The penultimate weekend of the GUINNESS PRO14 has arrived with three high-stakes matches taking place in the space of 24 hours. Title ambitions will succeed or falter and a western duel between two fierce Welsh rivals will decide who will fly the flag for the Principality in the Champions Cup next season.
In all, 149 games have been played so far in the 2018/19 campaign with 880 tries scored during the regular season, Benetton Rugby have become the first ever Italian team to reach the knockout stages of the PRO14. and it will all end in Glasgow’s Celtic Park as the Championship breaks new ground by taking the final to a non-rugby venue for the very first time.
It promises to be an historic event at the home of Celtic Football Club on Saturday, May 25 (kick-off 6.30pm), and tickets are still available from £25 at www.pro14rugby.org/final.
GUINNESS PRO14 SEMI-FINALS:
Friday, May 17 –
GLASGOW WARRIORS (1st, Con A) v ULSTER (2nd, Con B), Scotstoun Stadium, 7.35pm (live Premier Sports 1/eir Sport 1/DAZN/SuperSport 8/deferred TG4)
It seems not so long ago that Glasgow Warriors were ripping all asunder on the way to their first title win back in 2015, where they also disposed of Ulster in the semi-finals. Connacht, the Scarlets and Leinster have all succeeded them as champions and now Glasgow will be keen to maintain the form that led them to the top of Conference A.
Last season’s loss, at this very stage, to a Scarlets team defending their title came as a jolt to the system after regular season domination. Now a home final in Glasgow beckons if they can see off a resurgent Ulster team. Dave Rennie seems to have his team peaking at just the right time, but the same can also be said for their visitors.
Despite a comfortable win for the Warriors when these sides met in Scotstoun in round 19, Ulster are showing a rich vein of form and key players are returning from injury right when they are needed most. It could also be captain Rory Best’s last appearance in an Ulster jersey, that in itself will be a driving force for a team aiming to return to the final for the first time since 2013.
Saturday, May 18 –
LEINSTER (1st, Con B) v MUNSTER (2nd, Con A), the RDS, 2.30pm (live eir Sport 1/Premier Sports 1/DAZN/SuperSport 8/deferred TG4)
If last season’s epic encounter between these teams in the semi-final was not enough, we get to enjoy round 2 this weekend at a sold-out RDS. Leinster were the first team to qualify for the GUINNESS PRO14 final series, but have to recover from their Champions Cup final defeat to Saracens last weekend while Munster arrive fresh from a weekend off.
The visitors were pushed right to the limit by Benetton in their quarter-final clash, but they know there is a much better performance still to come. It is possibly the last Irish derby of the season which will bring a ‘trial-game’ edge to proceedings ahead of the Rugby World Cup. With one win apiece between the teams this season, it will also provide a best-of-three outcome for the report cards.
CHAMPIONS CUP QUALIFICATION PLAY-OFF:
Saturday, May 18 –
OSPREYS v SCARLETS, Liberty Stadium, 7.45pm (live Premier Sports 1/eir Sport 1/DAZN)
If there is a trial element to the Leinster v Munster tie, then this west Wales derby to decide who takes the final Champions Cup team for next season will bring national competition by the bucketful. Wales head coach Warren Gatland has selected 23 players between these teams for his World Cup training squad which adds further fuel to what promises to be a blazing affair.
So far this season this match-up stands at one win apiece, while the Ospreys hold an overall winning record of 19 wins to 12 over their neighbours in the GUINNESS PRO14. However, even though the Scarlets have only won three times at the Liberty Stadium, two of those wins came as recently as 2016 and 2017.
To make things even more interesting Wayne Pivac will coach the Scarlets for the very last time before he takes up the role of Wales head coach after the World Cup. This will not be short on story-lines, that’s for sure.