GREAT RUGBY ACTION ON PREMIER SPORTS AS PRO14 CONTEST GOES DOWN TO THE WIRE
With just two pool rounds to go in the Guinness PRO14 Championship, Leinster, Munster and Glasgow Warriors have secured places for the Final Series with big battles ahead for the chasing clubs in both Conference A and B.
It’s all to play for in positions three to five in Conference A, Glasgow and Munster are well clear of the chasing pack but the Ospreys, Connacht and Cardiff Blues still have plenty to play for to gain 3rd position and a shot at the Final Series. There’s a big tie in Galway this weekend as Connacht host their rivals Cardiff Blues and adding to the drama will be Welsh Rugby’s double header derby - Judgement Day, which is just around the corner when the Cardiff Blues will face Ospreys at the Principality Stadium.
The battle for 2nd place in Conference B is still wide open with three main contenders vying - Ulster, Benetton and Edinburgh looking to secure a Final Series place – while Scarlets still have an outside chance to could make it if they take maximum points in the final two games.
Three live games on Premier Sports on Friday night; Benetton v Munster, Edinburgh v Ulster and Southern Kings v Ospreys to kick off what will be a tense and exciting weekend of rugby action.
The big one on Friday night will be Edinburgh v Ulster the result of which will have a key impact on Conference B. An Edinburgh win would guarantee the Scottish side with a European Play-Off place at the least as well as good chance of reaching the Final Series and it would leave Ulster needing to pick up a win against Leinster in their final round clash. There was just one point between these teams at Kingspan Stadium in September when Ulster just prevailed over Edinburgh, taking their head to head lead to 21-11 during 32 matchups.
For the Ospreys two big wins in the final pool rounds could secure them 3rd place and quarter-final place they play the Southern Kings in South Africa on Saturday afternoon.
Ulster and Ireland back row, Stephen Ferris is part of the Premier Sports team for Edinburgh v Ulster and says it’s going to be a huge night for both teams: “This is a big one for Ulster, they need to show they can win away from home and need four points out of the next two games – with a win in Scotland it takes some pressure off their final home game against Leinster. There’s so many positives around Ulster Rugby this season, things have vastly improved with a fresh, approachable feel around the club and fans are coming in their droves.
“Edinburgh are playing well - I really like what they are doing, they have a very physical back row and are heavy up front. They’ve got momentum back at the key point in the season and there seems to be a lot of belief within this team; they have a ‘never say die’ attitude, reminiscent of the old Leicester mentality under Richard Cockerill and are a dangerous side right now that nobody wants to play.”
Saturday sees one of the highlight games of the weekend as Connacht host Cardiff Blues. Victory for Connacht at home will see them secure a Final Series place and a ticket to Champions Cup next season while the Cardiff Blues need a win or draw to stay in the race.
Martyn Williams, former Wales and British and Irish Lions back row said it was a big weekend for the Cardiff Blues as the only Welsh side still in charge of their own destiny. “It’s a massive game for the Cardiff Blues, they will want come back strong after Munster proved too powerful last time out. They’ll need to be physical up front to match Connacht - we know the Blues have a very potent attack and can score tries, so if all fires, it should be a great contest.
“Scarlets and Ospreys need other results to go their way and Dragons are playing for pride particularly with Judgement Day next weekend which is always a big occasion and a great opportunity for some of the younger squad members to gain experience and confidence from a big double derby clash in the Principality Stadium. It was an impressive bonus point win for the Ospreys last weekend out in Bloemfontein, the team have had a lot of off-field uncertainly to deal with and have shown strength and clearly want to finish strongly.
“It’s certainly an exciting finish to the PRO14 again this year – you never know what results will come this weekend and it may work for the Welsh teams!”
It’s also a contest of the top two as Leinster host Glasgow Warriors with Leinster having confirmed top spot and a home semi-final on the weekend of May 18/19 while Glasgow still have Munster on their shoulder in the race for the same privilege.
Scarlets play Zebre still with an outside chance of making the Final Series from Conference B, but will need other results to go their way as well as near maximum points from their final two fixtures. Toyota Cheetahs v Dragons in the final Saturday night kick-off this weekend.
Bringing supporters all the inside track is the team from Premier Sports:
Fri 12 April Edinburgh v Ulster : Dougie Vipond, Emma Dodds, Rory Hamilton, Chris Paterson, Stephen Ferris
Sat 13 April Scarlets v Zebre: Ross Harries, Lauren Jenkins, Ed Butler, Martyn Williams, Tom Shanklin
The seven Guinness PRO14 games live on Premier Sports (UK times) are:
Fri 12 April Benetton v Munster kick off 7pm Live on FreeSports (from 6.55pm)
Fri 12 April Edinburgh v Ulster kick off 7.35pm Live on Premier Sports 1 (from 7pm)
Fri 12 April Southern Kings v Ospreys kick off 6.35pm Live Premier Sports 2 (from 6.30pm)
Sat 13 April Leinster v Glasgow Warriors kick off 3pm Live on Premier Sports 1 (from 2.45pm)
Sat 13 April Connacht v Cardiff Blues kick off 3pm Live on Premier Sports 2 (from 2.55pm)
Sat 13 April Scarlets v Zebre kick off 5.15pm Live on Premier Sports 1 (from 5.10pm)
Sat 13 April Cheetahs v Dragons off 6.35pm Live on Premier Sports 2 (from 6.30pm)