Guinness Pro14 Round Five Review: Zebre Stun Ulster in Italy

Dragons v Southern Kings - Guinness PRO14
NEWPORT, WALES - SEPTEMBER 30: Dragons' Hallam Amos celebrates scoring his sides first try during the Guinness Pro14 Round 5 match between Dragons and Southern Kings at Rodney Parade on September 30, 2017 in Newport, Wales. (Photo by Simon King - CameraSport via Getty Images)

With Zebre’s stunning upset win over Ulster in Italy, it was another shock result to add to an unpredictable Guinness Pro14 season.

In the Guinness Pro14 Round Five review, Last Word on Rugby covers all the winners and losers, and the fixtures for next weekend.

Zebre 27-23 Ulster

Shock of the weekend in the Pro14 came at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Italy on Saturday. Zebre produced a brilliant second-half display to stun Ulster and end their perfect start to the Guinness PRO14 season In a sensational afternoon in Parma.

Ulster were huge favourites heading into the game, but suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of the Italians. For Ulster, it was a first setback of the campaign, although Darren Cave’s try at the death at least earned them a losing bonus point. Zebre, meanwhile, move up to fourth in Conference B with their second win of the campaign.

Zebre scored three tries, first Giovanni Licata went over on 48 minutes, and he was followed by Mattia Bellini shortly after. The winger had been the standout performer for Zebre in the first half, constantly threatening with ball in hand.

Renato Giammarioli picked off a pass on the 22 and showed remarkable pace for a No.8 to go all the way for Zebre’s third try, which turned out to be enough for the hosts. Marcello Violi added two conversions to add to Carlo Canna’ two penalties and one conversion.

Ulster Guilty of Lacking Initiative

Ulster did what they could to come back, eventually crossing through Cave, who converted his own try with a drop goal, but they could not find another score in the final minute and instead had to settle for a losing bonus point. The visitors must be guilty of not taking the initiative, allowing the crowd to boost the home team, and help them to a monumental victory.

Future Fixtures: Ulster host fellow Irish province Connacht Friday night at the Kingspan Stadium, and will be looking to bounce back smartly following this defeat. Zebre travel to Scotland the same night to face Edinburgh, and hope to make it back to back wins.

Cheetahs 44-25 Ospreys

Ospreys struggles continue with a fourth successive defeat in Bloemfontein on Friday night. While superbly, the South African Cheetahs won their third straight game in their debut Guinness Pro14 season. In fact, they look to be a real force at home at the Toyota Free State Stadium.

The hosts raced into a 15-0 lead, with tries to Torsten van Jaarsveld, Makazole Mapimpi and Paul Schoeman. This gave the Cheetahs’ their try bonus point early, before Mapimpi made sure of the result with his fifth score in the 2017/18 Guinness PRO14 season.

Rhys Webb and Kieron Fonotia scored, to bring the Ospreys back into the game. A Dan Evans’ score hinted at a second Ospreys comeback but Francois Venter added further gloss to the Cheetahs win.

A lack of confidence has become a real key issue with Ospreys. Their attack lacks any creativity, while the players look too scared to try something different. With a lot of handling errors and mistakes creeping into their game, the onus is on skills execution to improve their season [soon].

The Cheetahs are the complete opposite. Following up on last week’s victory of Leinster, with another bonus point victory at home.  The Cheetahs are in confident mood and are scoring tries for fun, they will fancy their chances this weekend to make it four victories on the bounce.

Future Fixtures: Ospreys; on the back of successive defeats, will be wondering where their next win will come from. Hosting defending champions Scarlets next, it is going to be a tough ask to stop the winless streak Saturday night. Cheetahs hope to keep their brilliant form going into Friday night’s clash at home, to the high-flying Glasgow Warriors.

Dragons 29-13 Southern Kings

Last Word On Rugby’s game of the weekend saw the Southern Kings – still looking for their maiden Guinness PRO14 win – overpowered by the Dragons at Rodney Parade.

The hosts used the driving maul to devastating effect as they went over four times in a bruising bonus point performance. The dominant display gave the Dragons fans something to cheer, a situation they don’t find themselves in too often.

Braces from Elliott Dee and Hallam Amos (see main picture) either side of half time secured the win for Bernard Jackman‘s side. On the other side, Anidisa Ntsila went over for the visitors in their only try of the night.

Gladly for Welsh fans, LWOR key player to watch Gavin Henson turned back the years, with a controlling display. There is life in the old legs yet!

The result will give the Dragons a welcome boost and a second victory, as they look to climb up the Conference B table. While it leaves the Southern Kings stranded at the bottom of conference B, cut adrift of the rest following this result.

Future Fixtures: The Dragons travel to Cardiff in a local derby Friday night, hoping to follow this victory with another. Southern Kings face a tough fixture, when they travel to take on the tough Italian side Benetton Treviso.

Scarlets 36-27 Connacht

Defending Champions Scarlets, followed up last weeks victory over Edinburgh, with another bonus point display. In an exciting Guinness PRO14 Round Five clash at the Parc y Scarlets, Jack Carty’s missed conversion proved crucial, as Scarlets held on to beat Connacht in a thrilling encounter.

The fly-half had a chance to level the scores with just five minutes to go, but he pulled it wide allowing the champions to hold on, to secure a memorable win.

Man of the match, Steff Evans was on fire for Scarlets, as he scored one try and set up two others in a breathless first half – which saw seven tries scored. Johnny McNicholl, Rhys Patchell, Leigh Halfpenny, Tadgh Beirne also crossed the chalk, with Halfpenny kicking four conversions and a penalty.

Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran was also excellent and scored twice, but the Irish side were mostly chasing the game, and could not quite get level. Kian Kelleher crossed from close range and fly half Jack Carty, scored 12 points for the visitors including going over the try line himself.

Unfortunately, 27 points was just not enough–missing out on the losing bonus point too.

Future Fixtures: The Scarlets travel to their local rivals the Ospreys on Saturday night hoping to make it three wins in a row. Connacht face another away trip to fellow Irish province Ulster, after suffering three successive losses.

Munster 39-16 Cardiff Blues

Munster’s unbeaten start to the season was brought to an end by fellow Conference A high-flyers Glasgow Warriors in Round Four but they rallied to dispatch Cardiff Blues 39-16 at Thomond Park.

Rassie Erasmus’ side bounced back to winning ways in the Guinness PRO14 thanks to a classy display from the Irish side. While Blues head coach Danny Wilson, who recently announced his departure at the end of the season, will have a lot to think about heading into next week.

British and Irish Lion, and Try-scorer Connor Murray made his first appearance of the season. He was joined in the hosts’ starting line-up by fellow Lions Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander, who also toured New Zealand this summer.

Prop John Ryan, a JJ Hanrahan brace and Robin Copeland scoring against his former club, helped Munster to the five try demolition. Josh Turnbull scored the Blues only try of the game, but it was the Welsh regions defence that will worry Wilson. The visitors missed 24 tackles in total and Munster punished them.

Future Fixtures: Cardiff Blues host local rivals the Dragons on Friday night in a tough match. While Munster face a tough away trip to Leinster in what should be a brilliant watch on Saturday night.

Glasgow Warriors 37-21 Benetton Treviso

Glasgow held off a late Benetton fightback, to maintain winning start. Tommy Seymour’s first home appearance of the season ended in impressive fashion as his try paved the way for another Glasgow Warriors Guinness PRO14 victory, this time over Benetton Treviso.

The Scottish international winger crossed in the first half, joined on the scoreboard by Rob Harley before the first 40 minutes was up. Peter Horne also got in on the act with a try after the interval, while Sam Johnson’s late score notched the bonus point as the Warriors secured their fifth win from five this season.

Benetton Treviso two game winning run came to an end at the Scoutstoun Stadium on Friday night. The Italian side looked well beaten, yet responded through Marco Lazzaroni as well as Federico Ruzza. Not to be though, as the league leaders carried on their winning ways.

Future Fixtures: The Glasgow Warriors will be hoping to make it six from six, when they travel to face the in form Cheetahs. While Benetton Treviso host the other South African side the Southern Kings hoping to return to winning ways.

Leinster 21-13 Edinburgh

Jamison Gibson-Park’s late try sealed a hard-earned victory for Leinster at the RDS Arena over Edinburgh. The result keeping up the pressure on Scarlets, at the top of Conference B.

In a tight fought game both sides shared the lead in the first half, Edinburgh holding the advantage, approaching half time. As the Boys in Blue pounded away at the line, Joey Carbery finally wriggled across the whitewash, as the clock ticked into the red. Sexton’s conversion made it 14-13 at the break.

Edinburgh, led by Hamish Watson, made some crucial turnovers in the second half, keeping them in the game. And when entering the last ten minutes, this clash could have gone either way with only a point in it. but it was Leinster who ‘struck the hammer blow’. Glenn Bryce hit an errant clearance and Jamison Gibson-Park was the benefactor.

Jason Tovey had an excellent game for the Scottish side, scoring all their points including their only try in a close encounter. Head coach, Richard Cockerill, will be proud of his side’s performance despite the result.

Future Fixtures: Edinburgh will be hoping to rectify this defeat when they host Italians, Zebre on Friday night. Leinster are also at home, hosting fellow Irish side Munster in what could be the game of the weekend.

The Last Word from Gavin

Shocks are becoming a regular occurrence now in the Guinness Pro14. The emergence of the Cheetahs, and improvement of the Italian sides, has made the 2017/18 Pro14 more exciting than ever. Everyone can expect a lot of tight and exciting games next weekend, which makes selecting Last Word On Rugby’s feature game much more difficult to select.

The LWOR ‘game of the weekend’ preview will be published Thursday, keep your eyes peeled.

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