The Pro 12 this year has been a fantastic competition with a great mix of teams competing at the very top of the table. This is best demonstrated by having 2 Irish, 1 Welsh and 1 Scottish team competing in the last four. In addition Italian club Treviso are able to congratulate themselves after their best ever finish in the competition (a very respectable 7th). Whilst the initial form guide suggested Ulster might run away with the league this year after storming to the head of the table, a dip in form saw them reigned in by both Leinster and Glasgow before they eventually re-emerged top of the table after the final round of games. The appearance of the Scarlets in the final four who narrowly edged out fellow Welsh region the Ospreys is fantastic for the health of the competition.
Ulster v Llanelli Scarlets is an interesting match-up with both teams having shown they are capable of taking on and beating the teams around them on their day. Both teams have also seen great runs of form come to a disappointing end but have fortunately gathered themselves together for a final push at the Pro 12 title. Whilst Ulster ended up finishing top of the table the Scarlets only narrowly managed to finish fourth after a disappointing 17 – 41 reverse to Italians Treviso after a lacklustre performance. The Scarlets do however have a youthful exuberance that could see them bounce back in the game against Ulster to record a famous victory for the Welsh region.
The form book definitely suggests an Ulster victory at the weekend with the Irish side having emerged victorious on both of the occasions in which the sides have met this year. In addition the Scarlets have not registered a victory at Ravenhill since the 08/09 season. That’s not to suggest that if fly-half Rhys Priestland can’t get a back-line including the likes of Lions George North and Jonathan Davies as well as Scott and Liam Williams firing then the Scatlets aren’t capable of an upset. Whatever happens though with the players on show we should hopefully see a great open attacking game, hopefully with a few tries to boot.
Verdict: Ulster to narrowly edge the game by about 5 points.
The teams line-up as below;
Ulster: J Payne, A Trimble, D Cave, S Olding, T Bowe, P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, D Fitzpatrick, J Muller, D Tuohy, R Diack, C Henry, N Williams.
Replacements: R Herring, C Black, R Lutton, I Henderson, M McComish, P Marshall, M Allen, P Nelson.
Scarlets: Liam Williams; George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Andy Fenby; Rhys Priestland, Aled Davies; Phil John, Ken Owens, Samson Lee, George Earle, Johan Snyman, Aaron Shingler, Rob McCusker (capt), Josh Turnbull.
Replacements: Emyr Phillips, Rhodri Jones, Jacobie Adriaanse, Jake Ball, Sione Timani, Gareth Davies, Owen Williams, Gareth Owen.
Leinster v Glasgow Warriors is a tough one call, not least because at one point or another both these teams have been at the top of the table and only narrowly missed out in the end. Glasgow have been having a tremendous season to date scoring tries seeming for fun having put 60, 51 and 41 points on The Dragons, Munster and Treviso respectively. An exciting back three including newly appointed Lions Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland have been able to play off of a strong platform created by the likes of Grant, Kellock and Barclay.
Leinster have also had another impressive season as they once again claim a place in the final four of the competition in which they’ve had home advantage in the semi’s in the last 3 years. This is also the final season at the province for Jonny Sexton and could also be a final bow for talismanic captain Brian O’Driscoll. The team have great pedigree after continued domestic and European success coupled with a strong Lions contingent, however the lure of the Amlin Challenge Cup final next weekend could see them take half an eye off the prize this weekend.
The Verdict: Although Leinster have the pedigree I feel the collective desire of Glasgow this season may see them snatch it by a couple of points.
Leinster: : R Kearney, F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen, D Toner; K McLaughlin, S O’Brien/S Jennings; J Heaslip
Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, J Hagan, Q Roux, S Jennings/R Ruddock, J Cooney, I Madigan, A Conway
Glasgow: S Hogg, S Maitland, S Lamont, A Dunbar, DTH Van der Merwe, P Horne, N Matawalu, R Grant, P MacArthur, J Welsh, T Swinson, A Kellock (capt), J Strauss, J Barclay, R Wilson.
Replacements: F Brown, M Low, E Kalman, T Ryder, R Harley, H Pyrgos, R Jackson, M Bennett.
I imagine there will probably be quite a few who disagree with the about so do feel free to let me know below…