Benetton Treviso vs Ulster
If you had asked me last week who’d win this match I’d have been supremely confident saying “Ulster without a doubt”. How things have changed. It’s true that Ulster remain unbeaten so far in this year’s competition but they were very lucky to come away with the win last weekend against bottom of the table team Zebre. Unfathomably they won despite being outscored four tries to two, one of which being that controversial penalty try. Some folks in the Ulster camp have blamed the travel arrangements made for the fixture in Italy (a 14hr journey to Parma, arriving at 11pm the night before) and presumably that won’t be the case this weekend. It’s also true that with Ireland’s recent matches in the Autumn Internationals the team has been depleted somewhat (as are everyone else though, making this week’s predictions a bit of a crap shoot.) Treviso go into this game well rested in comparison to Ulster but that’s their only advantage especially given a fairly poor performance against Connacht a few weeks ago. I expect a re-focused Ulster to come out on top this weekend.
Prediction: Ulster by 7
Newport Gwent Dragons vs Connacht
The Dragons have had a fairly abysmal season so far this year, with only two victories and one of those against everyone’s favorite whipping boys Zebre. Their recent form in the LV= Cup has shown promise (despite defeats) and you have to factor in the home crowd advantage. Connacht on the other hand haven’t had all that great a season either with the exception of their total obliteration of Leinster in Round 5. This one will probably be close but I expect the Dragons to pull it off, despite losing Faletau to the national side.
Prediction: Dragons by 4
Edinburgh vs Ospreys
“Oh to have played Ospreys back at the start of the season when they were asleep at the wheel” must be what’s going through the minds of Edinburgh players and fans alike. The current Rabo champions have found their mojo almost precisely at the same time that Edinburgh have lost theirs. I expect that with Edinburgh’s main attacking threat called up for international duties that Ospreys should win this.
Prediction: Ospreys by 8
Glasgow Warriors vs Leinster
Home advantage to Glasgow plus 11 of Leinster’s regulars called up for International duty means that it’s a pretty tall order for Leinster to win this even with the return of Sean O’Brien from injury.
Prediction: Glasgow by 5
Zebre vs Cardiff Blues
As I’ve intimated earlier Zebre were very unlucky not to have beaten Ulster last weekend. I’m betting that they still can’t get their heads around how they could’ve outscored Ulster four tries to two and still lost (I know I can’t!). Being the only team so far this season to get two points from a loss will be a small consolation; that win would’ve been a huge confidence boost for them going forward in this competition. Cardiff haven’t had the greatest season, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag and when you consider that six of their star players have been called up for the clash against New Zealand then you have to give serious thought to Zebre finally getting their first win of the season this weekend. I think the shock Zebre gave Ulster will keep the Blues focused though.
Prediction: Blues by 5
Munster vs Llanelli Scarlets
Scarlets have had a great season; currently 2nd in the league table aided by the fact that they have racked up the bonus points even in their (two) defeats. On the other side of things Munster have had a similar campaign albeit without garnering the vital bonus points with similar gusto. Yes Munster have lost to Ulster, Ospreys and Leinster though it should be noted that all three of their losses have been on the road and there’s no denying the Thomond Park factor. My head leans towards Scarlets but my heart says Munster will win this one. (Fair warning, I’m from Cork!)
Prediction: Munster by 7
By John O’Brien