Guinness Pro 14: Round 2 (Friday Night Fixtures)

An interesting opening round of Guinness Pro 14 fixtures, at least no head coach got sacked this week unlike in Premiership Rugby where Leicester Tigers pulled the trigger on Matt O’Connor.

Two interesting fixtures up for decision this weekend; a chance for Munster Rugby to redeem themselves at Scotstoun and can Ulster Rugby continue their good start to the season against an Edinburgh outfit eager to improve their performance after last weekend’s road trip loss to the Ospreys. Hawkeye Sidekick previews the action.

Warriors eager to start with a home win

Glasgow Warriors open their home stand this season with a visit from Munster Rugby. Munster Rugby will not have to be reminded of their last visit to Scotstoun; a miserable 37-10 reversal where the hosts outgunned Munster Rugby in all facets of play.

Glasgow opened the season with a dramatic 27-26 road trip over Connacht Rugby. A bonus point try effort exposing Connacht Rugby’s fragile defensive structures and lapses was deserved; the drop goal from Hogg to win the contest was sublime.

Yes, there were defensive issues around the fringes but Glasgow Warriors will be content with the level of performance and their ability to retain composure when down to fourteen players in the third quarter of the encounter so much so that they scored an unanswered try during this period. The maul, scrum were particularly dominant.

Glasgow Warriors name a strong side for this encounter. Hogg, Seymour, Grigg, Horne, DTH are all named in an exciting back line which will look to Pete Horne and Adam Hastings for quick ball and game management. The pack is imposing with the likes of Brown, Gray and Wilson in the ranks. The bench looks potent coming into the third quarter with the likes of Matawalu looking for his opportunity to impress as the game opens up. 

Munster Rugby had a free hit last weekend. The opposition unfortunately was poor and it is incredibly tough to evaluate Munster Rugby’s opening season salvo. The new players to the squad acquitted themselves well, impressed with Daly on the wing with his defensive nous. Sweetnam was the back line standout, rampaging through Cheetahs defensive line. Arno Botha looks imposing on both sides of the ball. There were inaccuracies with the offload game but the bonus point win and not to leak a score will have pleased van Graan and management. 

Let us be frank. Munster Rugby’s season effectively starts now and it will be interesting to see how the side fare this weekend. I will be particularly interested in how the half back pairing fare. Neil Cronin had an excellent cameo last weekend but the pressure will be increased on the road; can he deliver quick ball for his half back partner JJ Hanrahan to launch the likes of Arnold and Scannell? 

The Munster Rugby is decent; still a few absentees to the side. Murray’s absence and the length of his layoff yet to be disclosed has being commented on within the province. Stander, O’Mahony, Earls and Conway yet to feature but we will see a cameo from Tadhg Beirne off the bench this weekend. Where will he slot in? Second row or back row. Versatility but needs to bed down in a particular position. 

The back line unit is quite new and their defensive organization will be tested by a Glasgow Warriors side who will look to launch the ball out wide at every opportunity. Daly and Sweetnam will get plenty of defensive tackle reps tomorrow night. Mike Haley slots into the full back position, decent home debut and hope to see the player progress in the weeks to come. 

Verdict: Glasgow Warriors

The lack of a quality opening fixture for Munster Rugby could be exposed in round two. Glasgow Warriors are battle hardened more given their fixture last weekend and for that, the home side edge this encounter. Munster Rugby’s bench welcomes back Jaco Taute, a nice squad inclusion after his injury layoff.

A pivotal second home game for Ulster Rugby this weekend. I feared for Ulster Rugby last weekend against Scarlets but the work rate and potent back line play of McCloskey and Speight was decisive in a narrow victory. John Cooney continued to show massive leadership and was ably assisted by Billy Burns who had an excellent debut for the province. 

Personnel switches for the hosts in this encounter as we see the debut of Jordi Murphy in a potentially explosive back row. Murphy, Timoney and Coetzee has mobility, physicality and ability to effect the breakdown battle. There are changes in the front row as Herring, Kane come in and Treadwell partners Henderson in the second row. 

Edinburgh Rugby come into this game with pressure applied. Their loser point effort to Ospreys was disappointing; exposed some poor ball handling and game management during the contest which no doubt have being worked on the team in training this week. 

Richard Cockerill is forced to rejig the back line as Duhan van der Merwe is injured with centurion Tom Brown coming into the fray. Nel and Ritchie come into the pack; the battle in the back row looks a key match-up. Can Mata get sufficient pack platform to create line breaks tomorrow night? 

Verdict: Edinburgh Rugby

Ulster Rugby to win this contest need impact off the bench and I do not see it particularly in the half back and back line combinations. Edinburgh Rugby know that a second successive defeat to the league campaign will see the side well behind the pace in Conference B and when their opposition is potent playoff contender, the pressure is heightened even more. I expect a far better performance from Edinburgh Rugby this week and despite good exchanges from Ulster Rugby, the visitors front five should provide enough platform to allow Hickey to win this contest by a narrow margin.