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GUINNESS PRO14: Round 3 Preview

GUINNESS PRO14: Round 3 Preview

Full-back Mike Haley is pictured on his way to scoring a try during Munster's second round victory away to the Isuzu Southern Kings ©INPHO/Richard Huggard

History was made in the second round of the GUINNESS PRO14 as 53 tries were scored – more than in any other single round in Championship history.

The previous record stood at 51 and Connacht were the side who ensured a new high-water mark during the final game of the weekend against Benetton Rugby, as hooker Tom McCartney crossed to surpass the total and replacement scrum half Kieran Marmion then added a 53rd for good measure.

Round 3 has a tall task to match the entertainment levels of last week’s unparalleled scoring but a septet of mouth-watering fixtures means there are plenty of stories to follow.

Two teams with perfect records so far – the Toyota Cheetahs, who lead Conference A, and Conference B pacesetters Munster – begin the round with a mouth-watering clash in Bloemfontein, while Leinster and Edinburgh also square off with their unbeaten starts to the season on the line on Friday night.

The fifth team with two wins from two, the Scarlets, host winless Zebre and Dean Ryan’s Dragons, fresh from their first GUINNESS PRO14 away win in four-and-a-half years – return home to host Connacht.

The Ospreys and Benetton Rugby, who were both winless in the opening two rounds, will face off at the Liberty Stadium looking to kick-start their campaigns, as the Isuzu Southern Kings host Ulster and Cardiff Blues travel to Glasgow Warriors.

After recording four successive attendance highs for the GUINNESS PRO14 final, tickets will be limited for this season’s decider at Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday, June 20. Fans are encouraged to take advantage of Early Bird prices to get the best seats at www.pro14rugby.org/final.


Friday, October 11 –

Toyota Cheetahs (1st, Con A) v MUNSTER (1st, Con B), Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein, kick-off 6.15pm local time/5.15pm Irish time (live SuperSport 6/eir Sport 1/Premier Sports 1/DAZN/highlights TG4)

Toyota Cheetahs have started the season on fire, racking up a mammoth 16 tries and 111 points in the first two rounds – including a 63-26 win over Ulster last time out. They are a tough side to beat on South African soil but in Conference B leaders Munster, they face a challenging test in a team who also have two wins from two so far. Johann van Graan’s side registered a 31-20 victory over the Isuzu Southern Kings last Saturday, and if they leave Bloemfontein with another triumph, that will be as successful a South African road trip as they could have asked for.

Dragons (4th, Con A) v CONNACHT (4th, Con B), Rodney Parade, kick-off 7.35pm (live Premier Sports 2/S4C/TG4/DAZN)

The Dragons head into this game on a massive high as a 52-28 success Zebre at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi was their first away win in the PRO14 since March 2015. New director of rugby Dean Ryan admitted afterwards that the triumph was a huge monkey off their back and his side could well play with a renewed freedom as they head back home to Rodney Parade. Connacht will hardly be a pushover, however, as they brushed aside Benetton in round 2 – cruising to a 41-5 victory and rubber-stamping the new Championship single-round try record by crossing on six occasions.

LEINSTER (2nd, Con A) v Edinburgh (2nd, Con B), the RDS, kick-off 7.35pm (live eir Sport 1/Premier Sports 1/DAZN/SuperSport 6/highlights TG4)

Two undefeated sides do battle in Dublin on Friday night as Leinster and Edinburgh go head to head at the RDS. The defending champions have looked ominously good so far, even though many of their top players are currently at the Rugby World Cup. They blew the cobwebs off with a gritty win at Benetton before putting up more than 50 points against the Ospreys. Edinburgh have a handsome win of their own in the locker, with a comfortable opening-day 50-12 success against Zebre. But it was an eight-point victory at Cardiff Blues in round 2 that will perhaps please head coach Richard Cockerill most, a result which proves they have a steel as well as substance.

Saturday, October 12 –

Scarlets (3rd, Con B) v Zebre (6th, Con A), Parc y Scarlets, kick-off 3pm (live FreeSports/eir Sport 2/DAZN)

The Brad Mooar era has got off to an electric start at the Scarlets and the 2016/17 champions will be confident of a third win on the spin against Zebre. The Llanelli outfit have seen off Connacht and Glasgow Warriors so far, the latter on the road in a performance of real steel. Up front, they have benefitted from Rob Evans and Samson Lee’s omissions by Wales, while Steff Evans has been outstanding on the wing and Johnny McNicholl has picked up right where he left off last year. In contrast, Zebre have bruises to tend to. They are yet to win in 2019 and were beaten at home by the Dragons last weekend.

Isuzu Southern Kings (6th, Con B) v ULSTER (3rd, Con A), Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, kick-off 4pm local time/3pm Irish time (live SuperSport 2/eir Sport 1/Premier Sports 2/DAZN/highlights TG4)

The Isuzu Southern Kings have not won a PRO14 match since January and face a tall task against an Ulster side desperate to set the record straight. Ulster went down heavily to the Kings’ South African rivals, the Toyota Cheetahs, shipping 63 points to the Championship’s in-form attack. Worryingly for Ulster, the Kings also have pace in abundance and, in scrum half Stefan Ungerer, a major try-scoring threat. Dan McFarland’s men have plenty of those too though, with Craig Gilroy – back in the side after 11 months out – crossing three times in two games so far.

Glasgow Warriors (5th, Con A) v Cardiff Blues (5th, Con B), Scotstoun Stadium, kick-off 7.35pm (live eir Sport 2/Premier Sports 1/DAZN/SuperSport 2)

Two sides licking their wounds meet at Scotstoun Stadium on Saturday, as Glasgow Warriors host Cardiff Blues. The Warriors will hope for a better result than when they last hosted a Welsh region, with the Scarlets taking the spoils in a thriller last weekend. Glasgow were outplayed for much of that battle but fought back impressively, with centre Huw Jones showing glimpses of the form that turned him into one of the PRO14’s most devastating centres. The Blues also suffered a home defeat last week, as Edinburgh left the Welsh capital with an eight-point win.

Ospreys (7th, Con A) v Benetton Rugby (7th, Con B), Liberty Stadium, kick-off 7.35pm (live eir Sport 1/Premier Sports 2/S4C/DAZN)

The Ospreys and Benetton Rugby are both in need of an early-season boost and at least one of them will get that when they square off in Swansea. Allen Clarke’s charges have opened with a pair of heavy away defeats to Ulster and Leinster, while Benetton have also been on the wrong end of a result against the title holders, before Connacht left them down in the dumps. Both sides’ last victory came in round 21 last season, a result which secured Benetton a spot in the PRO14 final series for the first time.


Conference A –
Glasgow Warriors, LEINSTER, ULSTER, Ospreys, Dragons, Zebre, Toyota Cheetahs

Conference B –
Edinburgh, MUNSTER, CONNACHT, Cardiff Blues, Scarlets, Benetton Rugby, Isuzu Southern Kings