After an emotional end to the 6 Nations that saw Ireland win a second consecutive championship (yay), but saw us say goodbye to the irreplaceable George Hook and his ties (boo) we can get back to looking forward to the Champions Cup.
The four quarter finals take place this weekend with English sides making up the four away teams, France have three representatives and Leinster are left to bear the Irish cross on their own.
— Eoin Brodie (@elbrodie) March 21, 2015
Leinster v Bath (Saturday 3:15pm) Leinster are favorites coming into their sixth quarter final in seven seasons against Bath. Of Leinster’s four wins in the pool stages three were by more than four points, making the -4.0 handicap at 10/11 look very attractive. Both Ian Madigan and George Ford have the most points scored in their respective pools, with Madigan top overall on 80 points, so you can expect this game to be a kick fest.
With Bath’s 116 missed tackles in the pool stages Jamie Heaslip will be eyeing up the gaps like Steve Bruce eyeing up some discount sausage roles. Leinster’s recent poor seasons in Europe should give them motivation to get across the line against a Bath side that in their first quarter final since 2009. Leinster to win by 1-12 points at 6/4.
Steve Bruce likes a sausage roll…and we have the evidence! pic.twitter.com/kaLjgpEKQO
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) January 18, 2015
- Can Leinster seal the deal? Bet now: Desktop | Mobile
Northampton have won nine away games this season. Clermont have won 22 consecutive games at home in Europe. Tough choice. Clermont’s -8 point handicap at 10/11 could be a little bit optimistic considering that Northampton are running away with the Premiership, but their sheer running power in the backs from Jonathan Davies and Aurélien Rougerie coupled with Camille Lopez pulling the strings at out-half means Northampton will have to produce their best performance to come away with a win.
Top tournament try scorer George North is out of the tie after being knocked out cold against Wasps. Nick Abendanon has the tournaments top meters made, but he’ll have to go through Courtney Lawes who likes to hit people like this…
- Will Clermont get the French off to a winning start? Bet now: Desktop | Mobile
Clermont have to lose sometime and an optimistic bet on Northampton to win by 1-12 at 3/1 could be the bet of the tournament. Even if it’s about as likely as Phil Jones looking good in a picture.
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) March 27, 2015
Johnny Sexton has never lost a knockout European game, but his unbelievable record could be on the line against Saracens on Sunday. Racing (-5.0 10/11) are favorites to make it to their first semi final against a Saracens side coming in off the back of a huge victory against Harlequins.
- Will Johnny Sexton keep his European record? Bet now: Desktop | Mobile
Juan Imhoff and Chris Ashton come into the game as the two inform try scorers. Imhoff has five to his name so far while Ashton has notched up four in the pool stages. With Sextons kicking game on point after the 6 Nations expect to see a lot of cross kicks heading towards the Argentinian winger. A Racing try for first score at 5/1 could be the bet of the weekend.
Saracens know how to overturn the odds after trouncing Clermont 46-6 last year in the semi’s, but away in France against a side that are at their peak will be a massive ask for the London men. A tight game, but Sexton’s kicking should see Racing win by at least two scores.
Reigning champions Toulon face off against Wasps in the last game of the weekend and the easiest to predict. Toulon are top of the Top 14 and the best team in Europe at the moment. Mathieu Bastareaud, the Armitage brothers and Leigh Halfpenny have all been in flying form and Wasps may very well need some divine intervention to get a result in France.
A lot of pressure will fall on the shoulders of top points scorer Andy Goode, especially with the absence of top try scorer Nathan Hughes after his suspension for nearly decapitating George North. (A minute into the video.) Christian Wade will have to take on the mantle, but you can be guaranteed that Juan Smith will know all about him after his 40 tackles so far in this campaign.
Wasps are at a -15.0 handicap at 10/11 which tells you all you need to know. If Wasps win we’ll get Johnny Wilkinson’s face tattooed on our backs Steve-O style. Toulon have too much in the tank for Wasps to mount a challenge and could rack up a very big winning margin.
- Will Toulon make it three semi’s in a row? Bet now: Desktop | Mobile