RaboDirect PRO12 2012/2013 Prediction: Round 19

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The end of the 2012/13 regular season is fast approaching and it’s practically neck and neck for Leinster, Glasgow and Ulster in the top three places. While it’s also looking like Ospreys or Scarlets will occupy that final 4th spot at the top of the table (sorry Munster!). Last weekend threw up only one major upset really, Ulster’s surprise loss to Edinburgh. For the rest of the encounters, I got the call right but under (rather than over) estimated the margins; I’ll try to be less conservative this time round.

Zebre vs Edinburgh
I am pleased that after such a long losing streak Edinburgh finally got a win under their belts, and over Ulster no less. However, had Ulster’s no.10 had a better night from the tee the result would’ve been much different so this might be a false dawn in terms of turning things around. Given their recent form the Scots surely would have already targeted this game as a (must) win and will be looking to build on last week. What can be said about Zebre? Comprehensively beaten last weekend by Scarlets, can they eke out a win here? The head says not likely, but looking ahead at their upcoming fixtures against Leinster, Cardiff and Munster, the heart says that this has to be their last best hope of getting any win at all this season and avoiding a whitewash. Is that motivation enough? We’ll see…
Prediction: Zebre by 1

Glasgow Warriors vs Munster
This match up has all the makings of a cracker. Glasgow, recently knocked off the top spot in the league and Munster who looked (and more importantly played) like the Munster of old last weekend now face off. Granted, Glasgow had a much sterner test last weekend than Munster did. But with the inspirational Paul O’Connell back in the squad these guys will head to Scotland believing that they can win and know that with a bonus point they can maybe scrape their way into a play-off spot. On the other hand, they’ve also got one eye towards the Heineken Cup ¼ final against Quins next week. As much as it pains me to say it I don’t think they’ll win this weekend. Glasgow are too strong and have too much at stake to slip up here. They should be ready for them. Happy to be proved wrong though!
Prediction: Glasgow by 15

Newport Gwent Dragons vs Llanelli Scarlets
This has not been a good season for the Dragons, with only five wins in total, 4 of them at home – not to mention being humiliated by both Glasgow and Ospreys in the last few weeks. Scarlets will be kicking themselves that they didn’t get the bonus point last weekend against Zebre especially given the Dragons vs Ospreys result. I think things will get worse for the Dragons before it gets better.
Prediction: Scarlets by 22

Cardiff Blues vs Ospreys
This is the 2nd match up in the Welsh double header at the Millennium stadium. (That sounds like a fantastic day out. I love that venue.) The Blues haven’t had the best run of late with three straight defeats but their away record is much better: 5 of their 6 wins this year have been away and although technically this is their ‘home’ draw, they are playing at the Millennium Stadium so it’s sort of an away fixture for both teams. I haven’t seen the team sheet for the Ospreys but I’d imagine given what’s at stake it’ll be full strength. They have the added advantage of knowing before kick off what they need to do to keep ahead of Scarlets in the table. I think they’ll take the win here to not only solidify 4th but edge their way closer to third.
Prediction: Ospreys by 15

Leinster vs Ulster
This looks to be the game of the weekend. Ulster dominated the season so well early on but have now slipped to third place. Leinster are out of the Heineken Cup and so Amlin competition notwithstanding, they’ll be fully focused on the Pro12 and staying on top of the table. Factor in Leinster’s home record this year and the fact that Ulster have a ¼ final game against Sarries next week and you’d have to fancy the home side to take it here.
Prediction: Leinster by 10

Benetton Treviso vs Connacht
Connacht were battered pretty heavily by Munster last weekend. Their focus at the beginning of the match was woeful but on a positive note they regained their defensive structure in the 2nd half and were successful at preventing their opponents from getting the four try bonus point. Treviso on the other hand are having a good run of form and their home record this year is impressive (losing to two of the current top 3 teams by only a single point). Playing Treviso at home is not something other teams can say they look forward to anymore and I think they’ll win here handily enough.
Prediction: Treviso by 11

11 thoughts on “RaboDirect PRO12 2012/2013 Prediction: Round 19

  1. Sadly I agree that the Os are going to have to mess up monumentally to fall to the Blues today. We don’t have a decent front five (yet) and our half backs are too inexperienced to match up to Fotuali/Biggar – though Biggar v Patchell could be interesting to watch if we can get some ball. Everyone is going on about Warbs v Tipuric but I fear that Tipuric will be given such an easy time by his own front five that the “Lions 7s” matchup will look horribly one sided.

    Still, as you say, it should be a great day out. Rumours are of 35,000 or perhaps even 40K tickets sold so should avoid the Murrayfield Pro 12 atmosphere.

  2. You’re not wrong there, having Edinburgh’s home games in Murrayfield is a terrible idea. There’s never any atmosphere and the more than 1/2 empty stadium looks terrible on TV.

    Those Welsh games were closer than I expected, 8 and 7 points difference respectively, glad to see neither game was a total walkover.

    What do you make of this talk of the regions trying to join the Premiership, Brighty?

    1. John, I think it’s just talk. I cannot see what the English sides would gain from it, so why would they do it? That’s before even starting on all of the legal issues with the regions leaving the Celtic league.

      It was a good afternoon in the MS. 37000ish crowd is a decent start for something like this. Blues were more competitive than I expected. Scrum was a bit of a blight again though.

  3. Yeah I’m not worried about it happening to be honest, the logistical hurdles they’d have to jump through are insane. So many things would have to line up in just the right order for them to pull it off.
    It is a bit of a slap in the face to the rest of us in the league, though if the regions are struggling financially then I can understand their need to look at every option I suppose. It’d be a clever little coup for the Prem folks though, that’d definitely weaken the Pro12 (or should that be Pro8?)’s hand in these negotiations over the future of the Heineken Cup.

    I expected the Blues to put up a fight alright, initially I was going to give Ospreys the win by 10pts but I’ve been coming in under the margins lately so I pushed it up another 5. But I certainly didn’t expect such a tight game for the Scarlets against the Dragons though. I’m glad.

    Don’t worry about the scrum, Brian Moore (@brianmoore666) is on the case!
    :-P

    http://www.brianpitbullmoore.com/info2.cfm?info_id=218906

  4. Can either of you tell me why it is that the Regions are so short of money?

    And why would they move to the Premiership?

    1. I could be totally wrong about this (feel free to correct me here Brighty) but I think that in Wales is the national team is far more important to people than the regional ones. The current regions are a relativity recent construct made up of older clubs amalgamating and whatnot in the last 10 years in a move that was divisive in some respects. In a way they lack the identity that say, the Irish provinces have. (Our situation is different since we’ve been organising all our sports teams and events on a county and provincial basis for centuries and those provinces themselves have existed for thousands of years.)

      In tandem with that I think the Pro12 also has a bit of an identity problem too. First it was the Celtic League, then the Magners League now it’s the RaboDirect Pro12. Continuity is important for sports leagues as it establishes history which supporters draw on when listing their own clubs achievements. I promise you any Munster, Leinster or Ulster supporter you meet can tell you how many times they’ve won the Heineken Cup (or got to the semis and finals) whereas I’m not so sure how many of them could tell you how many times their team has won their own domestic league.

      I’m sure that the Regions have passionate supporters (like any club) but not in the same quantities that you’d imagine from a rugby obsessed country like Wales. People are willing to pay big money to go to see Wales play at home and abroad but a lot of those same people might not necessarily pay to go see their local Blues or Dragons in their fixtures. Losing their exciting and emerging talent to French and English clubs doesn’t help either. If the teams start winning consistently and performing well in Europe then obviously things will change and they’ll see the coffers swell. Having double header local derbies in the MS is a good idea too.

      As for moving to the Premiership, off the top of my head I can think of one simple reason why it’d be better: Travel. Going to Ireland or Italy involves ferries or planes which logistically is a bit of a pain. In the Premiership almost all the teams are within easy train travel distance and you wouldn’t need a passport or to even change currency. Easy day trips would be possible and so you’d be more likely to go in groups or bring the family. Reciprocally English supporters would be more likely to travel to Wales in larger numbers than Irish or Italians supporters which is good for gate receipts. Not to get all “As long as we beat the English” here or anything, but you could tap into that sentiment too. Not that that’s the best way to encourage people to go, but it would be effective on some folks (sad to say it’d work on my own countrymen too). Hopefully those types would grow out of that as they mingle with hard core rugby people who love the game itself.

      Furthermore, I’d imagine London (and other big cities in England) would have larger numbers of Welsh ex-pats living there than say Glasgow or Dublin. They’d go along to games, buy jerseys and other merchandise too. Also London Welsh versus each one of the regions would be interesting fixtures every season!

      Much more importantly I would imagine that the Premiership also has a much bigger attendance and TV audiences too and so the Regions would see a bigger chunk of the revenue generated go back into their clubs. The Pro12 is definitely the poor relation of the Premiership and Top14. The increased exposure on TV could also generate interest in the clubs on a local level too.

      This is all assuming that the Welsh teams themselves would be able to stay in the top division. No disrespect to Welsh rugby but I’m not sure that would be possible for all four. And once you drop into the lower divisions you could end up in an even worse financial state. That’s one benefit of the Pro12 lacking relegation, if you have a terrible season at least you can start over next year and try again to reach the top.

      1. Perfect summary John. I’d add that in Wales the Welsh team are often referred to as the fifth region – they are seen as directly competing with the regions for some fans attention and money.

        It’s all a bit of a depressing mess really. As a Blues season ticket holder I’ve just witnessed our worst ever season and next year doesn’t hold much more promise for us.

  5. Thank you for that answer it was very interesting.

    I am Scottish and follow Glasgow and Edinburgh very closely and it is interesting to compare the two scottish teams with the regions and the provinces.

    Since the arrival of Mark Dodson as the new Chief Executive of the SRU the approach towards the 2 pro teams has really changed and improved.

    Firstly the SRU has increased their funding for the 2 teams as opposed to decrease funding as has happened in Wales.

    This is actually been a very effective method with the increase in squad size and the buying of talented players.

    Sean Lineen and Gregor Townsend have done a great job of seeking out some very talented players from overseas, most notably Niko Matawalu, Sean Maitland and Josh Struass among others.

    This, combined with the emergence of some strong young talent within the set up has not only helped construct a very strong side that are now at the top of the table and serious title contenders but has also subsequently started to draw in some good crowds.

    The crowds at their new stadium Scotstoun are starting to slowly but surely increase and having been there on a victorious night the atmosphere is fantastic.

    (the issue with Edinburgh and Murrayfield is a major problem that the SRU is desperatley trying to address right now but is proving very difficult to solve to those of you who mentioned it above, but more of that later)

    Edinburgh and Michael Bradley are unfortunatley a prime example of how the investment in certain players can go wrong. The likes of John Yapp, Richie Rees, Ben Atiga nd Andy Titterell have not been very strong investements.

    However, this all said do you not feel that the WRU should try investing now and reeping the potential long term gains?

    The SRU is still in a reasonable amount of debt although this is decreasing as the years go by and yet they have still increased funding for the 2 teams in an attempt to invest the money now and then benefit from the long term gains of wins on the board and bums on seats.

    Also the SRU has really stepped up its advertising and commercial side to things.

    As shown by Edinburgh’s European quarter final last year the city was rocking for months before in the build up and you couldnt go anywhere without seeing a poster of David Denton or Greig Laidlaw and the offer for cheap tickets.

    The subsequent result was a record crowd and a massive win and I am sure the same will happen if Glasgow secure a home play off.

    Like you said the idea of playing double headers at MS draws in the crowds and dont you think the WRU need to get out there and promote, promote, promote until your sick of it and buy the tickets? Or maybe they did that, im not sure.

    Does the WRU advertise the chance to go and watch the regions or are they more concerned about costs and saving money?

    IN Scotland before Dodsons arrival the main aim was to save save save instead of making Scottish rugby appeal to the public and be something that they want to be a part of. I suppose a change from a negative approach to a much more positive approach.

    What is it like in Wales?

  6. Shambie, it as as you suspect in Wales – the WRU treat the regions appallingly. Only today there has been another round of abusive press statements from the WRU about the regions. They underfund them. They compete with them for airtime and fans on seats. They seem to do everything they can to undermine them. I pray for a change at the WRU so we can channel this amazing period for Wales into regional growth.

    1. Any time, thank you for your reply. We’re always happy to welcome an other perspective, (esp Scottish, it’s mostly English and Welsh voices here)

      Well Brighty answered your questions about WRU stuff as I knew he would, he is far more knowledgeable about that stuff than I am.

      2 points I will add though:

      1) I am thrilled for Glasgow this season. They seem to be scoring tries for fun and you could see how happy they were to put up 50 points on Munster after years of suffering defeats to them. And this is coming from a Munsterman! I’m also willing to admit I was wrong when I thought they should’ve disbanded Glasgow instead of The Borders. To me Glasgow is and always will be a total football town. The Old Firm’s grip on the city made me think that rugby will prob never get a foothold. In that sense, I’d LOVE for them to win and bring rugby more into the city’s consciousness

      2) What do you think about Edinburgh’s results last year? They made it to the semis in Europe yet were hovering around the bottom of the table in the Pro12. This is one of the issues the Prem and Top14 use to beat the Pro12 and argue about re-structuring the Heineken Cup.

  7. I dont think you were alone in calling for the Borders over Glasgow as a Pro team but logistically I think it was a better option.

    The Borders is a hotbed for rugby no doubt about it but it was very hard for all the Borders towns to unite and give up all their star playes for a Borders team.

    If you gave a supporter from Hawick, Gala or Melrose the option of going to a match between the Borders and Newport Gwent Dragons, for example, or a Hawick v Gala match they would pick the latter every time.

    The SRU therefore seriously struggled to get the borders to let go of their towns and invest support in a whole Borers regional team.

    Glasgow is and always will be a football city but the warriors have done very well so far, and will continue to, draw in more and more supporters.

    The majority of games are on a firday night and dont disrupt the football. Glasgow have been very consistent in the league for the last 2 seasons all they need to do now is fnish it off and then start pushing through in Europe.

    Edinburgh is an interesting one. Firstly the support issue is widly regarded as purely due to the results.

    Edinburgh is full of rugby supporters and players. It has the highest percentage of public school educated people in Europe and all the public schools play rugby!! So there isnt a lack of people interested in the sport.

    Edinburgh last season played a very simple attacking game plan which caught teams by surpise.

    They also had a lot of luck, as you need to progress in any competition. For example the Racing Metro game at home was one of the craziest games i have ever witnessed!

    However they seemed to also build momentum in the tournament. they went away and beat London Irish and then just built on that and it fell into place. The quarter final was amazing and it almost seemed that they were just never going to loose in the build up to the game and that carried them through.

    Their league form was odd. They lost a lot of players to the world cup and then when they cam back they played in the european games only to then go back to Scotland duty.

    It exposed a lack of depth in the squad which led to the large amont of summer signings.

    It is hard to tell what actually is going wrong within the camp. I think players may have lost faith in Bradley and his structures beacuse there are some great players within the squad but they dont seem to produce the goods.

    They have a very easy run in to the end of the season and can still finish mid table so hopefully they can finish on a high.

    I think that the SRU will look for a good replacement and a Scottish assistant but it was definetley time for him to go. However, in a way it is not good for the club as they have a had a lot of different managment teams in only a few seasons whilst contrastingly Glasgow have only had Lineen and Townsend who have both procuced the goods with a similar strength squad.

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