The opening exchanges of the 2020/21 Guinness PRO14 season certainly lived up to expectation as all six games provided a feast of stunning tries, individual brilliance and late drama.
Reigning champions Leinster resumed where they left off in the competition’s showpiece last month as they ran in five tries against a new-look Dragons side to secure a bonus-point triumph.
Fellow finalists Ulster were also quick off the mark as they racked up five tries of their own in an absorbing end-to-end encounter against a dogged Benetton side at the Kingspan Stadium.
Elsewhere, Cardiff Blues were given a tough examination by Zebre before prevailing despite playing the second half with 14 men while Munster and Connacht opened their accounts with narrow wins.
Ospreys rounded off the weekend’s drama with a hard-fought victory over last season’s Semi-Finalists Edinburgh at a sodden BT Murrayfield, much to the delight of head coach Toby Booth.
But with the opening round in the rearview mirror, teams must quickly put those results behind them and focus on another blockbuster weekend of action as Round 2 looms on the horizon.
MATCH PREVIEW – Dragons v Zebre, Rodney Parade, Newport
KO 20:15pm UK | Live on Premier Sports and DAZN
Dean Ryan always knew his side were up against it on the opening weekend with a match-up against the defending champions Leinster and so it proved as the blue machine won 35-5 in Dublin.
But the Dragons certainly showed enough during the 80 minutes to suggest there is reason for the Welsh region to be optimistic as new signings Jamie Roberts and Jonah Holmes made their debuts.
They will hope to build on those positives, including Ashton Hewitt’s remarkable try, when they welcome Zebre to Rodney Parade as the Italians also look to get off the mark at the second attempt.
Michael Bradley’s men were left to rue their missed chances against Cardiff Blues but having won on their last visit to Newport in November 2019, Zebre will hope to put that right on Friday night.
Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU competition debut) Assistant Referees: Adam Jones, Craig Evans (both WRU) TMO: Sean Brickell (WRU) Citing Commissioner: Dennis Jones (WRU)
Played 14 - Dragons won 8, Zebre won 5, with 1 game drawn.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Dragons most recent victory in any competition came on 29 February at home to Cheetahs in the Guinness PRO14.
- Dragons have lost their last two Championship fixtures at Rodney Parade but have not lost three in succession at the venue since September 2018.
- Zebre have won just once in any tournament since January: 17-13 at Benetton on 21 August.
- Zebre’s record in Wales is played twenty-eight, won two, lost twenty-six but they were victorious on their most recent visit there, at Rodney Parade in November 2019.
- The last ten meetings between the two sides have been evenly split with five wins apiece whilst Dragons only two victories in their last ten fixtures against all Italian opponents were both against Zebre, at home in September 2018 and in at Parma in October 2019.