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Here's what Munster, Ulster and Connacht need to happen in the Pro12

There’s a whole lot riding on the last round of the Pro12 for three Irish provinces.

JUST WHEN YOU thought the top four places in the Pro12 might be about to sort themselves out, last weekend comes along and squeezes everybody a little closer together.

Before we go any further: let’s remind everyone about the factors that will separate teams who are level on points:

The first tie-breaker will be games won. Then comes points difference followed by tries scored, points scored and… we’ll deal with any more when they come.

Ospreys, having begun last weekend in fourth, sit top of the table after sending Glasgow home pointless. Munster sit third after Ulster turned a seven-point deficit into a draw in a dramatic finish in Kingspan Stadium.

It means the play-off shake-up looks like this going into round 22, the final hurdle before the semi-finals.

table now

The goal for all four teams is a place in the top two. Third and fourth must take up the away berths in the semi-finals and, through 20 attempts, no team has managed to win a Pro12 semi-final away from home. So here’s what’s required.

Munster

Munster sit third with 70 points, level with the teams above them, but behind because they have won fewer games.

Anthony Foley’s men host the Dragons in Cork tomorrow and the ninth-place Welsh club have nothing tangible to play for. The goal therefore must be a bonus point win.

That would put them beyond the reach of Ulster and put some huge pressure on Ospreys (away to Connacht) and Glasgow Warriors (home to Ulster).

If the Welsh and Scottish title-chasers do manage to get bonus point wins, then their 75-point total(s) would edge either or both ahead of Munster on by virtue of that ‘games won’ column.

Ulster

The host club for this year’s final are now in real danger of being passive bystanders.

Paddy Jackson after kicking a conversion to end the game in a draw Sparky congratulates Paddy Jackson on saving Ulster from a first home league defeat. Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

Ulster lie in fourth place, the only play-off side short of the 70 point line and will try to take hope from Ospreys’ leap from fourth to first last weekend.  They travel to Glasgow to face the Warriors badly needing a win.

If Connacht cannot do their provincial rivals a favour by beating Ospreys, then the Welsh side will advance beyond reach of the Neil Doak’s side on games won.

Victory over Glasgow would see Ulster frog-leap Gregor Townsend’s side, but they would need a bonus point victory to overtake Munster if Foley’s men beat Dragons without a BP – and even then only if they ground three more tries in Glasgow than Munster manage in Cork.

Eoghan Masterson after scoring a try Eoghan Masterson walks back after scoring Connacht's fourth try. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Meanwhile, in the Champions Cup chase…

Connacht

The margins are even tighter for Connacht, although they could not have done much more to help their cause this weekend.

The western province need to finish sixth to guarantee a place in next season’s Champions Cup. Seventh would offer hope, but is a much more difficult road to the competition through a play-off with Challenge Cup winners Gloucester before the winners face the Top14′s seventh place team.

Updated 15 May:

real race

Pat Lam’s men dropped to seventh place, four points behind Scarlets after their Welsh derby win over Cardiff.

Edinburgh are just a point further back, but even if the Scots claimed a bonus point win over Leinster on the final day, a win over Ospreys would be enough to keep Connacht ahead of them. If Edinburgh lose to Leinster and fail to score four tries, then Connacht will remain where they are.

Assuming Scarlets claim at least a losing bonus point in their final day trip to Treviso, Connacht would need a bonus point win at home to Ospreys to qualify for the Champions Cup automatically.

Should Scarlets collapse in Italy, then a win over the league leaders would be enough for the Westerners as they would finish level on points with Scarlets but with more games won.

Clear? Great.

Remaining fixtures

Saturday, 16 May (15.00):

Cardiff v Zebre
Connacht v Ospreys
Edinburgh v Leinster
Glasgow v Ulster
Munster v Dragons
Treviso v Scarlets

Originally published 9 May, 20.55

Henshaw takes on Connacht leadership role after breakthrough Ireland season

‘We can go away and win anywhere’ — Ulster centre McCloskey

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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