Pro14: Full Semi-Final Preview

And then there were four. Shaun Goosen looks ahead to this weekend’s Pro14 semi-finals, with Glasgow hosting the Scarlets at the Scotstoun on Saturday before Munster visit newly-crowned European champions Leinster at the RDS a day later.

Glasgow v Scarlets
Scotstoun Stadium
18 May 20h45

To Win (80 mins)
Glasgow 7/10
Draw 18/1
Scarlets 12/10


Glasgow have been phenomenal in the Pro14 this season. Following an initial six-match winning streak, and despite a poor Champions Cup run, they went on to beat nine of their next 15 opponents to finish seven-points clear of Munster at the summit of Conference A. The Rennie-factor has been the most obvious linchpin in the side’s exceptional form this season, with the likes of Stuart Hogg, Huw Jones and Finn Russell thriving under the tutelage of the two-time Super Rugby champion.

In Scarlets, however, the Warriors face another side boasting one of the most enviable attacks in the competition. While the defending champions may not have hit the same heights of a year ago - when Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams were in simply unstoppable form - the men from Llanelli are still very capable of causing an upset this weekend.

The Scarlets defeated Glasgow 26-8 at the Parc y Scarlets in the only other meeting between the two sides this season and outscoring them three tries to one. They have also come out victorious in four of their last six games, while Glasgow have won just two of their last half-dozen. Unfortunately for the Welshmen, however, they will be without their season’s top points-scorer in Leigh Halfpenny, who has been ruled out with a torn hamstring. Despite his inconsistency, Halfpenny’s experience will be sorely missed.

Verdict: Glasgow 7/10
Johnny McNicholl is expected to return to fill the void in the back three, but that won’t be enough to down their hosts. Glasgow have been streaks ahead of most teams this season and, in spite of their poor recent form, they should come out victors by 10 or more points. When they get going, they are a side very difficult to stop.

Leinster v Munster
RDS Arena
19 May 16h15

To Win (80mins)
Leinster 3/10
Draw 20/1
Munster 26/10


Sunday’s second semi-final, on the other hand, is a much tougher one to call.

Leinster may be the new Champions Cup winners, but the physical onslaught they endured against Racing would have taken its toll on their players. Those bruised bodies will still need to get through another 160-minutes of rugby to be crowned Pro14 champions, and this after the majority of the squad had already partaken in Ireland’s Six Nations Grand Slam in March. That’s a lot of footy. Johnny Sexton, Cian Healy, Dan Leavy and the like will be out on their feet.

Now consider Munster. The wounds of their 22-27 Champions Cup semi-final loss at the hands of Racing 92 are still fresh, and following the success they have watched their northern rivals enjoy, they will be envious to claim some silverware of their own.

That said, their recent 20-16 result over Edinburgh in the first semi-final qualifier was a physical bombardment of its own. The Red Army were forced to make a whopping 169 tackles at Thomond Park, but perhaps even more worrying was their success rate at the contact point. Their 78% was bettered by Edinburgh (85%), and a similarly below-par effort this week will see Leinster take full control of proceedings.

The men from the capital are capable of cutting teams to shreds through their intricate attacking play and will take full advantage of a Munster failing in this department. Racing have been praised far and wide for their gargantuan defensive effort in their European final, with a success rate of 88% meaning Leinster barely got a sniff all afternoon, let alone a try. If Munster do win, it will be off the back of a similarly stoic defensive display.

What it really all boils down to this weekend is how good you believe this Leinster team to be. The entire rugby world has talked them up as one of the greatest to have ever pulled on a blue jersey, and admittedly, they did go unbeaten on their way to winning the Champions Cup. But, if they do want to be remembered as one of the best, they will need to go all the way this Pro14 season.

Verdict: Munster 26/10
Therein lies the problem for me. They are without question an exceptional rugby team, but I believe that Munster are potentially just as good; perhaps just at an earlier stage of their evolution. As it happens, I’m banking on the men from Limerick getting the better of their bitter foes by between six and nine points.

Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net

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