Munster and Benetton’s Saturday afternoon contest might have been postponed but there is more than enough action to whet the appetite across three days. Round 5 of the Guinness PRO14 promises excitement and drama with five more matches set for the weekend.
Dragons vs Connacht:
Wearing the bruises of a loss to Munster, Dragons wait to host another Irish outfit in the form of Connacht.
Connacht will be fresh from a bye in the last round and their tails up after a valuable away victory against Edinburgh in Round 3. The men in green showed the best of themselves as a fired-up Edinburgh took the lead early but could not maintain their tempo as Connacht systematically wrestled the game back into their control. The final whistle sounded with the score at 37-26.
While Munster seemed to have the game in the bag against Dragons from an early stage, they had to deal with a late surge from the Welshmen which the latter would do well to call upon again going into the Connacht fixture.
Something Dragons will have picked up on from Connacht’s last outing is that the Irishmen struggled somewhat to stem the tide of the Edinburgh maul. A number of their tries also came from smart, well-placed grubber kicks, which seemed to be an obvious tactic which, on the basis of its results, they may try to replicate.
The popular thought is that Connacht seem on track to take this one, however, they will be playing in their hosts’ backyard and may encounter a tougher 80 minutes than expected.
Ospreys vs Leinster:
The first game scheduled for Sunday sees Ospreys take on the unenviable task of challenging reigning champions Leinster.
Leinster are currently on a run of 19-straight Pro 14 victories since their unbeaten 2019-20 campaign plus the initial rounds of the current one and, judging on their run of form of late, it looks like they will take some beating.
In the last round, Leo Cullen’s troops travelled to Glasgow and powered past their Scottish rivals 32-19 in tough, wet conditions.
Ospreys, conversely, suffered an embarrassing loss to Zebre at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Round 4. While the Welshmen came back well at the end, it was too little too late after they had let the Italians in form a tight grip on proceedings.
Leinster will no doubt be expecting to leave the Liberty Stadium with five points in the bag.
Scarlets vs Zebre:
After a frustrating 6-3 loss to Edinburgh in Round 4, Scarlets host a Zebre outfit who managed to pull one over Ospreys, 23-17.
It was Zebre’s first victory of the campaign and one that raised many eyebrows as Ospreys were heavily favoured to take the spoils.
Defence reigned supreme at Parc y Scarlets last weekend as neither side managed to cross the try-line, rendering the spectacle a battle of the boots which Edinburgh won off the cuff of a single penalty.
Scarlets have recorded just one victory so far in the current tournament – against Benetton in Round 3 while having been on the receiving end of two very narrow losses – in Round 1 against Munster (30-27) plus the one mentioned above. In short, luck has not been on the Welshmen’s side so far in the competition.
Zebre are in a similar boat to Scarlets, their celebrated victory last weekend being their only one thus far.
It remains to be seen whether Zebre’s high spirits will be enough to out-do the frustration, desperation and home-ground advantage which will lie with Scarlets.
Ulster vs Glasgow:
2019-20 finalists Ulster host Glasgow in the penultimate game of the round. The Scots are coming off a loss to current reigning champions Leinster who downed their opponents 32-19.
Meanwhile, Ulster have enjoyed a great start to their campaign, having posted four wins from as many outings.
The Irishmen had a somewhat narrow escape last round against Cardiff, winning 11-7 at Rodney Parade in a brilliantly competitive game over which Ulster only just maintained their hold.
Unsurprisingly, Leinster dominated Glasgow last weekend in a clinical performance which the latter could not top.
Ulster are currently sitting in second position in Conference A, two points behind Leinster and a massive 9 points ahead of third-placed Ospreys.
Glasgow are occupying fourth spot in Conference A with only five points to their name after four rounds.
It’s a tough ask for Glasgow this weekend as they face a fiery Ulster side, however, the Scots will take some encouragement from the close result for Ulster last week.
Edinburgh vs Cardiff Blues:
The round will conclude with Cardiff blues taking on Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
Both teams were part of narrow results in Round 4, Edinburgh on the winning side while Cardiff lost out to Ulster.
Edinburgh have some catching up to do, currently sitting in second-last spot in Conference B with 6 points to their name.
Cardiff are faring slightly better, occupying second position in the same conference and with 10 points in the bank – still seven behind conference leaders Munster.
The sides faced each other twice during the 2019-20 campaign – in Rounds 2 and 13 with Edinburgh claiming the spoils on both occasions (19-11 & 14-6 respectively).
Expectations are that this one is Edinburgh’s to lose. Cardiff have suffered two narrow defeats in the past fortnight and will be eager to pull their campaign back on track and start adding to their solitary, Round 2 victory.