Well, it’s been an interesting week in rugby terms hasn’t it? This entire Heineken Cup furore almost makes one forget that we’ve got domestic competitions already underway! Without further ado, here are my calls for Round two of the Pro12.
Zebre vs Munster
Zebre’s consolation try at the death against Connacht last weekend padded the score-line a bit (25-16). Home advantage or not, I don’t think they have it in them to topple Munster. Last season’s encounter was their best chance there. Munster started well last weekend against Edinburgh scoring five tries to two. You’d expect Munster to be focused but given their opponents’ dismal record there is the danger that they’ll assume that they just need to show up to take the win. That’d be a very dangerous assumption especially away from home, which could lead to a shock win for the Italians – however, it’s pretty unlikely.
Prediction: Munster by 15
Cardiff Blues vs Connacht
Cardiff fought on in pretty dire conditions going down to Glasgow in Scotstoun in round one. They were unlucky not to get the draw (the losing bonus point is some consolation) and they are a side I see improving as the season progresses. Connacht beat Zebre at home last weekend but that doesn’t really tell you all that much. I would be surprised if Connacht make it two from two, especially given the quality in the home side they face here but I should point out that Connacht did prove me wrong in this exact fixture last Feburary so a win for them is certainly possible.
Prediction: Blues by 10
Ulster vs Glasgow Warriors
This one is tricky to call and the game I’m most looking forward to watching this round. Ulster will no doubt be reeling from their shock defeat to the Dragons. They will be looking for revenge and will take it out on whoever is next. Glasgow made a lot of handling errors in their opener, but the conditions were pretty bad and players are always shaking away the cobwebs in the first round of a competition like this. The loss of their talismanic captain Al Kellock relatively early in the game didn’t help them either. Ultimately, irrespective of round one, you would expect Ulster to win this game. Given that they took their eye off the ball last weekend, I doubt they’ll do the same again especially at home but I’m hoping Glasgow won’t make it easy for them.
Prediction: Ulster by 10
Edinburgh vs Newport Gwent Dragons
Confidence must be high for the Dragons after turning over last year’s finalists Ulster in the opening round of this season. They’ve got a decent record against Edinburgh in recent years, winning 6/8 (with three of those six in the Scottish capital). There’s an added spice of fielding Netani Talei formerly of Edinburgh now plying his trade as the Dragons’ No.8. On the other hand Nikki Walker and Tim Visser make for a potent scoring combination for Edinburgh, who will no doubt have spent this last week tightening up their defence after last weekend. It’s a tough one to call but I’m going to go with the hosts.
Prediction: Edinburgh by 5
As I write this I still have no word on the team sheets of the four teams below, so a pinch of salt is recommended for these predictions.
Leinster vs Ospreys
Leinster’s eventual surge to victory over Scarlets in their opening fixture last weekend can be seen as a throwing down of the proverbial gauntlet. They are definitely the team to beat at this (admittedly) very early stage. Ospreys certainly have what it takes to beat them though, having just gone and won a hard fought battle against Treviso in their opener. Treviso at home is no easy task especially at the start of the season, but they’ve weathered that potential banana skin and now must turn their sights to Dublin. Ospreys can’t be written off easily but I still fancy the home side to take it.
Prediction: Leinster by 15
Llanelli Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso
Humbled by that final score line against Leinster in their opener I suspect that the Scarlets will be looking to get their season back on track. They will be particularly aggrieved given that they led for so long in that match. Meanwhile Treviso battled doggedly against Ospreys and deserved their losing bonus point. Usually Italian teams don’t do all that well away from home, but Treviso have the ability to surprise, as they did in this very fixture last May, so don’t expect them to roll over.
Prediction: Scarlets by 8
By John O’Brien (@tiptackler)
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