Heineken cup semi-final betting – Saracens v Toulon

Heineken cup semi-final betting tips – Saracens v Toulon, Sun28April, 3pm SkySports

Heineken cup rugby betting semi final Saracens v toulon rugby betting
-Handicap of Saracens +1, Toulon scratch available

There are a number of macro indicators ahead of this weekend’s Heineken cup semi-final suggesting Toulon should have the edge.

Let’s take a quick look at the last weekend of European rugby, when three Premiership sides met three French sides in the quarter-finals of Europe’s top two competitions. In the Challenge Cup, Stade Francais & Biarritz both sent under full strength sides away to Bath & Gloucester and both convincingly dispatched their Premiership opposition (as predicted in our betting forum at huge odds of 7/2 and 4/1). Bath and Gloucester sent out strong enough sides with a few players rested, & most bookmakers expected them to win handily.

So by that Saturday afternoon we already had a decent relative indication of the current strengths of both leagues – understrength lower table French sides hammering aspirant top-six Premiership sides.

Then Leicester were beaten in Toulon in the Heineken cup Quarter final. Leicester turned up and put their bodies on the line, and for that they deserve commendation. However, George Clancy’s refereeing of the scrum was, as usual, on the side of Leicester (remember the Toulouse game?), and questions have to be asked on how he keeps getting Leicester and England international games (Just as Wayne Barnes has refereed three of Clermont’s major European games in the past three years).

Clancy’s odd interpretation (to put it mildly) of the scrum two weeks ago saw Leicester 12 points to three ahead, until Toulon cranked up the intensity and worked their way back into things to win by six points. True, Leicester were within a score at the death, but had Toulon had a little bit of luck they could easily have run out 20+ point winners even after having to deal with George Clancy’s bizarre Tigers-friendly calls. Near misses from Toulon kept things tight; Botha’s double movement for the disallowed try; Bastauread pushed out in the corner instead of just running straight with only Thompstone to run through; and Tilous-Borde frustratingly missing three Toulon forwards with a pass, when the Leicester line was there begging. Had any of these chances been executed with more composure, Toulon would likely have won far more comfortably.

So what does all this have to do with Sunday’s game between Saracens and Toulon?

Saracens are at the top of a league full of teams that have had no answer to French power this year, and up until last week Toulon were leading the TOP14 (now 1 point behind Clermont). You can see the comparison we’re making here – Toulon are at the top of a vastly stronger league based on this year’s head to heads, and it’s a fair enough bet that the dominance will continue this weekend as the two league leaders collide.

Toulon are mercenaries, pay-cheque collectors, hooering jesses, Guns for hire, etc

Not so in our opinion. Toulon have plenty of obsessive critics as the new money side in French rugby, but the fact is they have frequently shown character in adversity. Take the Quarter final against Leicester – it would have been very easy to lie down and wilt at the coal-face of one of the aristocratic sides of Heineken cup rugby, after going 12-3 behind, along with the referee being against them. But they battled back into it, stuck to their game plan, and overcame significant adversity – they have a real hunger for this competition there’s no doubt about it.

Yet another example was last year’s TOP14 final, when they fought back with an amazing series of phases to almost pip Toulouse at the end with no time remaining – a high pass and a knock on 5 metres out prevented a certain try. These Toulon lads are serious international professionals that want to win this trophy, plain and simple. There will be no stereotypical French away days here.


Statistical league Match-ups (bear in mind there are four more games played now in the TOP14 versus the Premiership -25 v 21)

Tries scored (leagues) – Toulon 63, Saracens 38
Tries scored (Heineken cup Pools) – Toulon 23, Sarries 15
Tries conceded (leagues) – Toulon 30, Saracens 23
Tries conceded (Heineken cup Pools) – Toulon 8, Saracens 6

Some other interesting stats – Toulon have conceded the least amount of yellow cards in the TOP14, so their discipline has been excellent, showing that they work for each other. They have also won more away games than almost every other side in the TOP14, (where away wins are tough to come by), with seven, joint top with Racing metro. In playing 21 games of the 25 so far, Johnny Wilkinson has the top spot for drop goals (7), conversions (42) and penalties (78) for a league-leading total of 339 points. Lastly, Toulon have scored a league-leading 736 points and conceded 435. Saracens have scored 510 and conceded 325.
If it seems like we’re concentrating on the TOP14 here more than the Premiership, it’s for the simple reason that the TOP14 is the stronger competition, and thus has more meaningful numbers (and I don’t have all day here!). (We can blame the fact we have a weaker competition on the salary cap, we can blame it on the greedy/lying club chairmen, the dodgy TMO decisions, the fact the Premiership is an unfair cartel possibly operating against European competition laws, David Rose’s love affair with yellow cards, or Wayne Barnes pulling decisions out of his arse…. – it’s another day’s discussion either way).


Backrow Blue Bloods

If you’re a Saracens fan, you’re hanging onto the defensive potential, where they have fared slightly better statistically in both the Heineken cup pools and the league. However, this is where the news that Will Fraser is out injured will really start to look ominous. Fraser (Man of the match v Ulster in the Quarters) has started 16 and played in 19 of Saracen’s 21 premiership games this year. Saracens don’t have another fit openside (Jacques Burger is back, but he isn’t fit, and he has been missing tackles since returning to the side), and the loss will be felt hard by a side that relies on his turnovers and ground work to relieve pressure.

Toulon’s ball carrying back row have the winning of this game. We’ll probably see a 6, 7, 8 of Lobbe, Armitage, Masoe, (actually turns out Armitage and Joe VN are on the bench, and the backrow is 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Danie Rossouw).(Full teams at base of page) That’s some serious firepower against a likely back row for Sarries of three from Wray, Brown, Joubert, and Kruis & Burger. Solid players, but it’s advantage Toulon with no fit Sarries seven, and the brains of the operation Joubert wearing a face-mask due to a facial injury. Last year the Saracens Wagon wobbled in both competitions due to back row problems and it looks to be happening again here. The overall ball carrying, international experience, and ground-hog ability of that Toulon back row is simply phenomenal in contrast.

Saracens need to keep the ball away from Toulon for as long as possible but I’m not sure they have the quality to do it. Dean Ryan has made the point a number of times in recent months that you need a bit extra to win these sorts of games, and you can’t just rely on on defence at this level, and I agree with him. Yes, Saracens have been scoring tries of late, and their game has come on leaps and bounds from last season, but i’m not convinced yet – mainly due to the caliber of their opposition recently (I actually fancied this game to be high scoring, but i’m not sue that will happen with Rollaind reffing). Saracens are no longer a defensive side that’s for sure, but have they got the attacking weapons to deal with a really top side? I’m yet to be convinced. Where’s the spark in this Sarries side? I just don’t see it compared to Giteau, Armitage, Masoe Smith and even Wilkinson. They’re also conceding tries too and when it comes to the crunch, I’m not sure they have the creativity to change things if the game is going against them.

Matchups

The Toulon backs have the edge in ability and experience too, with Giteau and Bastauread a potent combination, and creatively alongside Wilkinson and Tilous Borde they have the edge on the conjurers remedial class of Farrell and Barritt. Even Felon Armitage at full back looks to have the edge on Goode, and is in fine form at the minute. David Smith is the equal of Ashton at least, and David Strettle goes missing if it isn’t laid on a plate for him, and he still has passing issues (though he has got better from no passes per game, to a few passes per game in recent months).

The scrums (once refereed properly) should be slightly in favour of Toulon with the international experience they have in Jenkins, Sheridan & Hayman, and the lethal ball carrying ability of Orioli to match the excellent Vunipola (though not so excellent at scrummaging) will tell in the last twenty minutes. The lineout should be Saracens, and this being their main weapon, it needs to function flawlessly against Botha and Kennedy (maybe even Botha and Lobbe) to have any chance of winning this game. Botha has a few titles under his belt though, and should be able to have an impact….so nothing is guaranteed for Saracens in this respect.

Vunipola will be a huge factor in Saracens winning or losing this game. His possible scrummaging weaknesses will be an easy target for the referee. On the other hand his ball carrying (and tryscoring) ability could be key; Saracens have been using him running at full tilt as first receiver off ruck ball in the opposition 22 for about three months, and if Toulon haven’t done their research to watch out for this, they’ll pay the price.

5050 game?

There’s too much in favour of Toulon here for it to be a 5050 game as the bookies are pricing it up, and the loss of Fraser really is as big as it has been made out to be. The key positions all hold so much international experience for Toulon and they have definitely shown against Leicester that they are interested in the Heineken Cup. Wilkinson should direct thing’s ably against Owen Farrell, and when you read that the ground will be half empty with less than 30,000 tickets sold, all of the chips look to be falling in Toulon’s favour. Despite Saracens acknowledged defensive ability, in these kinds of games you expect both sides will be up for it in that respect, and it’s usually the superior attack that comes up trumps.

Heineken cup semi-final betting – Saracens v Toulon, the verdict

We’ve backed Toulon simply to win at 10/11 in Paddypower. Toulon are simply the better side, events are conspiring in their favour, and they’ve shown they want it. Plus, there will be precious few Sarries fans to get the atmosphere pumping by doing that finger thing in the stands. No loudspeaker playing daft music either. In fact, I know a few Saracens fans who will be happy the pathetic loudspeaker is off, so who knows!

Saracens can win this game – they have a good squad and some game breakers, but everything will have to go perfectly for them, particularly for their defence, and i’m willing to bet against that happening. Farrell is wobbly under pressure and he’ll have to control the yips too, as if they don’t kick their goals, they’re doomed.

Further betting thoughts;
Initially I thought this would be high scoring contrary to expectations, but with stop-start-whistle-happy Rolland refereeing and destroying things as a spectacle in his own way, the Under might be the pick. No lines available yet, but I won’t be touching it either way as I’m invested in the Toulon win. The 1-12 winning margin price is terrible too so I wouldn’t touch it – there’s a chance Toulon could win by more, and 6/4 is not worth the risk of a late score or two.

Try scorers
– Very few prices up yet (Only powers) and I will update here when more are available in thee next couple of days. One or two look tasty for now (Vunipola is probably worth a fiver anytime try at 12/1 in Paddypower, especially if you like Saracens contrary to the above – he will be one of their main strike weapons).

Good luck whichever way you go, especially if it’s my way.


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Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Kelly Brown, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 George Kruis, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Chris Wyles.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Rudi Wulf, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Danie Rossouw, 5 Nick Kennedy, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Gethin Jenkins, 18 Davit Kubriashvili, 19 Joe van Niekerk, 20 Steffon Armitage, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Frederic Michalak, 23 Jocelino Suta

Rugby Betting tips on the Rugby League World Cup

The Rugby League World Cup might come second to Rugby Union when it comes to media coverage, but it is certainly one of the events that fans of Rugby League – and of sports betting in general – will be following with considerable interest this October & November. The competition doesn’t start until October the 26th, but people will be placing bets on it – with outright bets on the winner being the most punted market – well ahead of that date, and you can get odds information from most bookies already. So who have they marked down as being amongst the favourites for the tournament?

Just now there is no question that Australia are seen as the outstanding favourites to win the Rugby League World Cup – with their odds of 1/3 showing just how strong the bookmakers consider them to be. Behind them are New Zealand on 11/2, and England on 8/1, but after that the fourth placed team (Tonga) have odds of 200/1. This suggests that it is basically a three country battle for the trophy, but even then Australia are the clear favourites – having beaten defending champs New Zealand in both recent one-off test matches – so outright rugby betting fans could be faced with either accepting these low odds to bet on Australia or opting to just watch the tournament and do something else to keep the thrill in it, like and play rugby league world cup themed games at CasinoOnline.co.nz

There are quite a few of these to choose from – generally slots games – with two popular ones being Rough Rugby and Odd Shaped Balls. The former is a five reel slot with a backdrop of a rugby pitch and reel icons of players, rugby balls and match tickets, while the latter is more specifically World Cup inspired. As the daft name suggests, Oddly Shaped Balls goes for a humorous slant with its reel icons, including a (strategically censored) female streaker, but there is certainly nothing silly about the $200,000 top jackpot it offers. Either of these rugby themed slots games could offer a fun alternative to betting on the World Cup. Betting on Australia at those odds definitely isn’t advised – but small money on a heretofore underachieving England side might be worth it for interest.

Heineken cup betting – Toys out of the pram

As a quick preamble to this weekend’s games, It must be said that it’s hard to weigh up team chances without looking beyond the absolute necessity for European rugby (and the big business of the ERC) that at least one English club gets to the final this year. It also must be said that Sarries and Quins are rightly favourites this weekend, and are the stronger sides. Ok, with that out of the way……..

First, have a quick look at this in the Tory Gloryhole, essentially outlining how our club chairmen are still intent on destroying this fantastic and inclusive competition solely for money.

The article shows how just yesterday these silly sods couldn’t come to an agreement on what is happening with European rugby, and the fact remains that the majority of English Premiership fans (i’m one myself, and I know loads), have a chip on their shoulder that they’ve been coming off second best because of the structure of this competition, and not due to the fact that we just haven’t been good enough.

The fact is simple – the fans are the ones that count, and they’re putting it up to the chairmen, who also want more money – so them jockeying for more money, stricter entry for Scottish and Italian sides etc., dovetails nicely with their own money hungry quest. The fans views are crystal clear (partly due to the lack of critical thinking in the English media, and the big business agenda) – the majority can’t deal with the fact their teams haven’t been good enough (similar to our National side since ’04 in all fairness), and the blame seems to be getting placed at a combination of – money, no relegation in the Rabo, and Leinster resting a few players before Heineken cup games (despite the fact that it happens week in week out in the Premiership in one guise or another – i.e., those ‘sore knees’ we read about from the offy’s in other words).

This is not an attempt to persuade anyone of right and wrong – everyone is on their side of the fence and it’s doubtful many will be persuaded now. You’re either an Englishman and thinking your teams aren’t winning because it’s all unfair, or you’re from somewhere else and thinking;

‘why are English clubs jeopardising the game of rugby for money and essentially trying to contract the spread of the sport globally by proposing to hobble Scottish and Italian rugby?’ or ‘ why can’t England make use of their player base which dwarfs the other countries?’ or ‘didn’t they originally change the spread of money and the qualifications precisely because English clubs were wiping the floor in this competition?’, or ‘why in Christ’s name are they trying to ruin the best rugby competition on the planet just for money?’.

It won’t please many fellow English rugby fans to read it (we speaks our mind and tells it as we sees it), but throwing the toys out of the pram seems to be something of a running theme in English rugby right now. Last week Steve Walsh was hounded out of international rugby for the next six months thanks to incessant RFU complaining of how he reffed the scrums versus Wales.

Nevermind the fact that even with Craig Joubert reffing them off the park, France still managed to win the scrum against England. Nevermind that George Clancy ignored Italian scrum dominance in the entire second half against England (watch the replay, the Italians sent England backwards…alot) by not giving their superior scrum the penalties. Nevermind that the Irish got parity in the scrum even with injuries.

No, nevermind all that. Just mind Graham Rowntree and the RFU throwing their toys out of the pram when Steve Walsh correctly gave the decisions to a Welsh scrum that was totally on form, that contained proven talent from one to eight, and over twice the international caps of the English eight. I was genuinely embarrassed at our complaining in the days after the game. I’m even more embarrassed that a man lost work because we can’t deal with reality.

And the result? Steve Walsh taken off International rugby (or suspended from his job to be more accurate) because he chose to referee English rugby and the RFU correctly, and chose to keep his integrity and NOT do a Craig Joubert on it, and give us everything.

Is it any wonder then that the clubs think they can act in the same way, when their home union is going around stamping it’s feet and crossing it’s arms like a spoiled brat? (we also know now that New Zealand no longer control the IRB, and who does)

So what has this got to do with this weekend? Well, this is an attempt to point out the glaring logic for punters. English sides have been given a cushy ride in this championship so far precisely to sway the minds of fans, who won’t want to walk away from the Championship if one of their own gets their hands on the cup. Anyone who doubts this just needs to watch a replay of the farcical refereeing of Munster v Saracens last Autumn (in particular the final five minutes, when Keith Earls was wrongly penalised, and Sarries were given a phantom maul penalty to nail a losing bonus point for them) in Thomond park, for an education in the realpolitik now facing the ERC, and how refs are being told to intervene in order to save this competition.

And yes, Owen Farrell had missed a shed load of penalties (the awarding of most of which had that crowd on the verge of a riot), but that’s neither here nor there when you look at how Saracens were marched up-field by the ref to save the day at the last minute. This war is about hearts and minds people.

It’s important to note that Saracens and Quins are excellent sides and are rightly favourites to win this weekend against Ulster and Munster respectively, especially looking at the recent form of the Irish sides. And make no mistake – it’s down to Sarries and Quins to keep the Heineken cup alive now, because it’s hard to see Toulon screwing up in the cauldron against an ordinary Leicester side. It’s down to Sarries and Quins to take our collective heads out of our collective arses and realise what our club chairmen and women are on the verge of destroying in the name of money, greed and preying on the fueled self delusion of ‘we the fans’.

Ulster and Munster definitely have it in them to win, and in truth the sides are more evenly matched than the bookies are pricing it up. But it really looks like the death knell for this wonderful iteration of European cup rugby if they win, with the way negotiations have been going. Sarries and Quins have to win, no matter what, to save us from ourselves. This is the first European rugby weekend I haven’t looked forward to in thirteen years.

If you’re a cynic looking for value, the Sarries/Quins straight win double is paying biggest in Paddy power, and 11/10 (just a shade over evens). Beating two good sides getting the calls from the refs is going to be a seriously tough ask for the much vilified (wrongly) Irish sides this weekend. If you’re an optimistic and flighty sort, and not grounded in commercial reality at weekends, then a Munster/Ulster 1-12 winning margin double is paying 12/1 in Stanjames or Boylesports.


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Super Rugby betting tips – round 8

Super Rugby – Week 8 beting tips, by Billy Bonds

Having taken a break last week, a new approach is underway in regards to the previews for the Super Rugby weekend. It’s been a tough few weeks so hopefully a different angle might reap dividends. This week will be mainly focused on Fridays games as there appears to be more value in these as opposed to Saturday’s match ups.

Blues – Highlanders

The first of the weekend’s action takes place in Auckland and we should be in store for a fascinating clash of two sides desperate for a win. The Highlanders are amazingly still searching for their first win of the season but have been showing signs of improving of late. Regardless though, to be still winless at this stage of the season with the talent available begs to ask questions of Jamie Joseph and his coaching staff. The return of Tuiali’i coming in this week from Japan and going straight into the side shows where the weakness lies in this team. The talent the Highlanders have out wide is scary and if they can get quick ball and hold their own up from, they are more than a match for anyone. They’ve been impressive enough in some of their games so far this season and it seems only a matter of time before they begin to exhibit their true potential. The Blues welcome back Kevin Mealamu to their squad this weekend and and it could be the boost they need after an alarming run of form. The season started off so impressively for the John Kirwan’s men but they appear to have reverted to the Blues of old recently. They’ll be hoping to get back on track in front of their home fans this weekend but I think the Highlanders should cover the handicap on this one and perhaps even sneak a win.

Selection: Highlanders +8 at 10/11

Brumbies – Kings:

The Kings continue their odyssey in their maiden super rugby season and continue to confound critics and spectators alike. They’ve been very impressive in defeat and have defying all pre-season expectations. However, their squad will begin to get stretched the longer the season goes on and they’re approaching the end of a tough trip. With one eye on what they will view as a very winnable game against the Rebels next week, the Kings have made more than a few changes to keep things fresh. This could play into the hands of the Brumbies who will be keen to wrap up the bonus point win as soon as possible. They won’t be taking the Kings lightly though and that can be seen with the pretty much full strength team named. The combination of Pat McCabe returning inside centre and Christian Lealiifano returning to the out half position is one that should promote even more attacking play. The 80 minute handicap is a tough one to call but I quite like the look of the half time markets.

Selection: Brumbies first half -12 at 5/6

Sharks – Crusaders

This clash is probably the toughest game of the weekend to call in what should be a fantastic game between two heavyweights. The Crusaders were very impressive in beating the Stormers last week with what was a weakened team. However, that win will have taken a lot out of them and they’ve lost a couple more players this weekend. The Sharks appear to have the upper hand both out wide and up front. I fancy home field advantage to see the Sharks though here

Selection: Sharks – 2 at evens

Hurricanes – Waratahs

The bookies appear to have this line close enough in my eyes and I’d loath to put too much on this. However the Waratah’s appear to be improving massively in recent weeks and would take a small punt on the cap here.

Betting Selection: Waratahs +8 at 10/11

Western Force – Rebels

This is a no bet for me as it’s too hard to see which way this game could go.

No bet

Cheetahs – Stormers

Huge game in SA with the form side up against the traditional powerhouse. Should be a very open game and like the over play here.

Selection: Overs

Best of luck lads
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