Guinness Pro 14: Round 19 Review (Part II)

The second part of the Guinness Pro 14 Round 19 review. An efficient performance from Scarlets to beat Glasgow Warriors. Toyota Cheetahs leave it extremely late to beat Cardiff Blues and Benetton Rugby break Dragons hearts with a last gasp win also. Action packed.

If you have read my blog regularly, the Toyota Cheetahs are my hidden guilty Guinness Pro 14 pleasure. When they played Munster Rugby at Thomond Park last September, their expansive style of play was so easy on the eye. I felt even then that with a couple of games, this side would be competitive and so it has proved. Toyota Cheetahs at Bloemfontein are an incredibly hard team to beat, ask Connacht Rugby and now Cardiff Blues with late road trip heartbreak in recent weeks.

29-27. A game which Toyota Cheetahs looked to be in control at half-time. The hosts front five prominent in ball carrying setting the platform, allowing Marais to unleash his back line with devastating results. Three tries scored in that opening period, clinical offloading and passing to players in better field position.

Maxwane scoring a further two tries; his try involving the ever dangerous Blommetjies was a movie reel highlight. Venter also got onto the score board with a superb running line to unlock the Cardiff Blues defense who had to absorb massive pressure in this half. 22-6 at the break. Game over?

Credit to Cardiff Blues, they came out in the second half with renewed purpose and controlled the pack exchanges with some excellent ball carries. Three excellent tries ensued. Owen Lane scoring his sixth Guinness Pro 14 try of the season and then two quality efforts from Halaholo and Lee-Lo midway through the half exposing fragile Cheetahs defense on the outside.

Cardiff Blues now were leading the contest but the altitude factor kicked in the final quarter. Toyota Cheetahs starting to probe the defensive fringes and creating field position which then led to a series of scrums ten meters out from the Cardiff Blues’ line. The officiating crew losing patience with the visitors and pointed for a penalty try.

Whether another officiating crew would have being so whistle happy in the NH remains to be seen, suffice to say another officiating crew would have asked the Toyota Cheetahs to play the ball from the scrum and let play develop. Devastating loss for the Cardiff Blues in the context of the game and playoff picture. Nine point is now the gap between the two sides now but all not lost for Cardiff Blues. An exciting Conference A playoff race beckons still!

This was a performance that signaled intent from Scarlets ahead of key fixtures in the next couple of weeks. 22-8 win. Two teams brimming with talent. The hosts were the more cohesive performer on the day, breakdown work on point led by James Davies. Scarlets had to remain patient until the second quarter of this contest when Patchell who was the standout  performer identified a defensive gap in the Warriors line to cross for a try. Key score, created the buffer that Glasgow Warriors could not bridge.

The Glasgow Warriors performance did not lack work rate but precision and accuracy at times let them down. Davies (scrum-half) intercepting a Glasgow Warriors skip pass to score Scarlets’ second try of the evening in the second half. The day did not get much better for the visitors as Finn Russell was forced to withdraw at half-time. Thereafter, attacking play from the Conference A top team was one dimensional. Time to reflect and address for Dave Rennie for the playoffs!

Scarlets will be pleased with the defensive line speed and organization throughout. Glasgow Warriors tried to penetrate holes in the defensive line but Scarlets were solid. Beirne’s work rate from second row a perfect case study. Thirteen tackles made. Three passes.

Patchell finished off a comfortable win with a late try, good hands from the Scarlets back line seeing the half-back with the ball close to the touchline but good movement and speed saw the number ten evade a couple of Glasgow Warriors tackles to score. A statement of intent from the Scarlets who keep the pressure on Leinster Rugby in both Pro 14 but also European Rugby Champions Cup front after this performance.

The proverbial game of two halves. Benetton Rugby will be happy to secure victory at the death given that they had the bonus point try secured in the first half but lack of accuracy defensively, coupled with concentration lapses left Dragons back into the contest and will undoubtedly raise video analysis questions.

Both sides will look at the missed tackle count. 25 vs. 23 is way too high for a side to win a Guinness Pro 14 encounter. Benetton Rugby will not be as lucky to win a game with this statistic for the remainder of the season. The hosts were excellent though with ball in hand. Several well worked tries courtesy of Ruzza (1′), Allan (27′), Ioane (23′) and Tebaldi (40′). Game over surely?

Dragons responded well and scored three tries of their own. Hill (50′), Rosser (61′), Edwards (65′) all crossed over and Dragons looked the better side for long periods of the half but lack of game management to close out the contest came into the equation.

Benetton Rugby got vital field position in those last eight minutes; squandered two good chances before Dragons indiscipline conceded the late penalty where Tebaldi slotted over. Devastating loss for Bernard Jackman and Dragons but Benetton Rugby continue to register wins in the league. A work in progress but the signs are encouraging.