United Rugby Championship

BKT United Rugby Championship: Three Talking Points From Round 16

BKT United Rugby Championship: Three Talking Points From Round 16

In Round 16 of the BKT United Rugby Championship, Munster Rugby, Benetton, Leinster Rugby, Vodacom Bulls, Ulster, the DHL Stormers, Lions and Edinburgh won.

May 12, 2024 by Philip Bendon
Vodacom Bulls Louw Try vs Glasgow Warriors

It’s the bottom of the ninth, the bases are loaded and there is no margin for error remaining in the 2023-2024 BKT United Rugby Championship.

Coming into the weekend, of the 16 competing teams, just four would have felt comfortable that their places in the playoffs were close to sealed. 

Every fixture this weekend carried a level of jeopardy that served as a reminder of just how strong the URC has become. 

Leading the charge as the matchup of the round, the table-topping Glasgow Warriors traveled to Pretoria to tackle the fourth-place Vodacom Bulls, and this clash didn’t disappoint. 

Elsewhere, the Irish derby of Munster and Connacht carried its usual bite, while Benetton traveled to Durban in search of what would be a historic victory.

In what felt like a weekend of unlimited storylines, here are three of the biggest ones from the weekend’s action.

Who Blinks First?

Just four points separate first and fourth place, while six points separated fifth and 10th in what is a truly remarkable dovetail moment, as the season enters its penultimate round next weekend. 

Currently holding court atop the table, Glasgow took home two crucial losing bonus points following its ding-dong battle with the Bulls in Pretoria. 

Landing an overtime penalty to go with his clutch try and conversion, Warrior’s veteran Duncan Weir is proving once again how crucial he is to Franco Smith’s side. 

Despite falling behind rather comprehensively in the first half, the Warriors threw caution to the wind in the second half to score three superb tries, while limiting their rampaging hosts to just one. 

For the Bulls, scraping home, albeit with five log points in the back, is a major boost, as it keeps local rivals, the Stormers, firmly at bay, while ensuring that a home run through the finals remains firmly in play. 

Elsewhere, Munster shook off a determined Connacht, utilizing a combination of raw power and exceptional strike plays to log five crucial points ahead of what has the potential to be a tricky away trip to Edinburgh in Round 17. 

Completing the top 4 and second place, Leinster overcame some early resistance by an ever-improving Ospreys side to blow its Welsh visitors out of the water. Leinster put up 60 points. 

The question now for the top four team is which side is going to blink first and drop crucial log points? All four sides have at least one tricky fixture remaining, so it remains very much all to play for.

Champions Riding A Wave 

It feels like deja-vu for reigning champion Munster, which appears to be timing its run to the playoffs to absolute perfection once again this season. 

Following what was an injury-detailed first two-thirds of the season, Graham Rowntree’s side has parlayed its Investec Champions Cup disappointment into a galvanizing league run. 

Few would’ve predicted prior to their trip to South Africa that the Munster men would return home with 10 log points following two comprehensive road wins. 

Now back in Limerick, the men in red looked in bullish form as they shredded Connacht 47-12 for their first inter-provincial win of the season. 

With Leinster balancing a run at the Champions Cup final, and Glasgow preparing for a battle with the Lions in Johannesburg, Munster has a real opportunity to claim the top spot on the log against a talented Edinburgh side in Round 17. Do this, and a magical run at Thomond Park in the playoffs would put the team in pole position to secure an incredible league double.  

Italian Resilience 

Marco Bortolami’s Benetton side quite possibly is the best Italian club side in the professional era. 

Despite a midseason slump that saw the team lose its unbeaten run, Benetton has been an incredible story this season and looks to have regathered its mojo at just the right time. 

Dismissing a locked-and-loaded Sharks side that had improved in recent months on the road is nothing to be sniffed at. Claiming four crucial log points, Benetton has given itself a real shot at the playoffs and a potential berth in next season’s Investec Champions Cup. 

Traveling to Pretoria to face the Bulls may be a step too far for this team, but any points they can take from the clash will set up their final-round clash with Edinburgh to be a de facto playoff match. Win against the Bulls, and a top-4 spot becomes a possibility, should a few results go their way.

Stay tuned Italian fans, this team already has proven its ability to come out swinging when its back is to the wall.

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