Guinness Pro14 end of season

17/05/2018

After 21 rounds of the regular season we are down to the semi- finals of two Irish teams Leinster and Munster, one Welsh - the holders Scarlets and one Scottish Glasgow. No Italian or South African team managed to get to this stage of the competition.

Leinster host Munster in the RDS on a Saturday and the other semi is the day before on Friday night in Scotstoun.
The final is scheduled for The Aviva Stadium on the 26th May at 6 pm

In Conference A: the Glasgow stats are P21 - Won 15, drew 1, lost 5, scored 614 points including 81 tries and had a points difference of 366

Runners-up Munster P21 - Won 14, drew 1, lost 7, scored 568 points including 78 tries and had a points difference of 361

Not much of a difference there between the top two clubs - so both are serious contenders for the championship
Bottom of the table is reserved for Michael Bradley’s Zebre, Played 21, won 7 and lost 14, it looks bad but it is a 100% increase in wins from last season - so Michael is making progress

In Conference B: the Leinster stats are P21, won 14, drew 1, lost 6, scored 601 points including 83 tries and had a points difference of 227

Runners-up Scarlets on the same overall points: P21, won 14, drew 1 lost 6, and scored 528 points including 69 tries, with a points difference of 163

Leinster had the edge here with more points on the board.

Bottom of the table and the under performers in this conference and in the competition were Southern Kings: P 21 Won 1 and lost 21. So it is obvious that this needs to be addressed by the competition as having whipping teams creates an imbalance.

Treviso perform much better this season by winning half of their games and are worthy competitors now- the most improved team.

We are still left with four teams and the standout team is Leinster - with the European Champions Cup under their belt now - they will be difficult to beat with a big classy squad. Like all Clubs they will have casualties but with 20 players with Grand Slam medals in addition to the recent Euro cup win, they are well capable of going the distance and win.

No doubt they will point to their casualties from last week but they have the fire power to see all competitors off. It is 2012 since they last won the Champions Cup, or indeed since an Irish Club played in the final - so not exactly overnight success for this group under Leo Cullen, ITT - it takes time.

But with the mixed age group in the squad it is hoped that they can hold it together for a repeat next season. This will be the real test for Cullen and for Joe Schmidt for a double Champions Cup / Grand slam and in RWC 2019 Japan year - we need to make the semis in the ultimate competition and get a meaningful label of a top four place in the world rankings.

No doubt Munster will want to win this game (spoil the party is rhetoric / meaningless words) - they want to win for themselves because they are Munster (The Reds) and that is what they are bred to do.

Their recent record is suspect- failure to get to the Champions Cup final was a huge disappointment in performance - Racing Metro exposed them with a first half blitz and the 14 points in the last few minutes did not soften the blow.
 
Many of their seasoned experienced players did not perform and the trip to South Africa in the previous weeks was questioned in addition to the starting fifteen selections.

They have had time off to regroup and to up their performance for the clash with Leinster; they will come in fresh for this encounter and with the best team available on the day. I expect Simon Zebo to start and play well for a Dublin farewell to this popular player. Conor Murray will have benefitted from the rest with Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander and these Lions are expected to lead the charge and make it very difficult for the European champions.

On form they will come up short again this time due to the brilliance and doggedness - which they showed in Bilbao, of the Blues - who at this point are the most difficult team to beat in Europe. I will not accept any hangover reasons from a full professional side - it’s their job, they owe to themselves first, their families and last but not least the ever present fan base.

In the other semi-final, Glasgow look to have the upper hand - at home, fresh, no European competition to distract them against the current PRO14 champions Scarlet’s.

Scotland is performing well at international level and their standard if definitely up from previous years. With a backbone of their national team - it could be their year.

Wayne Pivac - the Scarlets coach created havoc this time last year by defeating both Leinster and Munster in the semi and the final - the cheek of him. But he produced a super team to round off a very successful season for the Welsh region. So the only question is can he do it again and retain his title. It is “another year” on - a long time in rugby.

The betting is: Glasgow 4/5 and Scarlets 1/1
Leinster 1/4 and Munster 3/1

Playoff game for Champions Cup Qualification:

In the mid section of the PRO 14 there is a very important game for two clubs as Ulster and Ospreys go head to head this weekend to see which of them qualify for next season’s Champion Cup. It came as a bit of a surprise for both teams from the PRO14, but they have had time to pull their squads together for a very important clash.

Allen Clarke - former Ulster player and Champions cup medal winner with them in 1999 is the head coach at Ospreys now - though recently appointed - he will be very keen to win. Not just because it is his former club but he needs this qualification badly for next season, he is on a salvaging mission in May 2018.
 

Report by Frank Quinn