This weekend marks the 22nd and final round of the Guinness Pro12. Despite the substandard performance of the Irish provinces in Europe this season, domestically there is still a lot left to play for. With top four and Champions Cup places still up for grabs the final weekend of the regular season should prove to be interesting.
The men of the West have been the standout Irish performers this season.
Pat Lam’s side are just two points behind top side Glasgow, whom they face this weekend in Galway. A win in the shootout for top spot would see Connacht secure a home semi-final. If they were to win by less than seven points and concede four or more tries in the process, yet only score 3 or less themselves, they would be level on points with Glasgow.
In this scenario, Connacht would finish above the Scottish side due to their greater number of wins this season. A loss, without any bonus points, could see them plummet as low as 4th.
After a dismal performance north of the border last weekend, Leo Cullen’s side take on Treviso.
The Italians have conceded an average of 27 points per game this season, so Leinster are almost guaranteed five points. This would put them on 73 points after 22 games. That tally could potentially mean finishing top of the table.
That scenario would require Glasgow and Connacht to draw their game in Galway and not score 4 or more tries each. That would see Connacht on 71, Glasgow on 73 and Leinster also on 73. Yet Leinster would have won 16 games to Glasgows 14.
The more likely scenario is that Leinster will overtake the loser of that game, finish in 2nd and secure a home semi-final.
Despite a resounding victory over Leinster in round 21, Ulster are not guaranteed a play-off position.
They must travel to Wales to take on an Ospreys side that have claimed three bonus point wins in three games. It is another Welsh side however, that are breathing down the necks of Les Kiss’s team. Scarlets are just a point behind Ulster having won a game more.
Scarlets go to Thomond Park to play Munster, and should they emerge with a point more than Ulster, they will leap frog the Ulstermen into the fourth and final playoff spot. Should Ulster win their game with a bonus point, they will take fourth regardless of what happens in Limerick.
It’s been a dogged season for Munster.
Lamentable form means that Anthony Foley and his side are still fighting for a place in the top 6 and next years Champions Cup. Of the seven teams that qualify from the Pro12, at least one must come from each of the four nations involved. Given that neither Zebre or Treviso have only managed to finish outside the bottom three once in their histories, that seven shrinks to six.
Munster are four points ahead of Ospreys with a superior number of wins.
The Welsh side would require compatriots Scarlets to beat Munster by more than seven points and not concede four tries to claim the sixth spot. If Munster were to lose by less than seven and Ospreys were to claim all five points, the Welsh side would progress given their superior points difference.
A draw, a loss by less than seven and with four or more tries or a win would guarantee Munster Champions Cup rugby.
The Tale of the Tape
The most likely outcome is that Connacht will top the table, Leinster will take second spot, Glasgow third and Ulster taking the final spot. This means that Leinster will face Glasgow at home and Connacht will take on Ulster.