Well last weekend was exciting and especially so for anyone following my “predictions”! Two out of four correct is a pretty poor return from time spent studying team sheets, current form, weather forecasts and history. In my admittedly feeble defence two of those four were significant upsets. Zebre to beat the Blues in Cardiff? To anyone who legitimately called that result, I doff my cap to you sir. Some of the others were genuine 50/50 calls that could’ve gone either way. I will say this though, never was I such a vocal Ulster and Ospreys supporter as I was on Saturday evening! Anyway onwards and upwards, surely this week’s predictions can’t be as bad…
Zebre vs Glasgow Warriors
So many thrashings, not quite so many close games but all ultimately ending in a loss for Zebre, and finally on attempt number 25 the rugby gods smiled on them and they have at long last racked up a win and away from home to boot! I am delighted for them on what was, overall, a great weekend for Italian rugby. Zebre will have to raise their game even more this week though, as the thus-far undefeated Glasgow Warriors trundle into town. Glasgow have an impressive record at this early stage of the season; one hard fought win in poor conditions against the Blues, a smash and grab job in Ravenhill against Ulster and a solid strangulation of current champions Leinster last weekend at home. Returning Lion Stuart Hogg had a poor night from the tee and thus the score-line flattered the visitors quite a bit. As I recall Glasgow had one of the best defences last season and this season have kept up that high standard, having yet to concede a try in any match so far. Both sides come into this game with confidence but you would have to say that Glasgow will in all likelihood be making it four from four this weekend.
Prediction: Glasgow by 17
Ulster vs Benetton Treviso
Both teams come into this match with similar records so far. Two losses and one victory does not make for a great start to the season and so both teams will be looking to build on their recent wins. Treviso beating Munster was considered an upset despite them hammering the men in red in the same fixture the year before. It should be said that the last time Treviso met Ulster at Ravenhill the Italians snatched a respectable draw at the end. Given Ulster’s recent struggles so far this season and Treviso having won at Ravenhill in 2011 another upset is possible but I reckon the home side will take it.
Prediction: Ulster by 14
Edinburgh vs Llanelli Scarlets
These two teams also come into this game with a similar record to both Ulster and Treviso, namely one win from three. Edinburgh were thoroughly outclassed by Ospreys last weekend (admittedly playing away from home) and will be feeling that hurt all this week. Scarlets never got ahead of the Dragons last weekend and were forced to chase the game a bit too much. Historically they have a good record against Edinburgh, but in recent matches these games have tended to go to the home side on the day, and by just a single point in the last two encounters. It’s a bit of a coin flip which normally makes me lean towards the home side, but that thrashing by Ospreys that Edinburgh got has me dithering, especially when you consider that when reduced to 14 men, Ospreys managed to score not one but two tries…
Prediction: Scarlets by 1
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues
For large periods of last weekend’s clash with Glasgow, Leinster looked unmotivated and flat, never truly threatening until around the 70 minute mark when they decided to finally try and win the game. That was too little too late though and their current season now stands at one win, one draw and one loss. For a team of their quality and calibre this is definitely not good enough. Unfortunately for The Blues, they were on the wrong side of history last weekend in what was clearly the upset of season, losing to Zebre whilst at home. Now they face Leinster who they’ve never defeated at the RDS and who also have something to prove in this game. The return of Warburton notwithstanding, I find it hard to see the Blues winning this match, but, and I’ll be the first one to say it, I found it even harder to see Zebre beating the Blues last weekend either, so make of that what you will.
Prediction: Leinster by 15
Connacht vs Ospreys
Connacht held on against Ulster for almost an hour but eventually succumbed late in the second half. They beat Ospreys last season 22-10 but otherwise the history of this fixture has not been kind to them. It would also seem that momentum is with the Welshmen after their thorough dispatching of Edinburgh last week taking their tally up to two wins and a draw so far this season. Connacht at home are not to be dismissed easily though, as Quins, Biarritz and Leinster will attest. I’ve not seen either team-sheet but I expect Ospreys on a roll will win the day here.
Prediction: Ospreys by 10
Munster vs Newport Gwent Dragons
In the second leg of their Italian double header, Munster had a complete reversal of fortune in almost every facet of the game. Unlike their first half against Zebre, this time against Treviso, they were attritional and largely in charge, but in the second half we saw a complete capitulation marred by the sin-binning of three players in the space of just 12 minutes. Like with Leinster this performance is simply unacceptable. The Dragons, meanwhile, lead from start to finish against the Scarlets and were fully deserving of their victory last weekend. Despite their history against Munster they’ll come into this game with confidence. As of writing this, I’ve yet to see a team-sheet for the Dragons, but the Munster one looks strong, and add to that the fact that they are playing at home, and that they must be hurting from an avoidable defeat last week and you’d have to figure a more disciplined performance from the home side will let them take the win. I should mention a caveat though – Munster’s record against Welsh teams at Musgrave Park last season was very poor.
Prediction: Munster by 7
By John O’Brien
As always feel free to tell me how wrong (or right) I am in the comments below or on twitter @tiptackler
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images