Friday, December 6 2013
Cardiff Blues v Glasgow, Pool 2, 20:00
In the Heineken Cup it’s third vs fourth in Pool 2 but these are two Pro 12 teams. In league play this season Glasgow have scored 14 tries and conceded a miserly six; Cardiff have scored 12, allowed 21 and they’re without Sam Warburton and 11 others. At even money to cover their five-point handicap, the Glaswegians are not unattractive.
Castres v Ospreys, Pool 1, 20:00
That whole “lose your first two games and still make the quarter final” thing is not going to start with the Ospreys. They’re already effectively out of the competition and losers of 11 of the 12 fixtures they’ve ever played in the land of good wine and bad pop music. The Top 14 champions are 11 point favourites and on a good domestic run. This is a statement game for Castres.
Saturday, December 7 2013
Exeter v Toulon, Pool 2, 13:35
Toulon might have suffered a shock loss in Cardiff but are still 4/1 favourites to retain their title. Neither team is in wonderful form; Exeter have lost their last two Premiership matches and star-studded Toulon are 3-3 from their last six Top 14 games. Toulon are 7-point favourites visiting Sandy Park and, although Exeter are generally very sound on their home patch, Toulon’s comic-book superheroes should have enough to make sure of their away day. I love this bet.
Zebre v Saracens, Pool 3, 13:35
The spread is 20 points. Zebre have conceded 50 points in both matches they’ve played vs English opposition; Premiership top scorers Saracens have averaged 40 points per game against Italian clubs and will have learned from their close shave against Connacht in Galway. Do I have to spell it out?
Clermont Auvergne v Scarlets, Pool 4, 13:35
Zebre’s 12/1 odds to beat Saracens puts the task facing Scarlets in perspective. The Welshmen are 14/1 to win in Clermont, defenders of the sport’s finest home record. Clermont, 20 point favourites, will be determined to make up lost ground after first losing to Racing Metro then failing to get a bonus point when beating Harlequins.
Scarlets are, however, currently the pool toppers and have decent try-scoring power from deep; that’s both motive and means to make that 20-point handicap a difficult cover.
Racing Metro 92 v Harlequins, Pool 4, 15:40
If events were to conspire to have a team emerge from a pool having lost their first two games, it’s Harlequins in Pool 4. They’ve earned a pair of bonus points from their two defeats and the pool leaders, Scarlets, have just six points. The elements are definitely there for Quins to fashion a very great escape and the 11/1 to reach the quarter finals is too big to ignore.
Racing have not been lighting up the French league (8th place) while Harlequins have won four on the spin in the Premiership. Harlequins are 5-point underdogs and 15/8 to win outright in Paris. Given the circumstances, both are worth looking at. Harlequins, channel your inner Steve McQueen.
Northampton v Leinster, Pool 1, 18:00
Northampton have lost just one of their nine Premiership games this season. While Leinster are top of Pool 1 with two wins and have conceded just a single try, they’ve scored just 38 points. With Northampton 4/6 favourites at home and Leinster unbeaten in their last nine matches with English clubs, taking Leinster and their two point handicap at 10/11 might be interesting.
Ulster v Treviso, Pool 5, 18:00
Ulster are 1/100 to win the match and the spread is 22 points. It’s a fair line. Ulster have beaten both Leicester and Montpellier while Treviso have conceded 63 points in two games, scoring just 13. Ulster will be targeting at least 9 points from their back to back games against the Italians and with Leicester looming as a possible final day pool decider will need all the points and tries they can muster. Ulster to cover.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Munster v Perpignan, Pool 6, 12:45
Perpignan are the weakest of the French sides in the competition and Munster are 13-point favourites in Thomond Park on Sunday. Both teams are far from their full strength lineups but if Perpignan show any desire whatsoever that 13 point gap could look large indeed. How great the Thomond Park effect?
Edinburgh v Gloucester, Pool 6, 13:00
It’s a toss-up of a game and neither team will bother anybody in the quarter finals. More fun had in betting on who will be the next Welsh player to join the exodus from the valleys.
Leicester v Montpellier, Pool 5, 15:00
Leicester’s home form in Heineken Cup play is magnificent (22 wins and two draws from 24) but 1/10 on Leicester to win isn’t attractive and, on their day, Montpellier have the ability to mess up that 10-point spread. Involvement in this game is not recommended.
Toulouse v Connacht, Pool 3, 15:00
Connacht are coming off a thumping in Edinburgh that was so severe their coach Pat Lam felt the need to apologise afterwards. Toulouse are 1/200 to win. And Connacht then lost five players to injury this week. If you believe in miracles it’s 10/11 for Connacht to finish inside 25 points.