With nearly 400 points and 47 tries scored in round 1, the GUINNESS PRO14 returned to action in eye-catching style last weekend with games taking place across all five participating nations.
The Toyota Cheetahs, Munster, Ulster and Edinburgh all posted big scores as they opened up their campaigns, while defending champions Leinster earned a valuable away win against Benetton Rugby, and Cardiff Blues were pushed hard by the Isuzu Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.
The Scarlets picked up their first win under new head coach Brad Mooar against Connacht, and the New Zealander brings his squad up to Glasgow in round 2 where Dave Rennie’s Glasgow Warriors team will be eager to bounce back from their heavy loss to the Cheetahs.
The South Africans welcome Ulster to Bloemfontein where Cheetahs scrum half Ruan Pienaar will face his old team – both sides will be eager to build their points tallies during the Rugby World Cup period and this promises to be a tight contest.
After recording four successive attendance highs for the GUINNESS PRO14 Final, tickets will be limited for this season’s decider at Cardiff City Stadium next June. Fans are encouraged to take advantage of Early Bird prices to get the best seats at www.pro14rugby.org/final.
GUINNESS PRO14 – ROUND 2 FIXTURES:
Friday, October 4 –
Glasgow Warriors (6th, Con A) v Scarlets (4th, Con B), Scotstoun Stadium, kick-off 7.35pm (live Premier Sports 1/eir Sport 2/DAZN)
The Scarlets have good form in Glasgow having won at Scotstoun Stadium en route to the PRO14 final in 2018. This is an intriguing match-up between two sides who have key contributors on duty at the Rugby World Cup. Glasgow do not taste defeat at home very often and need to win to get off the mark. The Scarlets, on the other hand, have picked up their first win under Brad Mooar and a victory up north would be near priceless.
LEINSTER (3rd, Con A) v Ospreys (4th, Con A), the RDS, 7.35pm (live eir Sport 1/Premier Sports 2/DAZN/SuperSport 2/TG4)
The defending champions showed their mettle in Treviso in round 1 with a determined showing against Benetton Rugby. The Ospreys, however, return to Ireland a week after their heavy loss to Ulster but there is enough quality in their squad to compete with the hosts if they can shore up their defence. Home defeats at the RDS are a rare occurrence, and since 2015 only Glasgow Warriors, Benetton and the Dragons have sneaked out of Dublin with a ‘W’ in the kit van. Leinster’s young guns will be keen to ensure that the Ospreys do not add themselves to this list.
Saturday, October 5 –
Isuzu Southern Kings (5th, Con B) v MUNSTER (2nd, Con B), Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, kick-off 4pm local time/3pm Irish time (live SuperSport 2/eir Sport 1/Premier Sports 2/DAZN)
Encouraging signs were plentiful in the Kings’ loss to Cardiff Blues last weekend, but Munster will arrive in South Africa with a strong record in the southern Hemisphere. Johann van Graan’s side had a bonus point win over the Dragons, and although they have a contingent away with Ireland in Japan, there is a strong mix of young talent on this tour. The hosts have already spoken of their need to tighten up in defence, and if they can do this, then this game should be a close call.
Zebre (7th, Con A) v Dragons (5th, Con A), Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 6pm local time (live DAZN/FreeSports/eir Sport 2)
Two teams who will fancy taking points off each other, Michael Bradley’s Zebre will want to make home advantage count against a Dragons team who are rebuilding under Dean Ryan. Both of these coaches are keen to put their faith in youth but Bradley is more likely to take the reins off his side with Ryan ensuring structured play can deliver more consistency for the Welsh region. Sam Davies is one to watch for the visitors after his summer switch from the Ospreys, with Federico Mori on the radar after the 18-year-old scored a powerful debut try against Edinburgh last weekend.
Toyota Cheetahs (1st, Con A) v ULSTER (2nd, Con A), Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, kick-off 6.15pm local time/5.15pm Irish time (live eir Sport 1/Premier Sports 2/DAZN/SuperSport 2)
First meets second in Bloemfontein with the Cheetahs hosting Ulster. Both teams posted high scores in round 1 and the conditions on the high veldt will encourage plenty of attacking rugby with the hard ground and high altitude. Ulster’s challenge is to cope with that altitude and keep their legs turning into the final 10 minutes and not suffer the late fade that the Cheetahs so often profit from. Both teams will have targeted the World Cup period to gain the upper hand on their rivals who are missing their international stars. With Leinster also sitting on five points in Conference A, this is a game neither team can afford to lose.
Cardiff Blues (3rd, Con B) v Edinburgh (1st, Con B), Cardiff Arms Park, kick-off 5.15pm (live S4C/Premier Sports 1/eir Sport 2/DAZN)
Mission accomplished for Cardiff Blues after their bonus point win in South Africa against the Kings in round 1. Now they will need to deny points from Conference B rivals Edinburgh in a very tricky group. The Blues have never won the Championship title, but with the PRO14 final taking place in Cardiff this season, they want to be the hometown team on the big day. Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh are no pushovers and notching a win in the Welsh capital is far from beyond them.
CONNACHT (7th, Con B) v Benetton Rugby (6th, Con B), the Sportsground, kick-off 7.35pm (live TG4/Premier Sports 1/SuperSport 2/DAZN)
Neither of these teams will want to be left with zero wins from their opening two games, but that is going to the reality for one of them by the final whistle. Connacht are pretty resolute at home and Benetton’s challenge to return to the knockout stages will rely on improving their form on the road. Both teams will see themselves as contenders for this season’s title and this game should be evenly matched. Benetton’s ace card will be the inclusion of Ian Keatley, the former Connacht out-half who learned his trade in Galway’s treacherous windy conditions, and if this comes down to place-kicking, the Italians will feel confident about their chances.
GUINNESS PRO14 CONFERENCES:
Conference A –
Glasgow Warriors, LEINSTER, ULSTER, Ospreys, Dragons, Zebre, Toyota Cheetahs
Conference B –
Edinburgh, MUNSTER, CONNACHT, Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Benetton Rugby, Isuzu Southern Kings