Clermont v Toulon Betting Tips, Preview, & Odds. TOP14 Semi-Final, June 3rd, 15:30pm, Clermont

Best Betting/Team Win Handicap
 Clermont  1/2  -4 10/11
 Toulon  21/10  +6 10/11

Media Coverage

Canal+ France, ESPN UK, Setanta Ireland

Form Guide

If you read the Toulouse preview, you’ll remember I alluded to Toulouse being pragmatic and only doing what they needed to in the season run-in. In similar fashion, I believe Clermont realized that they were never in any real danger of Toulon catching them for the second home semi-final spot, and so reacted to Toulouse and what they did. They finished off the league with a hammering for Brive, putting 57 points on them in an attempt to overhaul Toulouse (both finished level on points). Had Montpellier got a late converted try v Toulouse in their last game, Clermont would have topped the group (Small margins and all that). Clermont’s form is hard to fathom as they seem to be able to turn it on when they want to, while at the same time they lost by 11 points away at Castres, when they should have at least got a bonus point, and a resurgent Biarritz beat them by a point in a game they should have won (both of those games were away). We must remember though that they just were off the back of a brutal encounter with Leinster in the HCup semi-final for the Castres game. This Clermont squad are a phenomenal bunch of players, and any team will find them hard to beat; arguably they would be Heineken cup Champions right now had Fofana been able ground a ball, even taking into account the odd decisions by Wayne Barnes in their favour in the last 20 minutes of the Semi against Leinster. This game should be a tight affair, but with the Jekyll and Hyde performances from Toulon over the past few months, who knows.

Meanwhile, Toulon are in a semi-final thanks to the complete collapse of a Racing Metro side that just decided to stop playing with any structure five minutes in the second half of a playoff that they were winning by ten points. I’m convinced they just got stage fright and bottled it. Toulon were rudderless, and Wilkinson has been strangely absent when the chips were down lately and defeat imminent- both here, and in the Challenge cup final against Biarritz. Giteau took over kicking and distribution and eventually helped them through against a Racing side caught in the headlights of a disjointed money machine. In the league run-in, the only victory of note for Toulon was the beating of a half-interested Toulouse side at home by three points. They won their other easy fixtures at home, while away from home they lost to Agen (ok, we all have bad days) and Brive at the end of March! Toulon just haven’t been gelling, and their form is hardly that of a side that can win this cup, or beat the excellence of Clermont. They’ve got to be pretty tired and knackered after the Racing game too- Racing may have wilted, but they didn’t go down without a fight, and Toulon had to work hard for the victory.

Teams

Team news isn’t out yet, but it’s likely that many big names will be back for Clermont. Byrne, Buttin, Malzieu, Bonnaire, and crucially, Nathan Hines look like they should make it. Hayman is still out on suspension for Toulon, and as mentioned in the playoff preview, this has serious negative repercussions for their lineout as well as their scrum.

Betting Tips

I can’t see past Clermont here. If you’re a big hitter, the ½ available isn’t as bad as it looks for the straight win. Toulon won’t be allowed back into the game like Racing let them. Toulon look to me like the bunch of mercenaries they are, and they don’t look like a threat to arguably the second best club team around right now after Leinster. Clermont could open up on Toulon early, knowing that to start cautiously will be to keep them in it, and with the hot weather , and no boggy ground, anything can happen with ten to go and a score in it.
Clermont -4 is a great bet at 10/11; I don’t think it will last long.
If you’re looking for bigger odds, the Clermont 13+ appeals on the basis of the above at 3/1
I’ll put try scorers-for-a-flutter up when available

Weather- Hot, muggier than Toulouse, with a chance of Thunderstorms. Pay close attention to the weather, as if it’s very wet, the Toulon/Clermont HT/FT could appeal.

Toulouse v Castres Betting Tips, Preview, & Odds. TOP14 Semi-Final, June 2nd, 19:45 GMT, Toulouse

Best Betting/Team Win Handicap
 Toulouse  1/4  -9 10/11
 Castres  9/2  +8 10/11

Media Coverage

Canal+ France, ESPN UK, Setanta Ireland

Form Guide

We all have the option of being shortsighted when it comes to punting, and looking at the most recent games of these two teams, Castres look the stronger.  Toulouse beat Montpellier by 7 points in their last game, and Castres beat them by 16.  Toulouse played their last league game at home to a Montpellier side that knew a bonus point would get them through, and Castres played them in the playoff and should have beaten them by 30, not 16. Montpellier were truly woeful last week against Castres, possibly because they were forced into playing a rookie scrumhalf, but one player can’t be blamed for such an abysmal showing.
For me, Guy Noves and Toulouse have been the ultimate pragmatists this season. They had an 11 game unbeaten run at one point this season which took them to the top of the table. And since then, they have treaded water to keep ahead of Clermont, and doing only what was necessary to accomplish that goal. Their squad hasn’t been brilliant this year, and with a few injuries mid-season this was perhaps the best option, and so it proved with them topping the league, to play the weaker of the playoff winners Castres (weaker based on final league position anyway). Since that winning run ended they have lost a few games that they ordinarily wouldn’t have lost, but they got bonus points in most of them, and won their home games, responding throughout to the threats of Clermont taking first place by always doing enough to stay ahead. Guy Noves knows what he’s at, and did exactly what was needed. If you’re a Toulouse backer, you just have to hope that he has taught Matanavou how to catch a high ball ( he has cost them some big big games this season due to bungling under the high ball- expect Castres to target him). Credit where credit is due though, he can score tries.

Castres beat Toulouse in October by 21 points, and lost away in March by seven. In the run in they were unbeaten in 6 games, and drew away at Toulon, winning four home games with try scoring bonus points. They’ve been playing a nice brand of rugby, but have been conceding a fair amount of tries as well, giving two away to an awful Montpellier last week, albeit with the second one coming when the game was pretty much over. Still, four tacklers couldn’t bring the big lad Fakate down, so there were signs of fatigue there.

Team News

The teams aren’t out yet, but there shouldn’t be too many surprises. I’ll post them up as soon as I get them. The good news for Castres is that Joe Tekori didn’t receive a ban for acting the maggot last week, lucky boy.

Betting Tips

This game will be played in evening heat of between 25 and 30 degrees, so there will be a lot of tired bodies out there come the end of play. I just can’t see Toulouse losing this game with Castres being so leaky in defense recently. As mentioned, Toulouse have been quite practical in their play in the latter part of the season, and I see no reason for them to change it up here. In the last seven games that Toulouse have won, they have won by 1-12 points. That’s an amazing statistic, even allowing for the fact that they lost a few tight games away from home. You feel that after their dismal showing in the Heineken cup, Toulouse have been targeting regaining the league title all year. They will be refreshed after a decent break relative to Castres, and we saw how this benefitted the Ospreys last week playing Leinster. With the oppressive dry heat, Toulouse should be leading coming into the final 20 minutes, but Guy Noves will have them under instruction not to tire themselves out chasing Glory with a final around the corner. And if they are ahead by a large margin, Castres can score tries and will try for pride even if the game is up. Conversely, should they be behind coming into the final straight, the extra rest and home advantage should mean Toulouse can come through to win. If you’re looking for anytime try scorers, Clerc, Matanavou, and the new sensation for Castres- Martial- are all obvious choices. There is an argument that Toulouse could run away with this, but with Clermont around the corner, I don’t see why Noves will let them tire themselves out. You could do worse bets though than backing Toulouse 21-30 at 6/1.

  1. Toulouse 1-12 11/8 is available. It is short, but this is the likely outcome. If you want a bit more risk for  more reward, you can get Toulouse 1-10 at 2/1
  2. Half time/Fulltime Castres/Toulouse is available at 17/2 in Bet365. Castres will know they need a fast start (similar to Racing v Toulon last week) and as mentioned if that happens, Toulouse should be able to overtake them on the final straight.
  3. I’ll stick some decent try scorers up when they come out, some mentioned above.

Barbarians v Ireland, Betting Preview, Tuesday May 29th, 19.45 GMT, Kingsholm, Gloucester

Game not televised, but live updates should be here http://matchdaylive.irishrugby.ie/index.php

Betting Best Win/Handicaps

Ireland -7 10/11, Barbarians +9 10/11

Barbarians 11/4, Ireland 1/3.

Teams

Ireland (XV v Barbarians): K Earls; C Gilroy, D Cave, P Wallace, S Zebo; R O’Gara, C Murray; B Wilkinson, M Sherry, D Fitzpatrick, D Tuohy, D Ryan, J Muldoon, C Henry, P O’Mahony.

Replacements: R Best, R Loughney, D O’Callaghan, J Coughlan, P Marshall, N Spence, A Trimble.

Barbarians team v Ireland: Cedric Heymans; Paul Sackey, Mike Tindall, Damien Traille, Iain Balshaw; Felipe Contepomi, Rory Lawson; Duncan Jones, Benoit August, John Afoa, Mick O’Driscoll (capt), Cornelius van Zyl, Mamuka Gorgodze, Francois Louw, Raphael Lakafia

Replacements: Aled de Malmanche, Neemia Tialata, Pelu Taele, Akapusi Qera, Richie Rees, Stephen Donald, Isa Nacewa

Form

Not much form here really to speak of.

You have an Ireland team devoid of Leinster players (plenty of motivation for this lot to show they don’t need them!), and a Barbarians team mostly changed from Saturday’s loss to England, barring one or two who were substituted early, or came on late. Ronan O Gara at ten has more caps (121) than the entire Irish other fourteen players (98), versus a Barbarians side with many many hundreds of caps (that I haven’t counted). If we forget about the fact that Kidney hasn’t got a full deck to choose from, then Irish form in general hasn’t been great., with a sound beating at the hands of England (without a scrum, O Connell, and BOD) rounding off a disappointing 6 nations campaign that promised so much at its outset. But finally there’s some new blood in this Irish side, and with a few last spots up for grabs for the trip to New Zealand, they won’t be short on motivation. It’s a decent Irish side with plenty of tryscoring and defensive ability in the backs, a tested international halfback pairing, and a dynamic (if somewhat lightweight) pack. And going on last saturday, there is very little that you could call a defensive line with this barbarians squad- there will be holes everywhere for Ireland to exploit.

The Babaas on the other hand have bucket loads of experience, and when you look at their team sheet, you really wish the game was televised. Contepomi was lively against England for the last quarter, Tindall had a great game surprisingly, scoring a try, and that backrow looks fearsome, with Louw a breakdown expert, and Gorgodze and Lakafia wrecking balls. And look at that front row- tasty. But like a Kebab on a night with no beer, that perceived tastiness might quickly disappear. That is, will they gel? On the evidence of the England game, the short answer is…probably not. Many of these players are coming off punishing seasons, with the likes of Gorgodze having just played on Friday night in a bruising French playoff encounter. Their set piece was pretty non-existent v England, particularly the lineout, and you’d imagine O Gara will bring alot of structured territorial play, to go along with his accomplished passing game. England were not amazing in attack, butchering a few easy chances, and with very little high class structured back interplay, but still managed to put fifty points on the barbarians (excepting one try was quite exceptionally put together I have to admit). Ireland are well capable of matching the English back play, with Gilroy and Earls in particular in for a few tries i suspect. One area of concern for Ireland will be the inexperienced front row up against Jones, August and Afoa. But you’d expect the lack of playing time together across the Babaas team, (along with the nights out on the beer, and the serious heat), will favour an Irish team with a goal of getting on the NZ tour, playing time together, and a proper coaching setup.

Betting

There will be bags of tries here, but with no try scorer markets up yet, i can only give names, and maybe odds will come out, though possibly not as the game hasn’t been picked up by any TV stations (good work RTE, the Irish national broadcaster…). Earls, Gilroy, Cave, O Mahony, Murray, Sackey, Traille, Nacewa (if he gets off the bench) Zebo ( a shoe in for a score) should all come close.

1. This game could go either way really , but I have to take the evidence of a severe lack of preparation on Saturday against England, and the fact that these Irish players know each other’s games, and conclude Ireland will at least win. One has to think that Ireland -8 at 10/11 is the way to go if you want a punt on this game. Kidney will want them to play tight and get ahead, and when it inevitably opens up he will want tries, and instruct them to go after them, otherwise he learns nothing.

Weather- sunny and hot.

Referee- Doesnt matter.

Toulon v Racing Metro Betting preview, TOP 14 Playoff, 25 May, 20:00 GMT

Win/Handicap Best Prices

Toulon 2/7, Racing, 7/2
Toulon -7 10/11 Racing +8, 10/11

Form

Toulon have won their last three games, most notably beating Toulouse at home by three points. Previous to that they went down to Brive and Agen away, two games they really should have won. That being said, they probably thought they weren’t going to overhaul Clermont or Toulouse for the two automatic semi-final spots and knew what they had to do to beat Castres to third, so they just decided to concentrate on their home games. Also, despite it being a different competition, they were quite simply WOEFUL against Biarritz in the challenge cup final, and they completely ran out of ideas against a Biarritz side that were nothing special. That’s twice now that they have lost in the final of this competition in recent years, and you have to think they wanted to win that game. I just can’t emphasise enough how bad they were in the wet against Biarritz.

Racing have three wins in their last five, losing away to Agen and Biarritz. They knew they didn’t need the win against Agen though, and that they likely wouldn’t catch Montpellier, so take that result away with a pinch of salt. The way the table panned out towards the last few weeks, it was quite easy for the teams at the top to focus solely on those below them, as most of them faced a difficult task trying to overhaul those above them….if you get my meaning. Racing are up and down all season, but have a lot of experience and class, and they really can cause problems for a Toulon team that are shorn of a few stars.

Teams

No surprises for Racing Metro. Here’s hoping that Hernandez can show some class and entertain us. There’s a solid enough unit there with Nallet and Steyn, and the enigmatic Benjamin Fall, and they have plenty of continuity.
Contrast that with Toulon; Alexis Palisson is replaced by Luke Rooney. Benjamin Lapeyre slides to the wing after an awful game, particularly kicking out of hand, against Biarritz. Following the suspension of Carl Hayman for a disgraceful tackle on Ngwenya (that looked to me like it could have done some real damage, had Hayman’s team mate not held Ngwenya’s neck up), the young Georgian Levan Chilachava steps into the front row. David Smith was also awful against Biarritz. You look around the Toulon team and with the names you see, it’d be hard to oppose them, and they’re so strong at home…

But the fact here is that Toulon should have won the Challenge cup final, and their form hasn’t been amazing by any stretch of the imagination. They had no ideas when they were facing defeat against Biarritz, and they wouldn’t pass the ball all night. Hayman will be missed, and not just for his scrummaging- his lineout lifting work is immense, and Toulon will miss him there. Couple that fact with Hernandez and Steyn’s boot kicking for territory, and you might have a recipe for a Racing Metro victory right there.

Betting

  1. Going to have to go for Toulon 1-12, with French home reffing ensuring they get the win.
  2.  Halftime/Fulltime Toulon/Racing metro is 14/1 in places, and might be worth a punt for interest. There’s a few old men in this Toulon team, and they had nothing in the tank last week in the muck v Biarritz. Could that have taken too much out of them?
  3.  Even money that there’s a drop goal scored is available. Wilkinson, and Hernandez…and Steyn. ER, i’ll be having some of that.

Weather- France in June. Nice.
Referee- Mathieu Raynal from the Basque country. I wonder if he’s a Biarritz fan?

Leinster v Ospreys Betting Preview, RaboPro12 Final, RDS Dublin, 26 May 16:00 GMT

Win/Handicap Best Prices

Leinster 4/9, Ospreys 3/1

Leinster -6 10/11, Ospreys +7, evs.

Form

If you’re betting on Rugby and you are unfamiliar with Leinster’s form, then you probably shouldn’t be betting on rugby! As you are no doubt aware, they have been in scintillating form, hammering Ulster last week to take their third Heineken cup in three years. This Sunday, they are aiming for an historic Heineken Cup and domestic league double that has only been done once before by Wasps in 2004. It’s safe to say then, that there will be no H-cup hangover for Leinster, and they’ll be well up for this.

The Ospreys have rebuilt after the departure of their brand names last season, and have made a decent fist of things in the run in. Prior to hammering a very weak Munster team in the semi-final, they had five victories in a row. They pipped Leinster by a point away with Leinster focused on the Heineken cup, shorn of their three back row starters and sexton, and with odriscoll returning from injury. Tipuric was the inspiration to a full osprey’s team; they only won it with a touchline conversion at the death when Leinster had switched off. Prior to that they beat Treviso well at home, as most have. They then beat the worst club in the NH lately (Cardiff) away from home. They had a rickety win over the dragons at home, in which they conceded a lot of penalties, many on the attack. Lastly, they struggled to beat aironi away with a first team, winning by 7 in the end. However, Orquera misses two kickable penalties in the last 20 making it much easier for them to eek it out.
Previous to that they were beaten at home by Glasgow, were beaten by an ulster team shorn of Best, Ferris, and Muller, and they lost away to Dragons who have been having a bad season. So the point here is, despite the nice run of victories, and the win over Munster, there’s questions over whether they can live with a full Leinster team on a high. They’ll need their experienced pack to be as dominant as they were when they won in the RDS, when Heaslip, Obrien, Rob Kearney, Sexton, Reddan and Jennings got the night off.

Teams

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Cian Healy/Jack McGrath, 18 Nathan White, 19 Brad Thorn, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 John Cooney, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 David Kearney.

Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Andrew Bishop, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Shane Williams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Ryan Jones, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (capt), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 James King, 20 Tom Smith, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Matthew Morgan, 23 Tom Isaacs.

For Leinster, Healy and Sean O’Brien are out, and while they are a big loss, there’s cover there. Van Der Merve came on and tore Ulster apart last week, scoring a try, and no doubt he’s chomping at the bit to get stuck in Sunday. The back row will have a tough time against the Ospreys, but quality-wise they shade this for me. Tipuric is a class act, but he might be carrying an injury. You have to say the Ospreys pack is very important in this game, but Leinster’s can stand toe to toe. There’s a possible advantage in the scrums to the Ospreys, but apart from that, Leinster edge all of the other set-pieces with Toner there to ensure clean lineout ball for Leinster to attack from. Leinster work best off clean set-piece, and I feel if they have at least parity in the scrum, they should win this game with something to spare. The Ospreys backs are youthful and have shown great promise this season, but they lack the big game experience and nous that any team would need against a Leinster team in this form. The Ospreys bench is bare in comparison to Leinster’s, with Stowers in particular missing. Fotuali’i arguably should have started too, as it will take a few special instinctive moments to break this Leinster team down, something he has more of in his locker than Webb.

Betting

This game is going to go one way in my eyes- Leinster’s way, and it’s up to them how they play it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a carbon copy of the the HC final either, with Leinster playing conservatively, and then bringing on the pace and power to destroy them in the second half (if things are going their way).

  1. Leinster -6. They’re at the pinnacle of their rugby powers right now, and by rights this should be very beatable, once they want it.
  2. Heineke van der merwe is 66/1 in places for first try scorer…as above, this is very good value!
  3. Heineke van der merwe, anytime try scorer is 14/1!  Get some! The man is an animal in the loose.
  4. For a flutter, leinster -21 is available at 7/1. Don’t be fooled by the beating the Ospreys gave Munster folks- if this Leinster team clicks, this could well come in- proven try scorers all over the bench and on the field, and they owe the Ospreys a hiding after they beat them at home! If you fancy a smal bet for interest, you could do worse.

Weather- Sunny and fine, its summer in Dublin, these days don’t come around too often.

 

Referee- Roman Poite- expect the man to look frequently bored and disinterested, and eager to return to his cheese farm. Likely to side with Ospreys on marginal calls too, so beware.

Castres v Montpellier, Betting Preview, TOP 14 Playoffs, 25 May, 20:00 GMT

Teams

Friday sees the first of two playoffs for the TOP 14 semifinals. The winner here plays a Toulouse side that has looked vulnerable this season and very beatable.

Montpellier hit hard with injuries with Audrin, Matadigo, and regular scrumhalf Pauillage out (escanda taking his place). Personally I don’t really rate Amorasino at full back either.

In contrast Castres are fairly settled, with the on form Chris masoe set to lead the charge. Continue reading Castres v Montpellier, Betting Preview, TOP 14 Playoffs, 25 May, 20:00 GMT

Leicester v Harlequins Betting Preview, Aviva Premiership Final, May 26 15:00 pm GMT

Win/Handicap Best Prices;

Leicester 2/5, Quins 23/10

Handicaps Leicester -6 10/11, Harlequins +7 10/11.

FORM

As much as it would be nice to see a changing of the guard with Harlequins winning the title,  to be honest, my rugby beer-gut has been firmly in the Leicester camp for the past two weeks.  Leicester are on a serious winning run in the Premiership, and have been nothing short of exceptional.  They beat Quins 43-34 last month, in a right ding dong battle that Leicester came out of with flying colours, coming from behind a couple of times, and the classy teamwork building there really showed. You got the impression that this was the best Quins could give, and it wasn’t enough.

Their recent form has been good; Continue reading Leicester v Harlequins Betting Preview, Aviva Premiership Final, May 26 15:00 pm GMT

Betting Preview, Leinster v Ulster, Heineken Cup Final, 19th May 2012, Twickenham, 17:00 GMT.

With the amount of newspapers and tv/radio stations devoting amazing amounts of time to this game, and the advertising that goes along with it, you can see how everyone and his dog have started to buy into the hype. Personally though,  im now convinced this Ulster love in is all hyped to sell this game and the associated advertising and Ulster are being bigged up for purely economic reasons. As you can see i’m thinking outside… Continue reading Betting Preview, Leinster v Ulster, Heineken Cup Final, 19th May 2012, Twickenham, 17:00 GMT.

Toulon v Biarritz Rugby betting preview, Challenge cup final, Friday May 17, 2012, 20:00 GMT, Twickenham Stoop.

The hors-d’oevres before the rugby main course on Saturday.

Not half as much attention is paid to this cup as the Heineken, but it is nonetheless a riveting competition.  It is most definitely a useful stepping stone to greatness, and a convenient viewpoint for us punters to get some form on up- and -coming ( and down-and-going!) teams and players. And the fact is, it is silverware, something every team wants. Despite having less prestige that the Heineken, no team (aside from maybe Munster!) will give this title anything less than the respect it deserves (once they’re on the verge of reaching the knock-out stages anyway).

Friday night’s Rugby Challenge cup final sees Blanco’s aristocratic babes (sans benoit baby) up against the wealthy upstarts from Toulon. Biarritz had a… Continue reading Toulon v Biarritz Rugby betting preview, Challenge cup final, Friday May 17, 2012, 20:00 GMT, Twickenham Stoop.