With the Six Nations taking its second weekend break, all eyes turn to domestic rugby once again. Here are our predictions for round 16 of the RaboDirect PRO12:
Ulster vs Newport Gwent Dragons
Ulster’s win last weekend against Treviso was by a much narrower margin than I, and perhaps many others, would have anticipated. Back at Ravenhill and with several Irish internationals released to them, they should perform much better and will be chasing that elusive try-bonus point (which they haven’t obtained since Round 8.) The Dragons, meanwhile, stunned Glasgow with a late try to take the points deep into the second half. Ulster’s record at Ravenhill this season has been pretty good, only losing to Glasgow there so far this season. The Dragons’ away record this season hasn’t been great and not only that, they haven’t won on the road in Ireland since 2008. The Dragons did beat Ulster earlier on this season, but are unlikely to do the double here.
Prediction: Ulster by 16
Edinburgh vs Ospreys
Edinburgh come into this game on the back of three defeats and will be looking to turn their fortunes around. They won’t have an easy time of it with a wounded Ospreys outfit looking to restore some pride. Edinburgh have a few returning internationals but quite frankly so do the Ospreys, and their players have been performing much better than their Scottish counterparts. I don’t think Edinburgh will make it easy for them, but I expect Ospreys to win this one.
Prediction: Ospreys by 6
Zebre vs Cardiff Blues
This must be a game Zebre have been targeting since their stunning upset against Cardiff earlier on this season. They’ve got a good chance of getting their first ever double over any opposition in their club’s (admittedly) short history. The Blue’s current away form (zero away wins this year) will give them hope. Normally that would be enough for me to say the home side will take it, but after that upset earlier on this year, I doubt Cardiff will let Zebre away without getting their revenge.
Prediction: Blues by 3
Connacht vs Benetton Treviso
Connacht are doing well at the moment, no doubt due to facing off against sides missing key internationals. They ran Glasgow close in Scotstoun and have beaten Edinburgh and Zebre in the last two weeks. They will definitely fancy their chances here against a weakened visiting Treviso side. Treviso are on a losing streak stretching back over their last four games, including that absolute hammering the Ospreys’ dished out to them. It showed a lot of heart to be able to pick themselves up from that and run a team of Ulster’s pedigree so close last weekend. They could well win here, but with history and form I’m forced to plump for the home side.
Prediction: Connacht by 4
Llanelli Scarlets vs Munster
The Scarlets did the double over Munster last year, but have already lost to them in their away meeting this season. Munster come into this on the back of a surprise win (from my point of view anyway) over Ospreys last weekend. They’re chasing a clean sweep home and away against Welsh opponents and have only lost one away game this season so far. Without the teams infront of me, this is tricky, and I think it will be close, but after having failed to back Munster last weekend, this weekend I’ve learned my lesson.
Prediction: Munster by 5
Leinster vs Glasgow Warriors
Leinster go into this game with form and history on their side. They’ve only ever lost at home to the Warriors once, back in 2011,and they remain undefeated at home thus far this season. Glasgow’s lapse in concentration last weekend let a record breaking opportunity pass them by and they’ll be keen to make amends here, but surely so many consecutive away games will tire any team. As always I give this prediction with the caveat that Glasgow invariably do the opposite of what I expect them to. Nevertheless, I’d be very surprised if they managed to get a win on Leinster soil.
Prediction: Leinster by 7
By John O’Brien (@tiptackler)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images