Guinness PRO14 2017/18: Round 10 Predictions

Guinness Rugby

Southern Kings v Edinburgh

Still without a win this season, the Kings will hope to finally break their duck after some improved performances in recent weeks. After running Conference B high-fliers Ulster and Scarlets close in the last two rounds before eventually succumbing to defeat, the South African side have shown signs that they are slowly getting to grips with life in the Pro14 and may well fancy their chances this weekend against an unpredictable Edinburgh side. Having gone down to their first defeat in four games against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last time out, Edinburgh will complete their mini-tour of South Africa hoping to get back to winning ways as they look to chase down the top three in Conference B. A look at the form book suggests nothing but an away win but the hosts seem to be getting closer and closer to that first win with each game and with spirits lifted from recent performances they may have just enough to pip their opponents. Kings by 4

Dragons v Ulster

Two months after their last home match in the competition, the Rodney Parade faithful will be happy to return to home comforts after a dismal time of it on the road this season. Without a win in four games – a run that included thrashings at Munster and Leinster – Bernard Jackman’s men will hope that a home crowd lifted by the news of Wales and Lions star Ross Moriarty’s signing for next season can spur them on to grab an elusive victory to help push them away from the bottom of Conference B. Opponents Ulster survived a scare at home to Benetton last week winning 23-22 and arrive in Newport off the back of two wins, if not convincing ones, as they try and keep pace with Conference leaders Scarlets. Having already defeated the Dragons 52-25 at the Kingspan in the reverse fixture in September, Les Kiss’ side will be confident of maintaining their winning run but the Dragons have won two out of their three home matches in the league and even without a couple of their Wales internationals, this could shape up to be a tight, tense affair. Ulster by 6

Glasgow v Blues

It was a case of another round, another victory last week for Dave Rennie’s Warriors after they ran riot at the Ospreys’ Liberty Stadium, inflicting a 47-6 loss on the hosts. Nine wins from nine in the Pro14 this season has the Scottish side pulling clear in Conference A with a 12-point lead over second-placed Munster, and the fact they have managed to maintain their winning run despite having many players away on international duty over the last few weeks says much for the depth of the squad at Scotstoun this season. The return of their Scotland players will give Rennie’s side an added boost but the New Zealander is unlikely to rush his internationals back ahead of the visit of the Blues this weekend. Visitors Cardiff have turned around their campaign after a poor start with three wins in their last five matches as they look to secure a Champions Cup berth for next season and will take hope and pride from having nearly beaten their opponents in the reverse fixture in Cardiff when Steve Shingler’s missed penalty saw Glasgow sneak a 20-19 win at the Arms Park. Sides with contrasting ambitions for the season and despite the Blues’ up-turn in form, with key players such as Kristian Dacey, Josh Navidi and Seb Davies still away with Wales it is difficult to see them causing too many problems for a confident Glasgow side. Glasgow by 17

Zebre v Connacht

Occupying 6th and 5th place respectively in Conference A, Zebre and Connacht meet this weekend with both sides looking to get back to winning ways following defeats last time out. A point ahead of the Ospreys at the bottom, Zebre will be looking to stay off the bottom with their first win since the end of September, whilst Connacht will be hoping to bounce back from a narrow defeat in Cardiff last week as they went down 36-30 to the Blues. Lying one point behind Cardiff in fourth and just seven behind the Cheetahs in third, Kieran Keane’s men will not have given up hope of securing an end-of-season play-off spot but will need to end their wretched away form that sees them without a win from four games on the road this season. Two sides that have struggled for large parts so far, this might not be the most entertaining match of the weekend, but with Connacht still in sight of the top three I expect them to just nick this one and grab that elusive away victory. Connacht by 7

Benetton v Leinster

Having come close to a surprise victory in Ulster last week, Italian side Benetton face more Irish opposition in ths shape of second-placed Leinster. Leo Cullen’s men bounced back from their defeat in Glasgow in Round Eight with a thumping victory over the Dragons in Dublin last week, and will look to narrow the gap to Conference B leaders Scarlets with another win this weekend. With two of Benetton’s three wins coming at home, Cullen’s side will know to expect a tough challenge from their hosts who sit 5th in the conference eight points off fourth-placed Edinburgh, but given the size of Leinster’s squad Cullen will expect his side to keep pace at the top of the conference with another win this weekend. Leinster by 10

Munster v Ospreys

After convincing wins in their last two matches against sides near the bottom of the conferences, Munster will look to repeat the trick against rock-bottom Ospreys. After an embarrassing home defeat to Glasgow last week, the Ospreys players will hope to restore some sort of pride to their travelling support in a week when their spirits were at least lifted by the announcement of Wales international Scott Williams’ arrival for next season. Before that however Steve Tandy has got to find a way of lifting his side off the bottom of Conference A with hope of Champions Cup qualification drifting fast. For second-placed Munster, any hopes of catching Glasgow at the top of rely on them going on a long winning run so this may be the perfect time to face an Ospreys team low on confidence. Munster by 16

Cheetahs v Scarlets

Without a shadow of a doubt the game of the weekend, as two of the great entertainers in this competition meet for the first time. With their wonderful brand of attacking rugby, the Cheetahs have been a welcome addition to the Pro14 and have caused a few upsets already as they sit third in Conference A with five wins from nine matches. Opponents Scarlets have been no less exciting to watch this season and lead the way in Conference B with a seven point cushion over second-placed Leinster after just one defeat from their nine matches. Ironically despite the international window being closed both teams will be missing players due to the Wales-South Africa match, and with the Scarlets having been stretched with injuries and international call-ups, Wayne Pivac’s side rode their luck against the Kings before eventually grabbing a narrow win with former British and Irish Lion Mike Phillips coming out of retirement and impressing off the bench last week. The Scarlets will need Phillips to roll back the years once again if they are to become only the second side after Glasgow to win in Bloemfontein this season. Two great attacking sides, this could be a big-scoring game but with the Scarlets stretched to the limit squad-wise this might be one game too far for last season’s champions. Cheetahs by 12

By Jon Davies

2 thoughts on “Guinness PRO14 2017/18: Round 10 Predictions

  1. Without out a doubt, the move to Pro14 for my Cheetahs, was one of the biggest shifts in SA rugby. I was concerned after the first two losses of our campaign but I’m happy now to see that we can compete and bring value to the comp. I think they will make many new fans up north as they did in the east. ?

    1. I’m glad to see Cheetahs doing well after a shaky start. I do wonder how they’ll cope with losing Mpimpi et al.. Not sure what to make of Kings – nearly beat Ulster and Scarlets then get thrashed by Edinburgh.

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