Round 18 is the final round of the URC 2021-22 regular season. Leinster has already won the trophy for finishing top of the log and is guaranteed to host games throughout the finals as they are six points clear of Munster, Sharks, and Stormers. After that, though, it is a giant mess with teams two through eight covered by just six points.
Ulster VS Sharks – Ravenhill Stadium, Belfast
Big game this. Ulster is 7.5-point favorites despite sitting one point behind Sharks and currently looking at a quarterfinal on the road (likely somewhere in South Africa). A win – combined with a Munster defeat – could easily see one of these two claim not only a home quarter but a home semi as well.
Lukhanyo Am is a massive returning player for Sharks, while the likes of John Cooney and Tom O’Toole are back in the Ulster team. Cooney at No. 9 is a real livewire. Ulster are not in the best form – their 16-10 win last time over Edinburgh was their first in four matches – and I like Sharks to cover here and maybe even snatch a win.
Ospreys VS Blue Bulls – Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Ospreys are out of the running for the finals and they are the slightest of favorites here against the Blue Bulls by just 0.5 points. The Bulls are in sixth and could finish as high as second if a number of results go their way. They are guaranteed of finishing no worse than seventh (avoiding Leinster) no matter what happens here.
Ospreys are loading up for this one with 15 Welsh internationals in their 23. A win for them wins the Welsh Shield and guaranteed a Champions Cup place next season. The Bulls will have to bring everything they have against the likes of Adam Beard and Alun Wyn Jones in the pack. Ospreys have won six on the bounce at home in the comp and I like them to steal this one.
Scarlets VS Stormers – Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli
Scarlets can win the Welsh Shield win a better result than Ospreys while Stormers are on the hunt for second on the log. They currently sit fourth and need to better the results of Munster and Sharks to get to that spot.
The Scarlets are up and down with three wins and two defeats in their last five games. They beat the Lions – the only South African side not in the finals – 36-13 back in October at home, but Stormers are a different proposition. They have won seven in a row (albeit all at home thanks to some Covid reschedules) and they will have enough to win and cover the 3.5 points here.
Edinburgh VS Glasgow – Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
This is a monster game as no team wants to travel to the Aviva and face Leinster in Dublin in a quarterfinal. Glasgow and Edinburgh are tied for seventh and eighth on the log with 50 points. One of them will finish eighth, a position that is seen as something of a poison chalice given how good Leinster has been all season.
The line is set at 1.5 points in favor of the home side here. Moving the game to Murrayfield instead of Edinburgh’s new ground – and its speed-friendly artificial surface – actually hurts the competitive advantage that Edinburgh would have had. Even so, I like them to win with the fit-again Darcy Graham providing a spark on the wing.
Leinster VS Munster – Aviva Stadium, Dublin
This means much more for Munster than Leinster. Munster is currently second in the tale but could slip outside of the top four – losing a home quarterfinal – with the wrong result. The two top point scorers in the comp – Leinster has 511 and Munster 499 after 17 rounds – Munster will at least know what they have to do before kickoff as this is the last game of Round 18. I am not sure Munster can win this, but I do think they will cover the 5.5 points they are being given IF they need to.