Ulster v Leinster betting preview – Rabo Pro12 Final
Saturday May 25th 16.45pm – weather good
Ulster look value here on the handicap.
It’s been a long and tough season for Ulster both physically and emotionally, and they rock up to the RDS as the technical home team tomorrow afternoon. I’m not sure of the exact road that led them to picking the RDS as their home ground (or whether there was any other ground available), knowing full well Leinster would probably be their opposition once they managed to avoid them in the semi finals. Either way, observers would be forgiven for thinking it was a blunder by Ulster & advantage Leinster. There there’s another way of looking at it though; Ulster are so determined to win this league for all it signifies this year, that they didn’t care where they played the final.
And they shouldn’t fear Leinster this year either. They’ve beaten them twice this season, once in the RDS just recently. Ulster not only had to overcome Leinster on their home patch that day, but also the ridiculous refereeing of George Clancy in a game in which he gave every 50/50 and more to Leinster (along with the astonishing act of blowing the final whistle, pointing to the dressing rooms, and then going to the TMO to see if he could conjure up a winning sore for Leinster, after a Leinster player suggested he do it). Thankfully, Clancy is only manning the touchline tomorrow with John Lacey acting chief whistle warbler. We’re no strangers to complaing about dodgy referees on Dropkickrugby.com, but we have no complaints here as Lacey is about as good a pick as you could wish for in this league. He’s always fair and consistent (even in his inconsistencies), and a man who doesn’t ride one team for an entire game for one offence, as so many other clowns do to re-inforce their decisions. Lacey is a good ref, and i’m amazed the mandarins in cheap-skate Celtic-league towers have managed to get one decision right this season. Just listen out for any meddling from Clancy on the mic!
So, after their Heineken cup final hiding last year (as forecast by our good selves!), Ulster have been determined bring out their their Sunday best when playing Leinster this year. Indeed, overall they’ve matured as a side you feel and are the better for it. Whereas last May there were maybe four Ulster players you’d take from the starting thirty, now it’s closer to evens if you were picking the best 15 taking the field.
Ulster v Leinster betting – Head to heads
Ulster’s pack has the slight advantage here for us, with Leinster having played three more games than Ulster so far in the Amlin, and a far tougher Rabo semi-final against Glasgow. The backrow looks more balanced, and Afoa is back from injury to pillar a scrum that had the beating of Leinster’s twice this year. Tuohy and Muller should win the combined lineout & carrying battle against Cullen (who looks tired, and who could blame him?) and Toner, who always seems to be missing something. The front row battle will be key with Pienaar kicking so well, and we have Ulster slightly ahead here both on scrummaging form and evens on ability one Tom Court has been given some one to one time.
It gets a bit more interesting in the backs. BOD is back, but how fit can he be really? Madigan at inside centre could be the X-factor but Ulster won’t leave holes like Stade Francais did (and blatant obstructions won’t be missed like Owens missed, in another sham of a refereeing performance; Leinster deserved to beat Stade, but Owens contributed to the whitewash). Ulster centre Stuart Olding will surprise a few casual rugby watchers tomorrow with just how good he is, and Darren Cave has hit some form in the past two months. Bowe and Trimble have experience and ability to burn and are well able for Macfadden and Nacewa, and Payne is a match for Kearney, and maybe even more than a match with his ability to create something from nothing. Sexton has the upper hand on Jackson but Jackson won’t be kicking tomorrow and once he doesn’t have a bad day Ulster have a great chance.
Have Leinster been lucky?
You could say that. There’s no doubting Leinster are a class side, and that’s taken as a given these days. But have a look back over their recent big wins. Bairritz were in it up to half time when suddenly two breakaway sucker punch tries just before half time knocked all the fight out of them. Stade Francais, aside from getting the wrong end of Nigel Owens’ latest fancy didn’t bother defending for the first 60 minutes; they froze, left massive holes, and never looked like they believed they could do anything that day. And Glasgow missed a connversion at the death to draw the semi. On top of that, Glasgow were playing headless rugby on 60 minutes (like there was only 3 minutes left), when all they had to do was to stop forcing every pass and keep their heads, go to ground, & recycle. Leinster were out on their feet at times only for Glasgow to throw a hail Mary that wasn’t needed, and knock on.
I’m convinced had they just been a little calmer Glasgow would have won. Overall, this was one that Leinster were a tad lucky to win,with one of the worst refs in the business, Pascale Gauzere, murdering Glasgow with the whistle. There was just so much he got wrong (the yellow card was an absolute farce when Matualu clearly tried to get out of the way, again, 3 yards in front of Gauzere). He missed forward passes in front of him, and made bizarre breakdown interpretations for the entire 80 minutes. One early moment from him set the tone for the whole game; 3 minutes in, Glasgow attacking, and he gave Leinster a penalty for Glasgow holding on, 1 metre from the Leinster line. Replays showed there wasn’t one Leinster player challenging for the ball, with McLaughlin the closest, on his knees a metre away. Gauzere came into that game with an agenda – Glasgow were going to have to do something extraordinary to win with him reffing. Whenever you see him refereeing (he’s doing Toulon/Toulouse on Friday night) the wise thing is probably to back against he market; he’s at best a clouseau-esque clown.
Anyway, back to tomorrow. All signs are pointing to Ulster for me. Leinster have been riding their luck a bit and it has to run out sometime. They look pretty tired, & Ulster will be fresher having had a week off. Ulster have beaten Leinster twice already this year too. I can’t see the referee riding them either, given the emotive circumstances surrounding Ulster’s league campaign this year. The sheer insatiable hunger Ulster will have tomorrow should eclipse anything Leinster can pull out I think – even considering the large number of league finals Leinster have lost in recent years. Stats point to Ulster too. I won’t bombard you with them, just mentioning the tryscoring situation; Ulster have scored 62, & Leinster 63. However, Ulster have only conceded 33, whereas Leinster have conceded 46. Defence wins finals, and with Leinster also having a more pronounced fatigue profile, this points to Ulster winning too.
Ulster v Leinster – Betting verdict.
If I had to choose a winner here, the 15/8 on Ulster looks good value in a game that looks about as 50/50 as they come. However, i’m more than happy to take Ulster on the handicap. There’s +4 available in a few shops, but Boylesports are the standout having +4.5 available on the no-draw handicap at 5/6, and that’s where my money is this weekend. A five point start is very generous for slightly less than 10/11. Small interest tryscorers; very hard to look past Tommy Bowe with the form he’s in – that try against the Scarlets was far harder than it looked. 11/1 looks ok for a small bet. EDIT – Ulster +5 now available at evens in Ladbrokes.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Johann Muller (c), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rory Best, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Callum Black, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Michael Allen, 23 Peter Nelson.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Ian Madigan, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 John Cooney, 22 Andrew Goodman, 23 Andrew Conway.