Treviso v Leicester
Ospreys v Toulouse
Exeter v Scarlets
Leinster v Clermont
Ulster v Northampton
Heineken Cup Rugby Betting – Treviso v Leicester, Treviso +10 Bet365, Leicester -8 Sportingbet
13 35 GMT Sky Sports
There’s more dirty weather forecast for this game early tomorrow afternoon and Leicester pitch up to the Stadio Di Monigo tomorrow facing a tough game. Only two teams have beaten a ten point handicap at Treviso this season- Toulouse came in the first round of the Heineken and won by a twelve point margin, and Glasgow won by 11 after two late tries in a league game despite the fact Treviso were winning with 15 minutes to go. Other than that Treviso have been winning games away, beating the Ospreys at home and losing by a point to both Leinster (last minute Sexton drop goal) and Ulster. Treviso deserve alot of respect – perhaps more than the bookies are giving them.
Since beating Sale by 12 points away six weeks ago, Leicester have lost away from home to both Wasps and Gloucester. The side they take away tomorrow is solid as usual but it’s nothing wondrous and it has it’s weaknesses, mainly George Ford at ten and Goneva missing on the left wing. Ford has been missing a large percentage of kicks all season in the league, and he was off with the boot again last week at home to Treviso missing most of his kicks. That game saw Leicester manage an easy first half bonus point, only to be totally outplayed in the second half. Indeed, the way Treviso were so passive in the first half suggested they possibly had a gameplan to try to catch Tigers in the second half, and they almost did; losing by just eight in the end. They were excellent in that second half last week, and there’s no reason they won’t bring that hunger tomorrow – be sure that they are targeting this Leicester side as a possible scalp.
Treviso start dead-eye-dick Di Bernardo at ten this week and he’ll get most of his kicks – he is truly excellent with the boot and provides a sharp contrast to Ford’s wobbly aim. Van Zyl and Minto take over in the second row and they’re a step up from Pavanallo and Bernabo last week, and crucially the classy Zanni comes back into the side at six for Favaro after being rested last week. Overall this Treviso side is much stronger than the team that played at Welford road
Overall Treviso look to be focusing on this game relative to last week when they managed to get things back to within eight points, and while Leicester did ease up slightly they were certainly still trying. Recent Leicester form gives no valid indication why they should be 10 point favourites here and to be honest i’m expecting there could be a shock tomorrow. There hasn’t been one yet these last few rounds and Treviso are well capable of winning this game. The one worry for Treviso is their bench being a little light, however the conditions tomorrow may suit them, making it difficult for Leicester to get back ahead if they go behind.
Main Rugby Bet– Treviso +10 at 10/11 is our pick here in BEt365 (dropping to 9 elsewhere). Treviso will go all out here and Leicester this season are no great shakes compared to season’s past. The main issue for them beating this handicap is Ford at ten, and he simply can’t be depended on to take his kicks. We can take it for Granted that Leicester SHOULD win, but I have a feeling they still don’t appreciate the fight they’ll have on their hands tomorrow. Look out for he two backrows clashing and keep and eye out for Vosawai in particular who was brilliaint last week. Treviso should be maybe 5 or six point underdogs here, with a better kicker and a much better home record. Crucially, Leicester have been getting hugely favourable referees lately in the Premiership but Alain Rolland won’t give them anything but even calls tomorrow – Rolland is a great ref for Treviso backers.
Side bets – There’s word in the forum that some of the lads are going for Treviso half time and Leicester full time at 15/2. This is an excellent bet for smaller money based on Treviso’s propensity to be wining at half time and losing at full time. However, I would posit that the 13/2 in bet365 for Treviso halftime/fulltime is similarly attractive as if they get ahead and play ball like they did last week, Leicester neither have the kicker to take the points nor buckets of creativity to get the tries in rough weather. Treviso could make things extremely difficult here for Leicester tomorrow, and a possible shock looks on the cards to us.
Heineken Cup Rugby Betting – Ospreys v Toulouse, Treviso +5 Stanjames, Ospreys +7 Betfred
This game has top billing of the two early kickoffs but I think Sky have made a mistake there possibly – i’m expecting the Treviso game will provide far more drama. Toulouse made hard work of their win last week and in truth we were lucky to get the handicap win with a last minute penalty in front of the posts saving our bacon for a sixteen point win. McCallister (who is injured for this game) must have missed about seven kicks and had he nailed them all the Ospreys surely would have given up all hope and the margin would have been closer to thirty points.
As it was the Ospreys came out looking like they were worth their 16 point loss with the fight they put up. While this is an understandable way of looking at things, the fact is that Toulouse stopped playing completely for periods of that game and the Ospreys should have taken advantage before half time to take the lead. They didn’t though and Toulouse went on to lead comfortably. I’m putting that lull down as a blip becuase i feel that Toulouse just weren’t prepared for any serious resistance from a weak Ospreys side. They came out in the second half with a replaced front row and renewed vigour and never really looked back, with the Ospreys rarely threatening.
Despite a few injury returnees for the Ospreys, looking at the two teams tomorrow I still can’t see any superiority positionally for the Ospreys other than Biggar at ten (and maybe Fotualii at 9 having parity with Burgess), and the Toulouse bench is also miles ahead of their counterparts. So the only question for tomorrow is whether Toulouse will be arsed putting the Ospreys away or not on the handicap, because i’d be pretty sure of a Toulouse win here.
We’ve said it before that we think Toulouse are firmly concentrating on this competition this season (after taking the TOP14 title last year) and I have no inkling that they’ll slip up and lose tomorrow knowing that they’ll be firmly on course for a home quarter final if they win. They will remember full well how much away quarters have cost them the past few years.
The Ospreys have a decent home record but in truth they’ve been playing poor sides at home all season, and the one time they met a coherent side at home in Glasgow they were beat by eighteen points. Their Heineken season staying alive rests on a winning bonus point tomorrow but when Toulouse start to build a lead I can see them getting desperate, making mistakes, and their heads dropping. I also saw this pitch on Wednesday night in the football league-cup snorefest when Swansea snuck past Middlesborough with an own goal – and this pitch is in fantastic condition – so this will be no slugfest in the muck – which will suit Toulouse more than the Ospreys.
Main bet- Medium stakes, take Toulouse -5 in Stanjames while it lasts. The Ospreys are outclassed here in every department bar at ten, and Biggar may not still be fit. The Toulouse bench has impact everywhere, and club captain Dusatoir is back at seven from injury. Toulouse should be getting a bonus point here and I don’t think the usual fear of Toulouse just turning up and doing enough applies here – had they made their kicks last week they likely would have won by 30+.The Toulouse 1-12 appeals but at biggest 6/4 in Labrokes it’s a tricky one to invest heavily in. Maybe accumulator material.
Tryscorers- If you like the Ospreys and think they may have a Biggar shake at this then we’re giving them, then back Ospreys scrumhalf Fotualii for an anytime try at 11/2, he looks most likely for them. Picamoles is 9/2 at williamhill and rampaging in the loose, or breaking off he back of a dominant scrum (and in the form of his life) for us he has to be invested in.
Exeter v Scarlets Betting
This one has the handicap hovering aroung 6-8 points and it is maybe best left alone…. but for small to medium stakes we’re taking an interest. Scarlets welcome back George North and he has got them out of jail in the wet on a few occasions this year already. Davies continues at outside centre and Williams returns to his natural full back position. I’m actually quite surprised North has been let play a dead rubber that will have heavy collisions by the WRU and i’m not sure he’ll play the full 80. That goes for Davies too (both of them have been wrapped in cotton wool by the WRU since they emerged) with big league games coming up in the league and of course the six nations. If Exeter get out in front they may be replaced.
Exeter have beaten most of the big teams in the Premiership here this season and I can’t see them losing. The Scarlets have no reliable scrum ( and it’s wet) and no reliable kicker in Aled Thomas, and the Chiefs have both of those in plentiful supply. On top of that they have should own the lineout with Mumm playing the backrow, and they won’t lose too much around the park either.
The Scarlets have nothing to play for here whereas the chiefs can make the Challenge cup with Leinster still to come to Sandy park. This game will probably go one of two ways – The Scarlets will make it tight and the game will finish around five to eight points in their favour, or else Exeter will run the Scarlets ragged, keep the scoreboard ticking with their better kickers, and run away with it in the end- keep an eye out for Nowell on the Chiefs right wing who I saw in the Anglo Welsh cup recently, he’s lethal looking, unfortunately prices don’t look appealing for tries. The Scarlets backline looks dangerous but we can’t see them getting much ball with superiority in the lineout and scrum going to the Chiefs.
Main bet- the more I think about it the Chiefs look a really good bet here. Beause i’m not watching it (all eyes on Leinster Clermont) I won’t go full stake but medium money looks a good investment. Handicap is best in Stanjames, -6 at evens (7 and 8 everywhere else)
**We’ve had a small interest in big Exeter handicaps for this game today, in a search for some Christmas value – while it may well stay close enough, if Exeter get ahead they could really go for the jugular – it’s something they have done a number of times so far this season at home, showing a real willingness to put teams away. -22 and-25 at 13/2 and 9/1 respectively in Ladbrokes.
Heineken Cup Rugby Betting – Leinster v Clermont, Leinster -5 williamhill, Clermont +7 Paddypower
The big one returns after last week’s enthralling epic and this looks set to be the clash of the weekend once again. Last week’s game had some of the most extreme intensity of any pool game i’ve ever seen in the Heineken cup. It was like a test match, with neither side giving an inch, both uber-conservative for the most part, both waiting for the opposition to blink. Neither did blink in the end, but it was Leinster who no doubt came away with more regrets. Schmidt almost executed the perfect gameplan with the tools he had available, and only one thing didn’t come off for him on the day- the lineout. Leinster had Clermont by the balls for a period of about fifteen minutes in the second half but blew several crucial lineouts in the red zone when scores looked likely. We backed Leinster +6 and it came off nicely, but we were a bit disappointed too that Leinster didn’t follow through and get the win that we felt was there for them. It’s all set up this week and the Champions simply have to win here or it could be curtains for this year’s Heineken Cup.
So what has changed from last week? Not much. Everything we said still stands from last week’s preview (which you can see at the bottom of this post here), and we still reckon Leinster are the better side here. Leinster have made some changes and they are for the most part positive- Strauss starting instead of Cronin suggests Schmidt is happy that they’ve sorted out the lineout that cost them so dearly last week. Reddan starting suggests they think they’ll get more space than last week (though I think Boss should start here still). There’s impact on the bench with Dave Kearney, Conway, Cian Healy, Mcglaughlin, Cronin, Bent and Isaac Boss. If you look particularly at Leinster’s bench you can see an all international front row to come on in the second half in Cronin, Bent and Healy. That’s some serious impact in an area that Clermont are a bit light in and this should tell in the second half.
Clermont shuffle some players in the backrow, with notably Bardy coming in (more on him below). Crucially, Brock James is facing a late fitness test and rumour has it he won’t make it. This is a huge plus for Leinster and a big dent in Clermont’s ambitions to move the ball. Skrela is a solid player but many would say he’s past it and flaky in the extreme, and his distribution is not in the same league as James’.
Clermont now have two loose cannons in their side with the introduction of Bardy into the backrow behind Crackers-Cudmore in the second row. You can bet the entire Leinster backrow and particularly Leo Cullen (who caught a headbutt off Bardy last April in the 2012 semi-final) will be looking to wind him up from the get-go. And he will react, the only issue is whether Barnes will have the balls to show the yellows. Cudmore will be targeted too after flooring Isaac Boss last year in the run up to Cian Healy’s opening try. If Leinster can manage to wind these two up things could really fall right for them today.
Leinster showed last week that even shorn of some of their marquee players they could still bring a test intensity to the cauldron in the Marcel Michelin. It was inspiring stuff watching them completely un-intimidated by a whinging crowd (who were notably scared out of their wits that they were going to lose judging by the crowd shots, and the constant howling for every little decision) and the Clermont home-record. If the Clermont home crowd were that worried last week, this week they’ll be petrified. Clermont have only lost three times away from home all season by an average of six points, but I really feel Leinster can get a bonus point here tomorrow. Clermont are going to qualify anyway more than likely with two likely wins to come at home to Exeter and away to Scarlets, and if (WHEN) the going gets tough, and Leinster start to get under their skin they may start to question why they should bother and start to surrender their cards.
My only for Leinster here tomorrow is referee Wayne Barnes. You know how we feel about the ERC and how they need English and French teams in big numbers in this years playoffs. Barnes virtually walked Clermont up to the Leinster line in last year’s semi-final, first calling a Sean O’Brien knock on that wasn’t; then going to the TMO for a penalty that looked good (and having it ruled out) and then calling Heaslip in at the side for a penalty which looked very harsh. He has very recent form then, form that is eerily similar to Gauzere last week marching Sarries up to the Munster 22 with two hugely dubious penalties for a bonus point.
However, I think Leinster will be coming out and hitting this Clermont side with everything they have from the off, knowing full well they can’t count on Barnes to call everything they deserve. Last year’s off the ball stuff will make them hit even harder. Leinster can definitely send this Clermont side packing tomorrow, and if they can close down Rougerie and Fofana (like we said last week) then they win this game well.
Main Bet – we’e been on Leinster -6 from early in the week but there’s still -5 available in Stanjames/Betpack. I doubt it will be there come kick off. We might have a look at a big handicap closer to the game. Leinster will have 50,000 fans shouting for them tomorrow and there’s alot of payback for fouls in last April’s game. I’m expecting the Champs to put away a Clermont side that a) doesn’t need to win and may decide to save their powder for another day and b) looked exhausted last week.
Tryscorer fancies!- unlike last week I think there will be tries this week. Cian Healy was a hero last April against Clermont getting the first try at 40/1 (anyone in the Brian Boru in Drumcondra that day last April will remember us jumping around like fools holding 40/1 dockets in our hands) but he starts from the bench tomorrow. Don’t let that put you off though, he’s well worth a fiver for last tryscorer (possibly the bonus? to save a win?) at a whopping 40/1 (prices only in williamhill right now, but you’ll get paddypower tomorrow probably). I guarantee you he will have at least one go at the line from the base of a ruck from when he comes on until the end of the game, and there should be some give when he goes for it. Incidentally – Paddypower are refunding all losing tryscorer bets in this game if a forward scores the first try – good value.
Head over to the forum for the rest of the games discussed this Saturday. A quick word on Ulster v Northampton – we’ve been on Ulster -11 from early in the week and we may take more of the -10 in williamhill and Betfred. Not much has changed from last week’s preview, except that Northampton have huge games in the next two weeks against Saracens and Quins in the league. Ulster can put them away here and then some, and despite Northampton talking about pride this week, it’s hard to see where they stay with this Ulster side. There’s a slight danger in that they have nothing to lose now, but missing Hartley and Lawes they look to be missing a bit of bite…as well as motivation. With Mallinder’s league season facing crucial games in the next fortnight expect him to empty the bench early and that will also disrupt any continuity they might have.
No bet on Monty v Cardiff for us- anything could happen. If you have to back anything, back Monty to beat a huge handicap at a big price for small money in labbrokes or Paddypower (ladbrokes better prices); it’s just as likely as anything else happening, including a Cardiff win.
Head on over to the rugby betting forum and give your two cents.