PRO14 report card: Leinster and Glasgow top of the class as Southern Kings fail

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Leinster saw off Glasgow on Saturday to clinch back-to-back PRO14 titles.

Here, we grade the performances of all 14 teams in the competition this season.

BENETTON

2018/19 record: Won 11, Lost 8, Drew 2

A stunning season for the Italian side with 11 victories, the same as last season, after winning just three, three and five in the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 campaigns respectively. Kieran Crowley’s team will have earned respect from their rivals due to their improvements in skillset, game plan and ability to play a more attractive brand of rugby.

Grade: B

CARDIFF BLUES
2018/19 record: Won 10, Lost 11

A fairly balanced season for the Blues, finishing fifth in their conference – one place worse than last season. Their 10 wins is similar to their three previous campaigns with triumphs over Munster (37-13) and back-to-back comprehensive wins over the Scarlets among their key results.

Grade: C

CHEETAHS
2018/19 record: Won 8, Lost 12, Drew 1

The Bloemfontein side were a breath of fresh air in their maiden campaign, reaching the quarter-finals, but struggled this year, with just eight victories. Notable scalps over Cardiff and Benetton will add positivity in the off-season. Need to continue to build momentum and tighten their defence in the off-season – they conceded 12 more tries than 2017-18.

Grade: D+

CONNACHT
2018/19 record: Won 12, Lost 9

A blistering season for the Irish side after a subpar 2017-18 season where they won just seven times. Reached the knock-out stages of the league and qualified for next season’s Champions Cup in the process. Under new boss Andy Friend, they look a revitalised outfit and continue to play an attractive and exciting brand a rugby.

Grade: B

DRAGONS
2018/19 record: Won 5, Draw 1, Lost 15

An improvement upon their previous campaign but they still only managed to finish second from bottom in their conference above Southern Kings. With only 22 per cent win record in their last 100 fixtures, new director of rugby Dean Ryan will have his work cut out for him. The Englishman needs to inspire a team who have only won one away match since March 2015.

Grade: D

EDINBURGH
2018/19 record: Won 10, Lost 11

Won five less games than the previous season and only managed to finish fifth in their conference. Victories over Leinster and Connacht will surely have added some bite and drive into a burgeoning side who also reached the quarter-finals in the Champions Cup. Need to step up again next season. Boast the league’s best player in No8 Bill Mata.

Grade: B-

GLASGOW WARRIORS
2018/19 record: Won 16, Lost 5

The Scottish club continue to go from strength to strength and played some scintillating rugby across the season. With a 76-per cent win ratio this campaign, the Ryan Wilson-led outfit showed dominance and ruthlessness to finish top of their conference before crashing to a 18-15 defeat against Leinster in the final.

Grade: A

LEINSTER
2018/19 record: Won 15, Draw 1, Lost 5

The league champions showed plenty of quality and are now on the brink of sealing a fourth domestic title in even years. To underline their squad depth in this competition, Leo Cullen used 57 players during the 21 regular season matches. Scored 12 more tries than any other team.

Grade: A+

MUNSTER
2018/19 record: Won 16, Lost 5

A tight semi-final defeat to Leinster cannot be underestimated and for large parts of the season, Johann van Graan’s side played an attractive and efficient brand of rugby. A mix of youth and experience served them well, with star man Tadhg Beirne stepping up superbly over the course of the campaign. Boast the best defensive record in the league.

Grade: B+

OSPREYS
2018/19 record: Won 12, Lost 9

A vast improvement. They were the only Welsh team to qualify for the Champions Cup next season and finished highest out of the Welsh regions in the PRO14. With Alun Wyn-Jones and George North in superb form, confidence looks high again at Liberty Stadium.

Grade: B-

SCARLETS
2018/19 record: Won 10, Lost 11

Poor season for a team who were dominant for the two previous campaigns. They failed to qualify for the Champions Cup for the first time since 2003 and lost five more games than the 2017-18 season. Many fans blamed the early announcement of Wayne Pivac as Wales boss as the turning point of their disastrous season.

Grade: C-

SOUTHERN KINGS
2018/19 record: Won 2, Draw 1 Lost 18

Hard to draw many positives for the Port Elizabeth-based side in their second season. Wins over Glasgow and Edinburgh will represent a glimmer of postivity, but overall, they were a team lacking any creativity and consistency with ball in hand. Defensively, the gaps grew as the season progressed and they shipped a woeful 735 points.

Grade: F

ULSTER
2018/19 record: Won 13, Draw 2, Lost 6

Reached the semi-finals of the PRO14 and quarter-finals of the Champions Cup, a significant achievement with a make-shift squad. En route to booking their place in the last four of the league, they finished second in their conference behind Leinster. In Marcel Coetzee, they boast one of the most powerful and inspirational players in the British Isles.

Grade: B+

ZEBRE
2018/19 record: Won 3, Lost 18

After a strong 2017-18 campaign where they won a franchise record seven matches, the Italian side look like they have slipped back to their old ways, yielding just three victories this term. They also scored 15 less tries and conceded eight more than the previous campaign.

Grade: F

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Ireland's Sean O'Brien ruled out of Rugby World Cup

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Sean O'Brien

Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien will miss this autumn’s Rugby World Cup after Leinster confirmed he is set to undergo hip surgery.

O’Brien, who will swap newly-crowned PRO14 champions Leinster for London Irish later this year, faces up to six months on the sidelines.

The 32-year-old has struggled with a string of injuries across a standout Leinster, Ireland and British and Irish Lions career, but still boasts 56 caps for his country.

Injury denied O’Brien a place in Leinster’s squad for Saturday’s 18-15 final victory over Glasgow Warriors at Celtic Park but he still lifted the trophy following the win.

A statement issued on Leinster’s official website read: “Unfortunately (head coach Leo) Cullen has confirmed that back row Sean O’Brien – who lifted the PRO14 trophy yesterday in Celtic Park on behalf of the 57 Leinster players that had competed over the 23 game domestic season – will undergo surgery in the next few weeks for a hip injury and as a result will be ruled out of action for up to six months.

“As a result he has been ruled out of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Speranza 22 begin life on 2019 Super Sevens Series circuit with second place in series opener

Matt Jones 21/05/2019
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Photo credit: Shawn Pearce @spearcephotos.

Speranza 22 made a stunning start to life as a core team on the 2019 Super Sevens Series circuit, finishing runners-up to Akuma Rugby Agents on May 5.

Speranza – set up in 2013 in memory of former Abu Dhabi Harlequins player Marco Speranza, who was killed aged just 20 in an plane crash in his native Argentina in February of that year – were invited to be one of the Super Sevens’ core teams for 2019 after a strong debut season in the UK and Ireland last year.

They won the Bournemouth 7s National Elite Cup, were finalists in the Kinsale 7s in Ireland as well as the Chester 7s and then won the Dubai International Open at the Dubai Rugby Sevens in December.

Round 1 of the series was held at Bury St Edmonds at the beginning of the month with large crowds turning up to watch some of the best elite invitational sevens teams in the country – including guest team Leicester Tigers.

There are 12 core teams per round and as well as four guest teams. S22 were drawn in pool D alongside established series teams Akuma Hurricanes/Rugby Agents, GB Student Select plus guest team and hosts Bury St Edmonds.

They ground out a 21-14 win against the Students to open their campaign and then edged another close affair against the team they would go on to meet in the Cup final, beating Akuma Rugby Agents 19-14.

BSERF3

Photo credit: Shawn Pearce @spearcephotos.

Speranza put their tournament hosts to the sword 45-0 in their final pool game, putting them into the Cup quarter-finals.

There they faced Samurai Academy who had impressed in coming second in a group containing Rambling Jesters, Stunts 7s and Marlborough Lomaiviti. By now though, S22 were hitting their stride and ran out convincing 33-10 winners.

Into the semi-final where they faced the British Army who they’d last met in the final at Bournemouth almost a year ago. The score ebbed and flowed in a thrilling game with S22 going 12-0 up before the Army came back to lead 19-12 at half-time. A strong second half from S22 saw them hit back with two unanswered tries to earn a 26-19 triumph, securing them a dream Cup final in their first ever series tournament appearance.

There they came up against Group D friends the Akuma Rugby Agents, who had defeated Rambling Jesters and Apache in the knockouts. S22 got off to a good start, leading 14-0. But key injuries to two players, combined with some exceptional rugby from the opposition, saw Akuma surge back with 26 unanswered points to be crowned deserved 26-14 winners.

“I am exceptionally proud of the lads,” said coach Rory Greene, who is also a long-time assistant at Quins.

“We went into Round 1 with key players from our triumphant Dubai side missing through injury, including Ben Magee, Lloyd Owen and Callum McKenzie, but as all ways we knew some quality players to step in.

“It is always a bit nerve-racking to step into the top level competition, while confident you belong there you never know until you actually play.

“The lads played some fantastic rugby against some of the powerhouses of invitational and club sevens teams to have a dream start to our time in the Super Sevens Series.

“However, we are under no illusion about the quality of the teams in the series and realise that one excellent result gets us nowhere. We now need to kick on and keep working hard to try and get some more results in the remaining three rounds.

“The lads who played for the first time for S22 excelled and our now part of our ever growing family. It is amazing what can be achieved when talented rugby players, who more importantly are top lads off the field, are allowed the freedom to just go out and play, for each other and a great cause.”

Speranza22 players celebrate a memorable International Invitational Cup triumph at the 2017 Dubai Sevens.

Speranza22 players celebrate a memorable International Invitational Cup triumph at the 2017 Dubai Sevens.

Vice captain Cam Roberts added: “After a typically Speranza slow start the team performances improved as the day went on and the new players bedded in.

“We felt like we deserved to come away with silverware but sevens isn’t always fair and a couple of cruel injuries meant finishing the tournament with nine players. We did ourselves proud in our first series tournament and can take the momentum gained from the first round up to Broadstreet for Round 2.

“The boys feel more than confident we can compete again and progress well in the rest of the series.”

As well as participating in the series, S22 will return to defend their Bournemouth 7s title at the end of May.

S22 are raising money for an Ethiopian Orphanage and donations can be mad at www.gofundme.com/speranza-22.

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