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GUINNESS PRO14: Round 18 Preview

GUINNESS PRO14: Round 18 Preview

Connacht centre Tom Farrell throws an offload during their impressive 46-5 bonus point win at home to the Ospreys last time out in the GUINNESS PRO14 ©INPHO/James Crombie

After five mouth-watering weekends of Six Nations rugby, the GUINNESS PRO14 returns this weekend. The Irish contingent will be particularly keen to take out their frustrations following a disappointing defeat to new Grand Slam champions Wales in Cardiff.

In the Conference tables, Glasgow Warriors now hold a slight advantage over Munster in Conference A, while Leinster have cemented their home semi-final, Benetton lead the chasing pack in Conference B. The focus is narrowing on the GUINNESS PRO14 final on Saturday, May 25, which will take place at Celtic Park in Glasgow – fans can book their places now by clicking here to get their hands on the best seats.

Round 18 kicks off on Friday night with a triple header of action, most notably involving Cardiff Blues hosting the Scarlets at the Arms Park in an all-Welsh cross-conference clash. The Scarlets are up 20-11 in previous meetings between these two fourth-placed sides and have also outscored Cardiff in the PRO14 this year.

Yet their most recent meeting, in the Christmas-to-New Year period certainly was ‘Blue’, Cardiff prevailing 34-5 in Llanelli. Both regions have won their most recent two matches while losing the preceding game. If the Scarlets lose, their challenge for the third qualification spot in Conference B is effectively over, while the Blues can just about afford to lose as they are currently level on points with third-placed Connacht – neither of whom have a good chance of catching Munster in second.

Unbeaten in eight fixtures, Benetton Rugby travel to the Sportsground to face Connacht in a key battle across the conferences. The Treviso-based club have historically lost more than they have won (10-4) against Connacht, but their dazzling recent form makes them arguably favourites for this one, despite it being played in the much chillier west of Ireland. 

Connacht smashed the Ospreys last time out but were downed by Glasgow Warriors the match beforehand and have a lot of ground to make up on their provincial rivals Munster, who are 11 points clear in second spot.

Another 7.35pm Friday night kick-off sees Edinburgh face Leinster at BT Murrayfield. The Scots are aiming to regain momentum in Conference B. Having won three on the trot over the Christmas-and-New Year period, the Warriors have won just one in four since, most recently losing to Benetton. Edinburgh have it all to play for against a Leinster team who triumphed 31-7 in their last meeting and have not yet lost in 2019.

Returning Grand Slam heroes battle it out at the Liberty Stadium in another Welsh derby in the shape of Ospreys v Dragons. The Newport outfit are playing for pride now while the Ospreys need both Connacht and Cardiff to falter to have a chance of joining Munster and Glasgow in the knockout stages. There was just a single point in 45 between the two sides at the Dragons’ home earlier in the season.

The Saturday tea-time game sees Ulster take on the Isuzu Southern Kings at Kingspan Stadium. The Kings have never beaten the Ulstermen in three previous meetings, the province could do with this record continuing as they aim to catch Benetton in their close battle for the home quarter-final spot in Conference B. Ulster have not lost in four while the Kings have not won in four.

Glasgow Warriors play the Toyota Cheetahs at Scotstoun Stadium with Munster breathing down their necks, three points behind in Conference A. The only side below the Cheetahs in the table, Zebre, have exactly half their points tally at this stage. So, while in little danger of being caught, a late run from the Bloemfontein side could take them above the Ospreys to a more respectable fifth-place finish. Similar to Ulster’s record against the other South African side, the Cheetahs have never beaten the Warriors in their three meetings, Glasgow prevailing 52-24 the last time they met.

Zebre travel to Thomond Park to take on Munster, hoping to end the longest one-sided head-to-head record in the PRO14. Munster lost a tight affair away to the Scarlets 10-6 last time out, but are still well set to challenge Glasgow right to the wire. Zebre are merely playing for pride having not won since beating Edinburgh 34-16 in October in one of just three victories all season.


Friday, March 22 –

Cardiff Blues (4th, Con A) v Scarlets (4th, Con B), Cardiff Arms Park, 7.35pm (live Premier Sports 1/eir Sport 2/DAZN)

CONNACHT (3rd, Con A) v Benetton Rugby (2nd, Con B), the Sportsground, 7.35pm (live TG4/DAZN/Free Sports/deferred eir Sport 1)

Edinburgh (5th, Con B) v LEINSTER (1st, Con B), BT Murrayfield, 7.35pm (live Premier Sports 2/eir Sport 1/highlights TG4)

Saturday, March 23 –

Ospreys (5th, Con A) v Dragons (7th, Con B), Liberty Stadium, 3pm (live Premier Sports 1/eir Sport 2)

ULSTER (3rd, Con B) v Isuzu Southern Kings (6th, Con B), Kingspan Stadium, 5.30pm (live Premier Sports 1/eir Sport 1&2/SuperSport CSN)

MUNSTER (2nd, Con A) v Zebre (7th, Con A), Thomond Park, 7.45pm (live TG4/Premier Sports 2/eir Sport 1/DAZN)

Glasgow Warriors (1st, Con A) v Toyota Cheetahs (6th, Con A), Scotstoun Stadium, 7.45pm (live Premier Sports 1/eir Sport 2/SuperSport 1)



Sam Davies (Ospreys) 124
Jack Carty (Connacht) 119
Masixole Banda (Isuzu Southern Kings) 103
Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues) 96
Tian Schoeman (Toyota Cheetahs) 94


Sibahle Maxwane (Toyota Cheetahs) 13
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 8
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 8
George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 7
Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues) 7
Luke Morgan (Ospreys) 7
Yaw Penxe (Isuzu Southern Kings) 7
Shaun Venter (Toyota Cheetahs) 7


Malcolm Jaer (Toyota Cheetahs) 996
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 970
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 925
Sibahle Maxwane (Toyota Cheetahs) 917
Dan Evans (Ospreys) 855


Bill Mata (Edinburgh) 221
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster) 170
Arno Botha (Munster) 158
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 153
Adam Ashe (Glasgow Warriors) 153


Sibahle Maxwane (Toyota Cheetahs) 28
Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 23
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 22
Paul Asquith (Scarlets) 20
Malcolm Jaer (Toyota Cheetahs) 20


Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh) 61
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 55
Monty Ioane (Benetton Rugby) 45
Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues) 43
Tom Farrell (Connacht) 41


Tom Farrell (Connacht) 26
Monty Ioane (Benetton Rugby) 26
Iliesa Ratuva (Benetton Rugby) 23
Marco Barbini (Benetton Rugby) 20
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster) 19
Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) 19


Olly Cracknell (Ospreys) 225
Tienie Burger (Isuzu Southern Kings) 220
Olly Robinson (Cardiff Blues) 214
John-Charles Astle (Isuzu Southern Kings) 213
Gerhardus Olivier (Toyota Cheetahs) 193


Olly Robinson (Cardiff Blues) 23
Nick Williams (Cardiff Blues) 20
Marcell Coetzee (Ulster) 17
Owen Watkin (Ospreys) 16
Tadhg Beirne (Munster) 15
Gerhardus Olivier (Toyota Cheetahs) 15


Tadhg Beirne (Munster) 7
Junior Sipato Pokomela (Toyota Cheetahs) 7
James King (Ospreys) 7
Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) 6
Scott Fardy (Leinster) 6
Braam Steyn (Benetton Rugby) 6
George Biagi (Zebre) 5
Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) 5
Cory Hill (Dragons) 5
Federico Ruzza (Benetton Rugby) 5
JP du Preez (Toyota Cheetahs) 5
Dries van Schalkwyk (Southern Kings) 5

For more statistics, please visit www.pro14rugby.org/statistics/powered-by-opta/