhill, Taufa’ao Filise, George Earle, Macauley Cook, Josh Turnbull, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams
Replacements: Ethan Lewis, Corey Domachowski, Anton Peikrishvili, James Down, Damian Welch, Dane Blacker, Rey Lee-Lo, Tom James
TV: BBC Alba
Match officials – Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU), AR1: Lloyd Linton (SRU), AR2: Keith Allen (SRU) TMO: Andrew McMenemy (SRU)
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie
Glasgow Warriors maintained their perfect record and secured their tenth successive Guinness PRO14 win with a 40-16 victory over Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun.
Macauley Cook had given the Blues an early lead but tries from Sam Johnson and Alex Dunbar, either side of Taufa’ao Filise’s red card, saw the Warriors lead at the break.
Tries for Ruaridh Jackson and Samuela Vunisa secured the bonus point, the Warriors’ eighth of the campaign, with Leo Sarto and Nikola Matawalu adding the gloss to the scoreline late on.
The visitors had the perfect start when captain for the evening Gareth Anscombe pointed to the posts with just 22 seconds gone and Jarrod Evans put the Blues 3-0 ahead.
And when the Blues worked an overlap on the left, second row Cook was in the right place at the right time to dive over and extend their lead with Evans adding the conversion.
An excellent crossfield kick from Peter Horne found Sam Johnson on 19 minutes and the centre brushed off two tackles before touching down for the hosts’ first try.
Fly-half Horne added the extras before Evans replied with a penalty before Nigel Owens, in conjuction with the TMO, decided to show a red card to Filise for dangerous play.
With the man advantage, Glasgow were soon able to take the lead through Alex Dunbar as he forced his way over from close range on the half hour mark.
Horne, again, added the extras and the Warriors led by a single point at the break.
Evans restored the Blues lead early in the second-half but Glasgow were soon knocking on the door again as Olly Robinson paid the price for one too many infringements with a yellow card.
And with Blues down to 13, there was space for Horne to spin a high pass out wide to full-back Jackson to catch and dot down out-wide.
The Glasgow fly-half followed up his assist with the conversion and the Warriors led 21-16 after 56 minutes.
A bonus point try wasn’t far away though as the Warriors continued to dominate territory and possession with Vanisa forcing his way over from close range.
And the Warriors remain comfortably top of Conference A with Sarto touching down an excellent grubber kick into the corner with three minutes to go.
But there was still time for a piece of individual brilliance from Matawalu who collected his own chip over the Blues defence before sprinting away and scoring under the posts.
Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie