Well that’s more like it, six matches played last weekend and six correct predictions. Not to worry, I won’t be getting big headed about it as a lot of those games were fairly easy enough to call, with the Edinburgh vs Scarlets being the toughest one in my mind. At first glance this weekend’s match ups aren’t so easy to call.
Benetton Treviso vs Connacht
Both Treviso and Connacht come into this match with only one win from four so far this season, and both of those wins were achieved at home rather than on the road. Advantage Treviso. History slightly favours the visitors though, who in the last six encounters have edged it 3-2 (with one draw). Games between these two in Italy are usually close affairs, but when you consider who Treviso scalped at home (Munster) recently, versus who Connacht defeated (Zebre) you’d have to favour the Italians to take the win here and take it well.
Prediction: Treviso by 12
Ospreys vs Ulster
Ospreys come into this game undefeated after four rounds (three wins, one draw) and have had a much better start to the season than their opponents Ulster, who are only two for four in the win stakes. Ospreys are also undefeated in their last ten home games since losing to Glasgow last season. The last Irish side to win here were Ulster though, and despite having the poorer start to the season should never be ruled out too easily. The last few clashes between these sides have been very close fought contests and last season said contests were actually won by the away side on the day. Will that be the same this time ‘round? Hard to say, Ulster are certainly better than their current record suggests (I’m looking at you Glasgow!) but then again Ospreys getting a draw against Leinster in Dublin is no mean feat either. Last season’s reversals notwithstanding, with a game this close you’d have to favour the home side.
Prediction: Ospreys by 5
Newport Gwent Dragons vs Zebre
It’s been quite the stop start season so far for the Dragons. A surprise win against Ulster in round one, and beating Welsh rivals Llanelli in round three have been interspersed with away losses to Edinburgh and Munster. Zebre meanwhile will consider a trip to Wales a treat given their shock win over the Blues in Cardiff in round three. They showed great heart in their late fight back with Glasgow last weekend, managing to come within seven and get a well deserved loosing bonus point. No disrespect to the Italians, but you’d have to ask yourself, was that due to them waking up and taking the game to Glasgow or were Glasgow guilty of taking their foot off the pedal to some extent? Or maybe both? What cannot be taken away from Zebre is that they managed to score two tries against Glasgow, something that powerhouses Leinster and Ulster were unable to do this season. However, factoring in that nobody will be taking Zebre too lightly anymore, home advantage and having Faletau back in the team, my money is on the Dragons.
Prediction: Dragons by 7
Llanelli Scarlets vs Glasgow Warriors
This one is tricky to call, not least because as I write this I’ve no knowledge of the team-sheets. Based on results it looks pretty straight forward; Glasgow are the only team with four wins under their belt thus far, whereas the Scarlets are only two from four. Scarlets will be hurting from their losses to Leinster and the Dragons, and a win against this season’s table toppers would be a great scalp to claim. I’m delighted for Glasgow to be doing so well but that record needs closer inspection. If we’re all honest here, their win against Ulster was very lucky, their Leinster game was hard fought but could’ve gone either way up until the last five mins, ditto with their season opener against the Blues. Furthermore, they let Zebre back into the game last weekend, (but fortunately they had done enough to get away with the win). Don’t get me wrong, they deserve to be where they are in the league right now, but we can all agree they’ve ridden their luck a little bit too. This is their second away game in as many weeks and that is tough on any team. I think they will probably get another win here but if Scarlets took them (which they did in this fixture last year), I wouldn’t be all that surprised.
Prediction: Glasgow by 10
Munster vs Leinster
This preview is the one I’ve been dreading the most. The Munster vs Leinster rivalry is as big as you can get in Irish sport. if you haven’t read it yet, check out yesterday’s article on what makes this such a special rivalry. Munster’s form thus far has been okay, but they have been mostly pitted against lower ranked teams like the Dragons, Edinburgh and Zebre. Leinster, who have already faced Glasgow and Ospreys this season, will be a much tougher challenge for the hosts. Leinster’s recent record in Thomond (having won the last two times they’ve played here) will also give them a boost coming into this game. All logic says that Leinster should edge it, but looking at the bench Munster have named, if they can keep in touch with Leinster to begin with they may very well eke out a win here. What makes this match doubly fascinating is that neither side will have their traditional playmaker on the field. In fact the odds are that both O’Gara and Sexton will be watching (a recording) of this match sitting back, relaxing, while sipping some French wine together! Who saw that coming a year ago? Heart very much wants Munster to win, but the head says Leinster.
Prediction: Leinster by 3
Cardiff Blues vs Edinburgh
Sunday’s game is a bit too far out to have teams named and thus I’m forced to go on recent form. Cardiff edge that slightly despite both teams having only 1 win from 4 each so far. Cardiff’s record against Edinburgh overall is better with 14 wins and 11 losses but the most recent of those was last year’s loss in this very fixture. It’s possible that Edinburgh could do that again, but frankly I don’t think so. Their away record is normally atrocious and I’ve seen nothing so far this season to make me think that’s going to change. Hold off until you see the team sheets though!
Prediction: Blues by 8
As always feel free to tell me how wrong (or right) I am in the comments below
By John O’Brien (@tiptackler)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images