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