The GUINNESS PRO14 returns after a short break with a full programme during the first rest week of the Six Nations. The race for the play-off places is as tight as ever with two points separating four teams in Conference A, while that is also the case in Conference B.
In Conference A, Munster and Glasgow Warriors have a little breathing space ahead of the chasing pack, while only Leinster look safe in Conference B as teams target a place in the final series. The focus is narrowing on the GUINNESS PRO14 final on Saturday, May 25, which will take place at Celtic Park – fans can book their places now by clicking here to get their hands on the best seats.
The action kicks off on Friday night when two teams right in play-off contention face off at Brewery Field in Bridgend when the Ospreys host Ulster. The Welsh side have been up and down in recent PRO14 fixtures, with their last game a low-scoring 9-3 defeat to Glasgow Warriors.
While they are still in the Conference A final series spots, they have very little margin for error sitting just two points clear of the Toyota Cheetahs in sixth. Ulster, meanwhile, needed a late penalty try to snatch a home draw with Benetton last time out. That score could prove crucial come the end of the season, but only if Dan McFarland’s men can end a run of three straight defeats on the road in the Championship.
Also on Friday night, Munster will look to cement their position at the top of Conference A when they welcome the Isuzu Southern Kings to Irish Independent Park. Having won five in-a-row in all competitions, Johann van Graan’s charges come into the game in fine form against a Kings team still searching for a first win on the road. Munster have not lost in 17 successive home games, with their last defeat in Cork coming all the way back in 2016 when Cardiff Blues were victorious there.
The final game of the night sees Edinburgh entertain the Dragons at BT Murrayfield. Richard Cockerill’s side will be looking to bounce back from defeat away to the Kings last time out, leaving them just one point clear of the Scarlets in the race for a top-three finish. Prior to that, they had won seven in-a-row in all competitions, while the Scots have not lost at home since April. The Dragons, meanwhile, were narrowly denied at home to Munster last time out, and are still without a win in Scotland in the Championship since 2013.
Two teams at opposite ends of their respective conferences meet in Viadana in Saturday with Zebre taking on Leinster. It will be the first time that Zebre have played a home game outside Parma, as they go to Stadio Luigi Zaffanella, which formerly hosted Aironi’s games in the competition. They face a Leinster team that have won all 11 meetings between the sides. Zebre have not won in the PRO14 since the end of October, losing home and away to the Toyota Cheetahs in their last two games.
A big game in Conference A sees Connacht welcome the Toyota Cheetahs to the Sportsground. Only two points separate the teams, with Connacht having edged the previous meeting in Bloemfontein 21-17 at the start of December. The Cheetahs have since hit some form, winning their last two games on the road, but they have never managed three successive away wins in the PRO14. Connacht have stumbled a little in recent weeks, following a good start to the season, with just one win in their last four in the league.
A draw that could easily have been a win away to Ulster was enough to keep Benetton Rugby in second place in Conference B ahead of their clash with the Scarlets. With so little between the four sides battling for two spots – Ulster and Edinburgh the others in contention – it is impossible to predict who will make it with any confidence.
For Benetton, a second win over the Scarlets since 2013 would consolidate their hopes of finishing in the top three, and they face a Scarlets team who have won just once on the road in all competitions this season. Benetton are unbeaten in five in the Championship since a defeat to the Cheetahs back in November.
Finally, on Saturday evening, Cardiff play host to Glasgow at Cardiff Arms Park. The Blues edged past Connacht last time out, and have won three of their last four in the league to stay right in the hunt for the final series. Their only PRO14 defeat of the season at home came on the opening weekend against Leinster, a record they will be keen to extend against the Warriors. After an exceptional start, Dave Rennie’s men had stumbled a little over the Christmas period, but their hard-fought victory over the Ospreys gave them a little more margin for error in Conference A.
GUINNESS PRO14 – ROUND 15 FIXTURES:
Friday, February 15 –
Edinburgh (3rd, Con B) v Dragons (6th, Con B), BT Murrayfield, 7.35pm (live Premier Sports 2/deferred eir Sport 2)
MUNSTER (1st, Con A) v Isuzu Southern Kings (7th, Con B), Irish Independent Park, 7.35pm (live eir Sport 1/SuperSport 1/Free Sports/highlights TG4)
Ospreys (3rd, Con A) v ULSTER (5th, Con B), Morganstone Brewery Field, 7.35pm (live Premier Sports 1/eir Sport 2)
Saturday, February 16 –
Zebre (7th, Con A) v LEINSTER (1st, Con B), Stadio Luigi Zaffanella, Viadana, 3.30pm local time/2.30pm Irish time (live Premier Sports 2/eir Sport 1/DAZN/highlights TG4)
Benetton Rugby (2nd, Con B) v Scarlets (4th, Con B), Stadio di Monigo, 6.15pm local time (live Premier Sports 1/eir Sport 2/DAZN/S4C)
CONNACHT (4th, Con A) v Toyota Cheetahs (6th, Con A), the Sportsground, 5.30pm (live TG4/Premier Sports 2/SuperSport 1/deferred eir Sport 1)
Cardiff Blues (5th, Con A) v Glasgow Warriors (2nd, Con A), Cardiff Arms Park, 7.35pm (live Premier Sports 1/eir Sport 2)
TOP PERFORMERS IN GUINNESS PRO14 AFTER ROUND 14 (Powered by Opta Statistics):
TOP POINTS SCORERS –
Sam Davies (Ospreys) 124
Jack Carty (Connacht) 109
Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues) 96
Masixole Banda (Isuzu Southern Kings) 96
Tian Schoeman (Toyota Cheetahs) 84
TOP TRY SCORERS –
Sibahle Maxwane (Toyota Cheetahs) 10
Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues) 7
Luke Morgan (Ospreys) 7
Yaw Penxe (Isuzu Southern Kings) 7
George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 6
Shaun Venter (Toyota Cheetahs) 6
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 6
METRES GAINED –
Malcolm Jaer (Toyota Cheetahs) 930
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 786
Jordan Williams (Dragons) 768
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 758
Sibahle Maxwane (Toyota Cheetahs) 743
MOST CARRIES –
Bill Mata (Edinburgh) 188
Marcell Coetzee (Ulster) 143
Luke Hamilton (Edinburgh) 142
Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors) 132
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster) 130
CLEAN BREAKS –
Sibahle Maxwane (Toyota Cheetahs) 24
Malcolm Jaer (Toyota Cheetahs) 19
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 19
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 17
George North (Ospreys) 15
DEFENDERS BEATEN –
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 50
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 47
Tom Farrell (Connacht) 37
Kyle Godwin (Connacht) 34
Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues) 32
Monty Ioane (Benetton Rugby) 32
MOST OFFLOADS –
Tom Farrell (Connacht) 22
Iliesa Ratuva (Benetton Rugby) 18
Marco Barbini (Benetton Rugby) 15
Nico Lee (Toyota Cheetahs) 15
Monty Ioane (Benetton Rugby) 15
MOST TACKLES –
Olly Cracknell (Ospreys) 171
Olly Robinson (Cardiff Blues) 165
Jarrad Butler (Connacht) 156
John-Charles Astle (Isuzu Southern Kings) 156
Josh Turnbull (Cardiff Blues) 155
TURNOVERS WON –
Olly Robinson (Cardiff Blues) 19
Marcell Coetzee (Ulster) 17
Owen Watkin (Ospreys) 16
Nick Williams (Cardiff Blues) 13
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster) 12
LINEOUT STEALS –
Junior Sipato Pokomela (Toyota Cheetahs) 7
Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) 6
Braam Steyn (Benetton Rugby) 6
James King (Ospreys) 6
Scott Fardy (Leinster) 5
Cory Hill (Dragons) 5
George Biagi (Zebre) 5
Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) 5
Tadhg Beirne (Munster) 5
For more statistics, please visit www.pro14rugby.org/statistics/powered-by-opta/