Another exciting Heineken Cup double header is behind us as we turn our attention back to domestic competitions. Here’s hoping we see many more of those in the years to come. The Heineken Cup really is the gift that keeps on giving. Anyway, onto the PRO12 and for several teams it now remains their only hope of some silverware this year. Yes Glasgow, I’m looking at you.
Cardiff Blues vs Ospreys
Cardiff come into this match on the back of two impressive wins in the Heineken Cup over Glasgow. In both instances they were the underdogs (even at home, albeit slightly) but managed to grind out two very creditable victories. Whether those were down to the Blues finding their form or merely Glasgow losing theirs, remains to be seen. The Ospreys, too, have reasons to be positive. A win over Top 14 champs Castres and a losing bonus point away against them is no bad return from the last two weekends. They do sit at the bottom of their pool but remember that is no easy group they’re in, with Leinster, Saints and Castres all slugging it out for the top spot. Looking at the recent PRO12 form, it’s tricky. Ospreys sit fifth in the table, The Blues ninth. Their last two encounters were won by the away side on the day, and while the Blues’ form against other Welsh sides has been poor of late, the Ospreys’ current away form is nothing to brag about either. Home advantage has me leaning towards the Blues, but the Ospreys have been facing tougher opponents in the Heineken Cup than the Blues.
Prediction: Ospreys by 3
Ulster vs Zebre
Ulster. No offence to Zebre, but Ulster all the way.
Prediction: Ulster by 24
Edinburgh vs Leinster
Both these teams come into this game having recently lost at home and won away! Edinburgh surprised everyone with a win at Kingsholm while Leinster absolutely destroyed the Saints over in Northampton only to lose to them in Dublin a week later. Leinster have made a few changes to their team which could disrupt their rhythm, while Edinburgh have kept the faith with the squad who delivered against Gloucester. Edinburgh’s home record in the Pro12 is impressive this season but their recent record against Leinster doesn’t give me much hope for the home side.
Prediction: Leinster by 15
Glasgow Warriors vs Benetton Treviso
Glasgow Warriors have had it rough of late, two lacklustre games in the Heineken Cup have seen them crash out of that competition. All focus must now turn to performing well in the PRO12 and finally making it to the final. For that to happen they have to stem the rot and find their form again. Treviso’s (admittedly optimistic) European aspirations were also dealt a killer blow with back to back thrashings by Ulster the past two weeks. Both teams need to pick themselves up and start winning again. That’s a lot easier to do at home than on the road. Sorry Treviso!
Prediction: Glasgow by 13
Connacht vs Newport Gwent Dragons
Connacht were the architects of arguably the greatest Heineken Cup upset ever with their gutsy victory over French powerhouses Tolouse two weeks ago. That they lost to them in the following leg of the double header shouldn’t diminish or take the sheen of that epic win in France. Their domestic form is another matter; having only one victory to their name thus far this season against Zebre is pretty abysmal. The Dragons’ impressive 23-8 win in Scotstoun notwithstanding their away record has not been great this season. Games between these two sides usually go to the home team on the day, with the Dragons not having won at the Sportsground since May of ’04. As I write this I haven’t seen any teamsheets so this is a shot in the dark, but to my mind the Dragons have been playing the more consistent rugby, and so they get my vote here to improve upon their away record.
Prediction: Dragons by 7
Munster vs Llanelli Scarlets
Things are looking pretty good for Munster at the moment, top of table in the PRO12 with only one defeat this season and currently top of their pool in the Heineken Cup, with that shocking last gasp win over Perpignan last weekend. They had better not take their opponents lightly, though, having lost their last three encounters with the Scarlets (losing this exact same Musgrave Park fixture last year). The Scarlets come into this match on the wrong side of the recent Heineken Cup double header against French titans Clermont. They definitely have what it takes to pick themselves up especially now that European glory is not very likely this season. Something about this fixture has me suspicious of an upset but without the teamsheets in front of me, based on current form, I have to favour the home side.
Prediction: Munster by 5
By John O’Brien (@tiptackler)
As always feel free to tell me how wrong (or right) I am in the comments below!
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images