Preview: Pro14, Round 12
Preview: Pro14, Round 12SHARE
Shock results, last-minute winners and sell-out crowds headlined Round 11 of the Pro14 with the 1872 Cup between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors and the Irish derby between Munster and Leinster all setting attendance records for those respective fixtures.
Played in front of a record crowd of 23,833 at Murrayfield, the 1872 Cup saw late, late drama as Edinburgh's Chris Dean crossed over to end the Warriors' 10-game unbeaten start to the season, a result which also ended the visitors' hopes of equaling Ulster's record of 11 wins to start a Championship campaign.
The sides meet once again in Scotstoun this weekend where a second win for Edinburgh would secure the 1872 Cup, however, Glasgow will aim to rebound and ensure the fight for the famous trophy stretches out to their Round 21 clash in April.
Like Edinburgh, reigning champions Scarlets also overcame a red card and produced a winner in the final moment of their game against Ospreys while Dragons almost completed a famous comeback against Cardiff Blues as the Welsh Derbies produced some riveting action in front of sell-out crowds. An attendance of 26,267 at Thomond Park set a record for the highest figure at the Limerick venue across all competitions in the professional era.
What's at Stake
Once more, the Italian Derby between Zebre and Benetton will get the action up and running. Zebre were unfortunate to fall away in Treviso last weekend after playing much of the second half with 14 players and will have home advantage to strike back. Both teams will be feeling the pressure to produce a result and keep themselves in the hunt for the Champions Cup play-off spot in their respective conferences.
With their unbeaten run at an end Glasgow Warriors' clash with Edinburgh in Scotstoun presents more than an opportunity for revenge. Firstly, they must ensure the 1872 Cup goes to the third Derby game in Round 21 while they must also work to keep Munster at bay in second place. Dave Rennie's team lead last season's finalists by 12 points in Conference A, however, in Conference B Edinburgh now have 3rd place Ulster in their sights and there is no doubt that the games in Glasgow and Belfast (Ulster v Munster) will be heavily linked with each other.
On New Year's Eve, Cardiff Blues and Scarlets meet in the Welsh capital with both regions under pressure from the Irish provinces beneath them in their respective Conferences. Due to the Cheetahs' ineligibility for Europe, the Blues are currently in possession of an automatic Champions Cup place, however, they are ahead of Connacht by virtue of games won. Meanwhile, Scarlets lead Leinster by just two points in Conference B with both sides determined to finish top of the pile in order to ensure home-advantage in the Pro14 Final Series. With so much at stake this should be a cracker.
Dragons take on Ospreys at Rodney Parade after a sell-out crowd saw them come so close to a result against Cardiff Blues on Boxing Day. Ospreys remain bottom of Conference A with just two wins so far and this Derby will be vital to both teams who are eager to grab some momentum heading into 2018.
Leinster face Connacht in Dublin off the back of their spectacular win against Munster in Round 11 and with two Derby games in a row at the RDS, Leo Cullen's team will not want to slip up as they chase Scarlets hard for a place at the top of Conference B. Connacht will be full of confidence after their record win against Ulster at the Sportsground and with some of the Pro14's most exciting attacking talent on show this game should provide plenty of entertainment.
Pick of the Round: Ulster v Munster
In what is bound to be another sell-out affair this is a must-win encounter for Ulster and Munster as they collide at Kingspan Stadium with no margin for error. A loss for Ulster could see Leinster and Scarlets stretch away at the top in Conference B while providing Edinburgh with more encouragement in the chasing pack. Likewise, Munster needs to keep in sight of Glasgow Warriors and ensure that the Cheetahs don't usurp them in second place in Conference A after January's back-to-back South African Derbies.
This fixture in Belfast will also be a key battle for Irish players eager to impress Ireland coach Joe Schmidt as the Six Nations draws closer and an uncompromising physical battle looks set to play out.
We look at all the Round 12 action!
Saturday, December 30
ZEBRE v BENETTON
(Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma – Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Zebre has won just once in the Pro14 since Round 5: 24-10 at home to Connacht on 2 December.
Zebre's two victories at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi this season in the Championship were against Irish provinces: Ulster in Round Five and Connacht in Round 10.
Benetton's 27-14 victory over Zebre on Saturday ended an eight-match losing run in all competitions.
Benetton's only away win this season was over Edinburgh at Myreside in Round Three.
Benetton has won their last three matches against Zebre since slipping up 8-18 at Stadio Monigo on 3 January 2016.
Benetton's record against Zebre in Parma is won three, lost two.
Zebre: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello (captain), 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 George Biagi, 4 David Sisi, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D’Apice, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Roberto Tenga, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Jacopo Sarto, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Ciaran Gaffney.
Benetton:15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Dean Budd (captain), 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Luca Morisi.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton, John Erskine (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
GLASGOW WARRIORS v EDINBURGH
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow – Kick-off: 15.15; 15.15 GMT)
Glasgow Warriors have lost their last three matches in all competitions but have not lost four in a row since January 2016.
The Warriors have won all six games they have played at Scotstoun in the Pro14 this season.
Edinburgh has suffered only one defeat in their last ten matches in all tournaments, on their visit to Bloemfontein to face Cheetahs in November.
Edinburgh has won three times on the road in the Pro14 this campaign, at Cardiff Blues in Round 1, Benetton in Round 7 and Southern Kings in Round 10.
Edinburgh took a step towards regaining the 1872 Cup by handing Glasgow their first defeat of the Pro14 season at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Glasgow has won only one of their last six fixtures with Edinburgh: 25-12 at Murrayfield on Boxing Day 2016.
Edinburgh was victorious on their most recent visit to Scotstoun last May.
Glasgow: 15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Niko Matawalu, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Matt Smith, 6 Robert Harley, 5 Jonny Gray (captain), 4 Kiran McDonald, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Siua Halanukonuka, 19 Greg Peterson, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 George Horne, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Huw Jones.
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Matt Shields, 2 Stuart McInally (captain), 1 Murray McCallum.
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Elliot Millar-Mills, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Chris Dean, 23 Darcy Graham.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White, Keith Allen (Scotland)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Sunday, December 31
CARDIFF BLUES v SCARLETS
(Cardiff Arms Park – Kick-off: 15.15; 15.15 GMT)
Cardiff Blues have won their last two matches, at home to Sale in the European Challenge Cup and at Dragons on Boxing Day.
The Blues have won their last three matches at the Arms Park in the Pro14 but have not won four in a row at the venue in the Championship since the end of the 2015/16 season.
Scarlets only defeat in their last five matches in all tournaments was 21-28 to Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on 2 December.
Scarlets have won their last six matches against fellow Welsh Regions in the Pro14 whilst their only defeat in their last ten such encounters was to Ospreys at Liberty Stadium on 27 December 2016.
Scarlets have won their last three matches against Cardiff Blues since Blues 28-22 triumph at Parc y Scarlets in April 2016.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Matthew Rees (captain), 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 George Earle, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Alex Cuthbert.
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams (captain), 11 Paul Asquith, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ryan Elias, 3 Werner Kruger, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Steve Cummins, 6 Josh Macleod, 7 James Davies, 8 Will Boyde.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 David Bulbring, 20 Lewis Rawlins, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Ioan Nicholas.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies, Adam Jones (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
DRAGONS v OSPREYS
(Rodney Parade, Newport – Kick-off: 17.35; 17.35 GMT)
Dragons only win in their last five games in all competitions was 15-0 at home to Enisei in Round Three of the European Challenge Cup.
Dragons have won only one of their last twenty-four fixtures against fellow Welsh regions in the Pro14: 23-17 over Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park on Boxing Day 2014.
Ospreys only victory in the last ten rounds of the Pro14 was 28-14 at home to Dragons on 27 October.
Ospreys have not won away from home in the Championship since beating Edinburgh at Myreside in Round 17 last season.
Ospreys have won their last twelve encounters with Dragons in the Pro14 since the Men from Gwent's 21-20 victory at Rodney Parade in January 2012.
Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Ashton Hewitt, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Arwel Robson, 9 Dan Babos, 8 James Benjamin, 7 Ben Roach, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Cory Hill (captain), 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Liam Belcher, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Nicky Thomas, 19 Robson Blake, 20 James Sheekey, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Jarryd Sage.
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Jeff Hassler, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Olly Cracknell, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate (captain), 5 Adam Beard, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Paul James, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Rob McCusker, 21 Tom Habberfield, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Ashley Beck.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans, Mike English (Wales)
TMO: Neil Hennessy (Wales)
Monday, January 1
LEINSTER v CONNACHT
(RDS Arena, Dublin – Kick-off: 15.15; 15.15 GMT)
Leinster have won their last five matches in all tournaments since they were beaten by Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun in Round Eight of the Pro14.
The Leinstermen have not lost a regular season Pro14 match at the RDS Arena since Dragons beat them there in February 2015.
Connacht has won their last three matches in all tournaments since their defeat at Zebre in Round 10 of the Pro14.
Connacht has lost their last six away games in the Championship since they beat Edinburgh at Myreside 22-19 in April.
Connacht has won only twice away from home against a fellow Irish province in the history of the Championship – in Leinster in 2002 and in Munster in 2015.
Leinster won both their matches against Connacht last season whilst Connacht have won just three times against Leinster in Dublin since they first met in 1932: in 1955 and 1985 at Lansdowne Road and in 2002 at Donnybrook.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 1 Garry Ringrose, 12 Noel Reid, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Dan Leavy, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Cathal Marsh, 23 Rory O’Loughlin.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Tom Farrell, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 James Cannon, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Coulson.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Eoin Griffin, 23 Niyi Adeolokun.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy, Eddie Hogan-O'Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
ULSTER v MUNSTER
(Kingspan Stadium, Belfast – Kick-off: 17.35; 17.35 GMT)
Ulster Rugby's five-game unbeaten run in all tournaments ended with their 16-44 reversal at Connacht on Saturday.
Ulster has lost just once in Belfast in the Pro14 since Munster last won there in October 2016: 10-25 to Leinster in Round 7 this season.
Munster's five-game winning run in all tournaments was ended by Leinster at Thomond Park on St Stephen's Day.
The Munstermen have won just twice on the road in the Pro14 this season, at Ospreys in Round Three and at Zebre in Round Nine.
Munster have won their last four fixtures against Ulster since the two provinces played out a 23-all draw in Belfast in May 2015 whilst Ulster's most recent victory over Munster was 19-17 in Limerick in May 2014.
The Munstermen have won on their last two visits to the Kingspan Stadium and have never won three in a row in Belfast since they first made the trip north in 1910.
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney, 8 Jean Deysel, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Greg Jones, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O'Connor, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Rob Herring (captain), 1 Kyle McCall.
Replacements: 16, Adam McBurney, 17 Callum Black, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Matthew Rea, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Andrew Trimble.
Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Sammy Arnold, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Jack O’Donoghue, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Tommy O’Donnell, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Darren O’Shea, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Rory Loughman, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 James Hart, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Ronan O’Mahony.
Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Correll, Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)