Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
GUINNESS AND BEYOND!
The Rugby Channel delivered two LIVE Round 13 matches from the Guinness Pro12 and both produced convincing wins for teams that are firmly ensconced in the top four and definitely plan on being there at the end of the campaign.
Ospreys and Leinster are sitting in first and third place on the table and they both put in performances that clearly showed how they have attained those coveted positions.
To see all the tryscoring from these contests, watch TRC Report #35 with host Christian Miles.
Or better yet, become a subscriber to The Rugby Channel for less than a single dollar per week and you’ll be able to watch all of our Guinness Pro12 matches either LIVE when they happen or on VOD at your leisure.
There was never much doubt as to the outcome in this one as the Leinstermen dotted down five minutes into the game, scored ten tries overall, and racked up 70 points in eighty minutes.
Not surprisingly, Leinster looked sharp offensively all night while they shredded the Zebre defense but they also performed well in the set pieces and in an undervalued area, kickoffs, even though they only had a few all evening.
Their discipline and play at the breakdown was outstanding and they missed only seven tackles, a statistic that was no doubt helped by the fact that Zebre only had forty percent of the possession.
Zebre never looked cohesive or threatening at any point in the match and can only hope to put this one behind them and move on.
If you’re a Leinster fan or you just like watching lot of quality tries being scored, then give it a look.
The Ospreys faced off against a much different type of opponent last Saturday when they met Connacht in Swansea. The defending champions were certainly understrength - they’ve been hit by an unprecedented number of injuries this season – but they played tough all game long and never slackened their effort.
Connacht seemed determined to deny the home side a fourth try and kept hammering away on defense with everything they could muster against the comp’s highest scoring team.
This forced Ospreys to also play for eighty full minutes even though the match wasn’t really in doubt after they scored their third try in the fifty-sixth minute. They did eventually get their bonus point at the end but it didn’t come easy.
You have to feel for Connacht. After winning their first ever title in 2015/16 they lost a bunch of starters in the offseason, had a disrupted preseason, got off to a slow start, seemed to right the ship, and have now added another starter to their growing injury list with the temporary loss of flyhalf Jack Carty.
I suggest watching this match and enjoying the solid performance by Ospreys and the gutsy one by Connacht.
The Guinness Pro12 takes a break for European and Anglo Welsh competition but will return to The Rugby Channel on Friday, February 10th with Munster taking on Newport and Glasgow facing Scarlets.
With nearly two-thirds of the competition in the books, now is a good time to take a look at the what the various teams’ immediate prospects are when the Guinness Pro12 resumes.
Of the twelve teams involved, the top four are currently in good shape of maintaining their positions, the next four still have a chance to climb upward, and the bottom four will be looking for upsets along the way.
THE TOP FOUR
Ospreys jumped into the top spot on the table with 49 points with their win over Connacht. Their upcoming European and Anglo Welsh Cup matchups don’t look too strenuous – except for Wasps in Coventry – and when they restart Pro12 action they’ll play Zebre, Munster, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Benetton Treviso. Ospreys are a good candidate to run into difficulty during the Six Nations when they’ll lose numerous starters to Wales duty, an unavoidable part of building a star-studded side.
Munster are playing some wonderful rugby at the moment and have 46 points and second place in the Pro12 standings to show for it. They do have to meet Glasgow in Champions Cup action but after that it gets easier until they play Ospreys in the third weekend of February in the Pro12. Munster have a game in hand because of their unique scheduling problems but that match will be made up when they meet Edinburgh on February 3rd, which will likely see them vault back into first place while the rest of the teams are idle or playing in other tournaments.
Leinster is also on 46 and nearly passed Munster on points differential with their 64-point winning margin against Zebre. The Leinstermen have a tough fortnight ahead in Europe with games against Montpellier and Castres Olympique but are then blessed with less challenging foes in the Pro12 in Benetton Treviso, Edinburgh, and Newport. Leinster will also be depleted by Six Nations call-ups but they won’t face a top tier Pro12 opponent until they host Scarlets at the RDS on March 4th.
Glasgow is in fourth with 41 points but they have the hardest upcoming schedule of any of the leaders. They will host Munster and travel to Leicester for Champions Cup, then face two tough sides looking to pass them in the standings, Scarlets and Ulster, followed by table topping Ospreys. The Warriors won their last three Guinness matches but that was on the heels of losing three straight against better teams. If they are for real, they’ll get a chance to prove it over the next two months.
THE NEXT FOUR
Scarlets are just a point behind Glasgow at 40 but will also face strong opposition in the next couple of months. They get Saracens twice at Parc Y Scarlets, go to Sale and Northampton, and then run the gauntlet of Glasgow, Zebre, Munster and Leinster. The critical match will be the one versus Glasgow on February 10 and we’ll have it LIVE on The Rugby Channel, as well as the Anglo Welsh Cup battle with Northampton on February 3rd.
Ulster are sitting in sixth with 33 points and in need of a serious winning streak. Their schedule sets them up for it. After Europe, they welcome both Scottish sides to Kingspan Stadium then take on Zebre in Italy and Benetton Treviso back in Belfast. And remember, Ulster still has to play Zebre in Northern Ireland because of the frozen pitch postponement from November.
Cardiff aren’t out of it yet but they’re close, having earned just 27 points so far. Their fixture list is favorable to a late season resurgence though, with matches against bottom dwellers in both the Challenge and Anglo Welsh Cups, then Pro12 games versus Connacht, Benetton Treviso, and Edinburgh in succession.
Connacht, with only 21 points, are almost eliminated and only their status as miracle defending champions gives them any hope at all of staging the greatest comeback ever. The early Guinness matches look favorable against Cardiff, Newport, Benetton Treviso, and Zebre but it gets much trickier for them after that.
THE BOTTOM FOUR
Newport, Edinburgh, Benetton Treviso and Zebre have a total of 57 points and 11 wins. They are not threats to make the playoffs but they are still dangerous to those sides that are trying to. Late in losing seasons - like they are all having - occasionally something clicks and on individual days they can look like world beaters and pull off totally unexpected upsets. The trick for the leaders is to avoid having that happen to them!
The Guinness Pro12 is an amazing tourney but it’s just one of many that The Rugby Channel will deliver in 2017. If you subscribe now for less than a buck a week, this is what you’ll see.
The Anglo Welsh Cup
Two rounds left to play before the semifinals and The Rugby Channel will have four live matches from the last weekend in January and the first in February.
The Six Nations
2017 is going to be a wild ride for this storied competition as England look to repeat as champions and the rest of the countries battle to beat them and each other. The Rugby Channel will have every match, delayed twenty-four hours from kickoff.
The Americas Rugby Championship
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