With just two rounds left to play in the Pro 12 final placings are going to come down to a few key fixtures. Part 1 looked at the top three, now in Part 2 it’s time to consider the sides chasing the final playoff spot and places in the Champions Cup for season 2016/17.
Here’s the updated On Top Of The Moon projected final Pro 12 table from 4th to 12th prior to Round 21 (click for large version):
The fight for 4th
Ulster currently have the advantage over Scarlets but are facing a crucial game against Leinster at the Kingspan. Win it and they are in the box seat for a shot at the playoffs. Lose and they need other results to go their way to keep their season alive – and they could even miss out on the Champions Cup.
It will be a surprise if Scarlets don’t take 5 points from their game against a Dragons side coming off the back of an intense game against Montpellier. This win will set the bar for 4th place and qualification for the playoffs at 63 points and end any lingering hope that either Munster or Edinburgh might have had of scraping into the postseason. Both of these teams can reach 63 points with two BP victories but, with number of wins being the first tie-breaker, neither side will be able to overtake Scarlets.
The scrap for 6th
Although bad results for Ulster could turn this into a four-way fight for the Champions Cup it looks most likely that two sides out of Munster, Edinburgh and the Blues will miss out on the top European competition. With both their remaining games to be played at home Munster must be favourites for 6th. Having played in all 22 editions of the European Cup, winning it twice, it would be a massive blow for them to miss out.
First up for Munster is a game against one of their rivals for the last place in the top half of the table – Edinburgh. Essentially, if the Irish side win this match then 6th place is theirs to lose. However if Edinburgh were to repeat their away victory from last season then Munster may only be able to finish 7th at best. With the Blues likely to continue their strong home form (even though they will be next door in the big stadium and not on their usual artificial surface) by beating the struggling Ospreys in the penultimate round, the men from Cardiff’s clash at with Edinburgh at Murrayfield becomes a playoff for the final European qualification place – and whichever side wins will finish 6th.
The argument for 11th
Some reasonable early season results put Zebre in the box seat for the mini-battle between the 2 Italian sides for their nation’s place in the Champions Cup. Even though their form fell off a cliff after the festive derbies at the turn of the year, Treviso have been unable to take advantage and catch up. With games against 2 of the top 3 it’s hard to see where the side from the Veneto region will even find another point to add to their total. Zebre will therefore take the European Cup place, almost by default, but may at least be able to finish the season on a positive note by adding the Dragons to the list of scalps they have taken at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi this season (Blues, Edinburgh, Treviso).