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Pro14

WATCH: Leinster Seal Home Semi-Final with Four Games to Go – Report & Highlights

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Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Leinster limped into the semi-finals of the Pro14 with a 19-7 win over the Cheetahs at the RDS on Friday night.

The win has put the blues 26 points ahead of second-placed Benetton meaning they can no longer be caught at the top of the table,

However, it wasn’t the most impressive win that they will ever have to seal first place in the conference.

The first talking point of the match was the sin-binning of Cheetahs prop Ox Nche, who put a late and high challenge in on Fergus McFadden which could have warranted a red on another night.

Conor O’Brien scored the opening try of the game from a flat pass from Jamison Gibson-Park, which was converted by fly-half Ross Byrne.

The hosts failed to push on following that try and were punished when Cheetahs wing Rabz Maxwane gathered a Benhard Janse van Rensburg kick to score a try. Tian Schoeman secured the extras and it was 7-7.

Adam Byrne scored Leinster’s second try through a brilliant long pass from Rory O’Loughlin and left Leinster with a 12-7 lead at half-time.

The second-half was even more uneventful than the first with the only highlight being O’Loughlin’s try for the hosts after he dinked the ball forward for himself. Byrne struck over the two points from the left for a 19-7 lead.

Leinster tried and tested to gain a bonus-point with man of the match Max Deegan and Rhys Ruddock the biggest predators but failed to add anything else, however it was enough to ensure they will be top come the end of the season.

Speaking after the game Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admitted his content at winning the game against the South African based club in the poor conditions against an ever-improving side.

“Ultimately, we won the game, in very difficult conditions to play in. Cheetahs are a team I think are getting better all the time, you saw particularly how close that game was down in Galway against Connacht and they’re not affected by any call-ups or anything. Overall, we’re pleased to get a win,” he said.

Leinster’s next game sees them head to Edinburgh in three weeks’ time where they will be hoping to extend their lead at the top of Conference B, while the Cheetahs will be in Glasgow looking to improve on their current status of sixth in the conference.

Match Highlights:

Pro14

Leinster vs Glasgow; Pro 14 Final Preview & Key Battles

Leinster and Glasgow will face off at Celtic Park on Saturday night and here’s everything you need to know ahead of the final game of the season

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(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Johnny Sexton has made a return to the Leinster line-up for their Pro 14 final against Glasgow in Celtic Park on Saturday at 18 30. 

The captain has taken the No 10 jersey back from Ross Byrne who played who played last weekend’s semi-final against Munster in one of three changes to the side.

Another change in the back-line sees Rob Kearney come in for his brother Dave at full-back with Jordan Larmour switching to the wing. While in the second-row Scott Fardy replaces the injured Devin Toner.

Apart from that it’s as you were with Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong knuckling down in the front-row, with Fardy joining James Ryan in the engine room.

Rhys Ruddock is at blindside flanker, with Josh van der Flier retaining his spot at openside following a man of the match comeback performance last week, with Jack Conan continuing at No 8.

Luke McGrath partners Sexton in the half-backs, with Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose linking up in the centre.

The ever-impressive James Lowe begins the game on the left-wing, with Larmour on the right and Kearney at 15.

Sean O’Brien has been kept out of the side meaning he won’t get to play another game for the province before his summer departure to London Irish. While Jack McGrath has been denied his chance at a final goodbye before moving to Ulster as Ed Byrne is chosen on the bench.

The visitors have strength among their replacements with Byrne being joined by the likes of twin brother Bryan, Ross Molony, Ross Bryne and Rory O’Loughlin.

Speaking ahead of the game prop Healy admitted he watched the Warriors 50-20 win over Ulster last weekend and has warned his side to be ready.

“I watched their game on Friday – they looked pretty dangerous,” he said.

While Leinster will be hoping for back-to-back titles Glasgow will want to dethrone them in front of the Scottish crowd.

For the Warriors it’s Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson are the front-three, with Scott Cummins and Jonny Gray pairing in the second-row.

In the back-row it’s Rob Harley at six, Callum Gibbins at seven and Matt Fagerson at eight to finish up the pack.

Ali Price and Adam Hastings continue their partnership in the half-backs at scrum-half and out-half respectively, while it’s Sam Johnson and Kyle Steyn in the centre.

DTH van der Merwe opens at 11, with Tommy Seymour at 14 and Stuart Hogg at 15 in what will be his final appearance for the club before his move to Exeter Chiefs.

There is plenty to call upon from the bench with the Ryan Wilson, George and Peter Horne and Huw Jones among those ready to make an impact if needed.

The element of home advantage is one that flanker Harley is hoping the fans will take advantage of when the time comes.

“Celtic Park is a great stadium. We’re really looking forward to packing it out with our fans,” he said.

Key Battles:

Fraser Brown vs Sean Cronin:

This will be an intriguing battle as both will have to be spot on with the line-out and give everything in the scrum. Experience will help both but there will be a harder task for Brown in open-play as he will need to keep an eye on his opposite number who has been a lethal try-scorer this season and would love to get another in the final.

Jonny Gray vs James Ryan:

Home advantage will mean nothing to Gray as he faces up to arguably the best lock in the world at the moment. Both put in sensational tackling figures to go along with their attacking metres they gain as well as the line-out battle, this could be the place where the game is won or lost.

Ali Price vs Luke McGrath:

These two will both be out to impress their national team coaches ahead of the World Cup later this year and a strong performance in the final could earn them a ticket to Japan. Price’s pace will be a worry for McGrath, while the Leinster man’s kicking game could cause problems for the Warriors.

Tommy Seymour vs James Lowe:

A Scottish legend coming up against one of the brightest sparks of this Leinster side. You wouldn’t bet against either getting a try and the way they defend one another could be the vital component of who wins this individual war.

Stuart Hogg vs Rob Kearney:

This is a man departing his club up against a man who could be leaving his beloved blues with both out to prove a point. Hogg is a danger in any match he plays, while Kearney will be hoping to put any fans or coaches doubts about him to bed with a solid performance which could be his last for the club.

Both teams finished top of their respective conferences and there is no doubt that the two best teams have reached the final showpiece. With only a day to go until kick-off there is still no separating the two sides as they seek the domestic crown once again.

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Pro14

Pro 14 Dream Team Announced

The Pro 14 Dream Team was announced last night, and 11 sides have been represented

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(photo by Peter Fitzpatrick/Action Plus via Getty Images)

The Pro 14 Dream Team was confirmed last night and 11 of the competitions 14 teams have representatives but Benetton will be disappointed.

The much-anticipated team was narrowed down to 45 candidates, picked by more than 75 media that covered the season, on Wednesday with Benetton receiving seven nominations.

However, the Italian side have only been handed one spot on the team with wing Monty Ioane being included as Epalahame Faiva, Marco Riccioni, Federico Ruzza, Braam Steyn, Dewaldt Duvenage and Ratuva Tavuyara all being over-looked.

Three of the four Irish provinces claimed two places each along with Edinburgh as finalists Leinster and Glasgow received only a single place in the XV each.

The front-row was filled by Edinburgh’s Pierre Schoeman, Scarlets’ Ken Owens and Glawgow’s Zander Fagerson, with Munster’s Tadhg Beirne and Leinster’s Scott Fardy packing down in the engine room.

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony features at six, with Connacht’s Colby Fainga’a at seven and Edinburgh No 8 and player of the season Bill Mata finishing the pack.

Ulster’s John Cooney along with Fardy and Beirne are the only three players to make the team for the second year in succession, as Cooney takes his place at scrum-half.

Connacht out-half Jack Carty is at 10, with Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey and Cardiff’s Rey Lee-Lo outside him in the centre positions.

Rabz Maxwane of the Cheetahs was selected on the left-wing, having scored a record-equalling 14 tries this season alone, with Ioane on the right and Ospreys Dan Evens completing the XV at full-back.

It was revealed after that only a few of the positions were clear-cut choices with many being incredibly close as the likes of James Lowe, Bundee Aki and Marcel Coetzee being among the 30 players to miss out after stellar seasons.

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Pro14

Pro 14 Dream Team Nominations Announced

The end of the Pro 14 season is almost upon us and with it the seasons dream team is set to be announced with a surprise team leading the nominations

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(photo by Peter Fitzpatrick/Action Plus via Getty Images)

The Pro 14 dream team nominations have been confirmed and Benetton will have the most candidates for the final team to be announced on Thursday night. 

The Italians have been rewarded for a fantastic season which has seen them progress to the knock-out stages for the first time in their history, only for a late penalty against Munster to deny them a semi-final berth against Leinster.

Benetton have had seven players nominated in the 45-man list, which consists of three players across the league competing for each position.

Their nominations are Epalahame Faiva, Marco Riccioni, Federico Ruzza, Braam Steyn, Dewaldt Duvenge, Monty Ioane and Ratuva Tavuyara. The total of seven nominations gives them two more candidates than Glasgow Warriors and four more than Leinster, with the pair set to face off in the final at Celtic Park on Saturday.

For Glasgow Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Adam Hastings and Nick Grigg have been nominated in their respective positions while for Leinster Scott Fardy, Max Deegan and James Lowe will hope for selection in the XV.

Elsewhere, the other Irish provinces have all been handed five nominations. Ulster have been rewarded for a fantastic season, which saw them reach the semi-finals with Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marcel Coetzee, John Cooney and Staurt McCloskey among the 45 players.

Munster have also received five nominations as Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Mike Haley battle for a spot on the team.

While Connacht’s Colby Fainga’a, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty, Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell were all recognised for their stellar individual season which saw the men in green claim a Champions Cup spot for next season.

The 45-man shortlist which contains players from 11 of the 14 teams in the competition is compiled by a panel of more than 75 media who have covered the season and all eyes will be on how well the Italian side get on.

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