Plotting a route to the 2019 playoffs – Glasgow

There have been some downs to go with the ups but overall Glasgow’s first dozen games in this season’s PRO14 have put them in a strong position to make the playoffs. Dave Rennie and company’s sights will be set higher than simply being part of the post season though. To that end ensuring the club finish 1st in Conference A and get a home semi-final thus avoiding a route to winning the championship that involves having to defeat Leinster in Dublin is essential. Here’s how they might need to go about it.

No points for the Warriors from their games against Edinburgh has allowed Munster to eat into the lead that had built up. The gap between first and second currently stands at just 2 points. The issue now for Glasgow is that the Irish side have a less difficult run-in over the remaining 9 matchdays of the regular season. These are the two sides’ fixtures for Rounds 13 to 21:

final rounds

If we juggle these fixtures around to aid comparability then for 6 out of the 9 rounds the contenders have very similar levels of opposition to face.

  • Both have Connacht at home and Benetton away;
  • Glasgow play Ospreys at home and Cardiff Blues away – Munster have the same opponents but with H and A reversed;
  • Both teams have a home game against one of the South African sides;
  • Glasgow have an away trip to Zebre and Munster are away to Dragons.

After that the advantage probably starts to stack up slightly towards the Irish side:

  • Glasgow have Ulster at home compared to Munster’s away fixture versus Connacht;
  • Glasgow play Leinster away – Munster play Scarlets away.
  • Glasgow have yet another game against Edinburgh at home whereas Munster host Zebre.

Munster do need to travel more with only 4 remaining home games (Glasgow play 5 out of 9 on their own turf). The Irish side have 3 games against the league’s bottom 4 teams (Glasgow only have 2). Overall Munster’s remaining opponents have averaged 27.1 points collected in the PRO14 so far this season (for Glasgow that is 30.8 points).

Taking a comparison against the most recent corresponding fixtures Munster took 33 points out of 40 (only losing away to Connacht) and it seems reasonable to assume they would have grabbed a further 5 points if they had ever faced the Kings at home before – so 38 from 45 in total. Glasgow took 32 points out of 45 from their most recent equivalent matches (defeats at home to Ulster and Edinburgh and away to Leinster).

It’s possible that the men from Cork/Limerick could run the board and win all their remaining fixtures. If they do then the Warriors will need to match them blow for blow. Perfection seems unlikely though – every team has off weekends over the course of several months. Anything less than 7 wins for Munster seems equally improbable though. That sweet spot in the middle seems most apposite for setting a target so 8 wins is probably what Glasgow have to aim for over the rest of the season.

Glasgow’s run-in in detail

The target fixture list for the Warriors looks like this:

Pre-Six Nations fixtures:

Sat 5 Jan – Benetton (A) *

Fixtures during Six Nations:

Fri 25 Jan – Ospreys (H) * / Scotland players in camp
Sat 16 Feb – Cardiff Blues (A) / 6N rest week
Fri 22 Feb – Connacht (H) * / France v Scotland (Sat)
Sat 2 Mar – Zebre (A) * / 6N rest week

Post Six Nations fixtures:

22/23 Mar – Cheetahs (H) *
5/6 Apr – Ulster (H)
12/13 Apr – Leinster (A)
26/27 Apr – Edinburgh (H)

Fixtures in blue represent targeted wins. Fixtures with an asterisk represent targeted try or losing bonus points. 37 points collected would leave Munster needing at least 39 out of 45 from their remaining fixtures to overhaul Glasgow – an incredibly challenging (although clearly not impossible) task.

Obviously this is just one possible route. An extra win reduces the need for bonus points. Being extremely efficient with the BPs could see the target achieved from 7 wins. If Munster slip up there’s more room for manoeuvre for Glasgow – but they cannot really hope for too many gifts from other teams. Top spot is still within the Warriors’ own hands but they need to take control of the situation and put a real run of victories together to close out the season.

Both Glasgow and Munster will be looking over their shoulders a little bit with Connacht in particular within striking distance in Conference A. The top 2 can put some distance between themselves and the other teams by winning their head to head fixtures though and none of the other playoff contenders really look like they can put together a winning sequence the way Glasgow and Munster can.

It’s more likely that a 3-way race for the 3rd and final playoff spot will develop among Connacht, Ospreys and Cardiff Blues. 5 of the remaining 9 rounds will feature games where 2 out of those 3 will play each other so there will be some big clashes to come.

Connacht have the advantage right now but the toughest remaining schedule. Cardiff Blues have 5 games at home – but the final one when they host Ospreys isn’t a true home game, being part of Judgement Day at the Principality Stadium. The Os themselves are on the road for 5 of their 9 fixtures but have the most games against the league’s bottom 4 – which should provide the best chances for BP wins.

Pushed for a call OTOTM would go for the Ospreys to join Glasgow and Munster in the playoffs (due to their slightly more favourable schedule). It’s a race that’s likely to go down to the wire though and there are sure to be plenty of twists and turns over the next few months.

* Munster have never played the Kings at home before – an assumption for the comparison that this would have been a 5-pointer for the Irish side does not seem unreasonable.

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