Thursday 29 September 2016

Calculators ready - it's possible!

Declan Rooney

Published 08/05/2015 | 02:30

Two more bonus-point wins for Connacht against Zebre and Ospreys will bring them to the magic tally
Two more bonus-point wins for Connacht against Zebre and Ospreys will bring them to the magic tally

Connacht will be hoping to reach ten league wins in a season for the first time with victory over Zebre tomorrow in Parma, but history tells us that two more bonus point wins to end the season could be enough to clinch sixth place.

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In the five seasons that the league has contained 12 teams, the lowest total for any sixth-placed team is the 54 points achieved by Cardiff and Munster in 2003-04 and 2012-13.

Two more bonus-point wins for Connacht against Zebre and Ospreys will bring them to that magic tally, but even that might not be enough.

Rivals for those two European places, Scarlets and Edinburgh, can both get to that total with a strong finish to the season and mathematically even Leinster are not guaranteed a top six spot, although it's unlikely they'll slip up against Treviso and Edinburgh in their remaining games.

Strangely, if Connacht were to end the season with 11 wins from their 22 games, that 50pc win rate would still not be the province's best return.

In the first two seasons of the Celtic League, Connacht bettered that number with 67 and 71pc win rates respectively from their group games. However, in the first two seasons of the league, the teams were divided into two pools and Connacht's campaign twice ended at the quarter-final stages.

Indeed, the nine wins that Pat Lam's side have already earned this season is a new record for the province - the eight wins garnered in 2003-04 and 2012-13 were Connacht's previous best - but they will be keen to push on to a highest ever finish since the competition reverted to a single group.

Last year's tenth place finish was a huge disappointment following consecutive record eighth places in the previous two campaigns, so even securing the Pro12's play-off spot in seventh place would mean a successful competition.

And the odds favour Connacht making it into double digits in the wins column this year. In the nine meetings between the sides the province have never lost to Zebre.

Connacht have won their last seven games against Italian opposition, and their last two victories against Zebre have come with a bonus point.

Who's to say they won't be in with a shout of hitting that 54-point mark by next Saturday evening?

Irish Independent

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