All posts by Henry Gondorff

November Internationals weekend preview

Some thoughts for this weekend

Samoa v Canada (neutral venue in France)

This one could go either way. Samoa throw games, and there’s no moving out of the 4th seeds for the world cup for them no matter what happens here, so its prime territory for them to do a Samoan special with no motivation. Canada can’t really move up or down in seedings either, but you know they’ll always give it a go.

Wait to see what the Canadian kicker is like then back them in running for points if he’s kicking well. Because they’ll get at least two tries. The draw is well on too, they’ve made one before with Fiji.

Fiji v Japan

Two sides it’s hard to dislike. Alot of people fancying Japan in this but I don’t. I’ve seen enough of Fiji this series to know that they’ve been playing only one half of games.

Japan bravely put it up to an arrogant lazy Wales, but let’s face it, the Welsh were just giving the two fingers to their fans last week who made the trip and paid their money to watch them barely leave the dressing room.

Crucially, Fiji will drop out of the third place seedings here for the world cup if they lose, so I’m expecting a Fiji win – Fiji care about the world cup, and they’re due an 80 minute performance. They’re almost as bad as Samoa for throwing games, but they 100% do not want to be in a group with four big teams in 2019, so they have to win. Motivation is everything.

Fiji win is terrific value at 4/5 in my mind

Italy v Tonga

The Tongan side isn’t bad but Italy are missing Parisse. Italy need the ranking points here as the 6 nations will be tough. If they win, they should have a third seed for the world cup even if they lose all of their 6 nations games. Tonga have no world ranking motivation, they can’t move up a seed or down, so expect an absolute shitfest in my book, with Italy squeaking it. I wouldn’t use them to pad out an accumulator.

Probably unders a winner if you must bet.

England v Argentina

Pity the Argies are so shit, but as SU said they are every November. They’re a third seed team unless they win here, which they won’t probably. England have had an easy ride since the world cup though, they will be complacent, and the Argies could have been targeting this as England are still occupying some of their territory in the Falklands. And let’s face it, everyone wants to beat the English, because they’re c*nts (except for Leg and SC).

Let’s hope the Argies play like they can and pull out the win.

Wales v South Africa

Affirmative action inflicted massive damage on the US college admissions system, and it has buggered up BOK rugby completely.

Two shit teams here – arrogant Wales who hate their fans, and their coach; 5050 shaded Boks who can’t string a move together and can’t play for each other.

I’d say South Africa just want to go home now. Psychologically they want the coach gone, so a win here would be no use to them. Also, they can’t drop out of the top 8 and a second seed at the world cup unless the Argies beat England, so unless that shock happens in Twickenham, then don’t think about backing them.

The Welsh had a defensive workout last week, this will be a shitfest. Unders probably, but a Wales win to pad out an acca the order of the day here at 1/2

Ireland v Australia

Mixed emotions about this. Ireland had a tough time last week and Aus have got to be tired. Ireland will have worked on their attack all week though and Aus don’t have the win at all costs Alamo mentality that the Kiwi’s had last week.

The Irish psyche goes something like this – we might have beat New Zealand but if we don’t get another one people will say it was a fluke.  It’s that simple.

The Aussie mentality I’m convinced will be about one thing, revenge on England next week.

Ireland at home and playing well, expect their defence to lock Australia down and win ugly with Aus having one eye on next week.

Ireland to win after nearly beating new Zealand twice but for two dropped balls, at 10/11 again, very good value with no game next week.

France v New Zealand

I had a funny feeling France would win this, until I saw Machenaud at 9. Overrated, poor execution, I’ve never been able to identify one French man who has been so responsible for blowing tries as him, for club or country. He’s a serial try-killer. Someone needs to catch him. Inspector Cleauseau? Poirot? What in Christ’s name is it going to take???

You can’t beat New Zealand with him at 9. But you can go close.

Best team in the world or not, New Zealand will concede scores here because of fatigue, the tackles last week demonstrated they are running on reserve tanks, and because they’re very open at times as Ireland showed. Backing the French in-running as the game goes on should be worth it.

Best of luck!

Round 4 – general weekend opinion

Round 4 2016/2017 – Rugby – Britain & Ireland- general weekend thoughts & opinion

It’s the end of week four in the UK and Ireland and a few things are becoming apparent as the new season gets into full swing;

Shallow pools

Looking at the premiership teams and the Pro 12, the depth of talent is reducing all the time. Whether this is due to increased injury concerns across the sport, or a natural cycle of rebuilding, it’s hard to tell. But it is happening.

Take for example Bath, with the money they have spent in the past two years their bench was abysmal, save for the underrated Lahiff leading a late charge. Then there’s Connacht, Champions last year, now under serious pressure – unable to make ground against a woeful Scarlets team. Leinster’s depth isn’t what is once was (though they’re rebuilding with youth), Munster’s is diabolical, Leicester’s pack is pish…the list goes on. Yes there’s injuries everywhere, but we are seeing the bare bones now, benches everywhere have less impact than a BT-Sport metaphor. The best are in France or down under, and it will continue like that for the foreseeable.

When the European Cups get underway we are going to see some skewed results involving the top teams in their domestic leagues. And it’s hard to see anything but a French winner this year in the Champions cup, Saracens won’t get lucky twice.

As an aside, what happened to Saracens at Quins? This one was a surprise. The only thing we can take from this is that a combination of Quins having far more intensity, and Sarries being overrated, sealed the win for them. Indeed, it’s something we see every year – Saracens have a patch, and when challenged they can go to pieces. Personally my own thoughts are that during the year most teams don’t give Saracens their best game in the Premiership, and save it for the playoffs – with their excellent defensive structure the impact can be too high on tight enough squads.

 

Fair play to Quins anyway, who have been really cack for three games – the fronted up and did what every side needs to do to beat Sarries, instead of most of them lying down and giving it 50%. I do think this was a one off, Wasps should give them a right going-over (Quins).

***
As another aside, there were an awful lot of kicks missed at the weekend across both British and Irish leagues. That wind really had an impact. Gusting to 30kmph means take a long hard look at tries in future from a punting perspective.

***
As yet another aside – Cockerill cost his side a bonus point. 17 points ahead and with bath reeling, he called from the stands for Williams to kick a tough penalty instead of putting them in the corner and having a shot at a bonus point. This says to me one thing in particular – Cockerill still has no faith in this squad’s abilities, and more importantly, their fitness. Worth bearing in mind.

And how in God’s name is Ben Young’s getting standing ovations?! He’s brutal! Or were the crowd at Welford road clapping Matt Carley?

Referees

Referees continue to bugger away sides. Ok ok… we all understand – they are minding home teams to keep the crowds there. But there were two incidents in particular (among many this weekend – like Sale being crucified at Worcester) that home fans will even see are reducing many games to unfair contests.

Premiership rugby – Matt Carly- Tigers v Bath (He did this fixture last year too).

There was a series of scrums on the Bath 22 on around 20 minutes. Ayerza (as he has done for the past 18 months, since before the world cup) dropped the scrum twice and the linesman said nothing. Then Carly came around and watched the third. Despite a clear sequence of Ayerza dropping his shoulder and pulling it down, he blew hard and fast for Leicester. Carley did a number on Bath here in 2015 too. Is he the new Wayne Barnes for Leicester? Probably. On a serious note, this continued throughout the game, and despite George Ford having a stinker in general, Bath had no chance of winning this game with the subconsciously biased refereeing on show.

Top 14 rugby – Laurent Cardona – Montpellier v Brive

I’m not even going to go into the absolute buggering Clermont were given away at Toulon. Or Parisse’s red card at Toulouse (which Toulouse wouldn’t have won without).

But let’s look at Montpellier’s second try. It was at a point in the game when a depleted Brive were still well in the game, playing well. A turnover and kick through on 20 odd minutes resulted in Nadolo’s second try.

The ref (Cardona) who shafted Brive for 80 minutes was 30 metres behind the play, when there was a turnover, then some ping pong on half way before Nadolo got the ball and ran it in. This was the turning point that made it a blow out (41-13 in the end, a win that Monty weren’t worth).

He didn’t even check the try. Had he done so, he would have seen a clear knock on by the world’s most handless fullback Benjamin Fall) and also the fact that Nadolo was ahead of the kicker.

More shenanigans turning the sport into semi-farce. In both instances, these decisions took the game away from the oppositions at key points when it hung in the balance. They came at crucial times…as they always do. I had money on Montpellier and Leicester tries so I’m not complaining.

***

Ulster look very good in the early running and the Pro 12 is wide open, are they playing for Pienaar? I think they want to send him off with a title. Cardiff hopefully keep it lit for the  forum 12 to 1 top Welsh team bet.

No doubt Saracens will be in the playoffs and the Chiefs again, the other two spots are between four other sides, and standards have definitely dropped.

Pau will go close to French playoffs, the old lady Toulouse will continue to fester this year, like your mother in law on a Sunday afternoon.

The European games are going to be a blast this year; so many teams are looking absolute gash, the lines will be well off.

New Zealand Australia game ruined by Poite

New Zealand v australia ruined by Poite’

Forty thousand people paid good money to see this in New Zealand. Millions of people around the world looked forward to it. I got up early with a hangover. And we were rewarded by the IRB with le buffoon.

How does Poite still have a job?

Aside from the fact Australia were offside on nearly every kiwi attacking phase ( which destroys the spectacle with space at a premium already) Poite also never stopped the clock for substitutions or restarts. He showed a surprising eagerness however when play had stopped due to injury to start the clock again when both sides were far away from ready for the restart scrum or lineout.

Cheika may have visibly cursed Poite at one point up in the Andy Robinson crucible *( and i salute him for it) but he should be thanking the Poite, because this was very much about saving face for Aus rugby and under Sanzar’s auspices. They need this to look like a competitive championship. Either that, or Poite is unfit and wants to slow it down as much as the top 14 slop he eats with his bread and butter.

If the IRB reffing panel mandarins sit down and review the game ( they wont) there was at least ten minutes burned off the clock on substitutions. Questions have to be asked. Why did he not say time off? He does it immediately in France. Poite gave pens incessantly. He stopped quick tap penalties and quick lineouts. This was policy.

He’s an unmitigated disaster as a ref and paying ticket holders and subsciption holders are being treated with utter contempt by rugby’s ruling bodies.

Premiership Singha Sevens – Rugby preview

Premiership Singha Sevens – Rugby Betting preview

7Aug 2016 Coventry

14:00     Cardiff Blues 7s vSale Sharks 7s    Ricoh Arena
14:25     Exeter Chiefs 7svNorthampton Saints 7s
14:50     Harlequins 7s v Wasps 7s
15:15     Newcastle Falcons 7svOspreys 7s
http://www.premiershiprugby.com/singha7s
Image taken from BetterRugbyCoaching.com

Assume teams are the same as last week unless mentioned below.

Having watched all four of the group stages for the sevens this year, I was very aware that the bookies were way off on their prices on multiple games. On the live chat here, we were nailing it in running, particularly the game where they had Sale at +5 in the game they won by 50 points.

Without giving too much away to them, there is still money to be made judging by the prices they’ve come out with. And the real opportunity here will be in the second and final round of games.

The main contenders are Wasps, Exeter, and Harlequins – no other team are capable of winning this from the eight finalists.

In order of the games;

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 1 preview – Cardiff v Sale

Cardiff were lucky enough to come through to top the group at the last minute v the Dragons. There is no doubt that the referee 100% favoured Cardiff, handing the Dragons two yellow cards, the first of which was a complete sham, and just when the Dragons were about to put them to bed. The second card was merited. In this instance (bizarrely for me) I was glad to see a spot of buggery  from the ref, they deserved it – the ref was no doubt disgusted at some of the twat behaviour of one or two of the Dragons lads. To summarise – Cardiff were fortunate to top the group after scraping past the Ospreys.

Sale sharks had an easy enough group. They possess two or three quality players, and  they definitely eased off against Newcastle to ensure they had reserves to come second in the group. They had a nice schedule which helped. The result against Leicester of over fifty points is best taken with a pinch of salt as Leicester had a couple of yellows in their previous game which was back to back before this one. And they received a yellow in this one too – they were completely out on their feet basically.

Despite the above, and the presence of Odogwu the tryscorer for Sale, I slightly fancy Cardiff here to take this – they have more Sevens players, and were that bit more consistent. Sale are a bit more disorganised. This is the hardest of the games to call and probably best left in running.

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 2 preview – Exeter v Northampton

Northampton have removed three or four lads bizarrely from the side that got them here, a ridiculous decision by management when they could have competed – with Collins and Pacman in partiular being standouts last week. Pacman and Collins are out, which means there is NO question that Exeter will win this. And there’s no point in me going into Saints and what they did/how they played – they’re now the worst side and will more than likely finish bottom in the shield too.

Exeter should win well – they won’t go nuts because they’ll be trying to keep energy for the next two games. Expect Exeter to ease up after putting them away early. The Exeter key man is Simmonds, pure quality – and Bodily is also key. If they can keep them fit for all the games, they have an outside shot of winning this tournament – I have no interest in the 7/2 available though, it’s no value. I have Ex even with Wasps in terms of quality for this final day, even with Wasps’ additions.

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 3 Preview – Harlequins 7s  v Wasps 7s

The clash of the Heavyweights.  Wasps have brought in Wade and Guy Thompson, Umaga also who was due to play last week but was injured. Rob Miller though, who was so key to stringing play together for them, is out. No Simpson or Robson like last year either. Halai is playing well but he did look tired from preseason. De Luca is a good sevens player.

Looking at the Wasps side you can see why the bookies have cut them with those big names, and Wade’s elusiveness is of course a huge asset.

Quins on the other hand, are basically a sevens side. All serious athletes. Cam Cowell and Mikalcius are absolute beasts and international sevens players.  Cheesman and all of the young lads are involved in the sevens too. And they’ve made one change and brought in another sevens junior.

Quins are the better side, better organised, better drilled, better ball skills and they have a fundamental understanding of Sevens. Versus a few sevens player for Wasps and the three Premiership players.

Things like clearing out rucks, ball presentation, the right and wrong lines of running, will all come into play as instinct for the Quins lads in the final five minutes of this game, and that will be where the game is won and lost. Defensively once they can keep Wade shut down, they should be fine with a far superior defensive structure. Watch out for Mikalcius, he’s an absolute horse.

It’s no secret in the forum that I believe Quins have the better side and I make them favourites for this whole tournament. We had them at 7 to 1 for the group in the qualifiers and it waltzed in. If you’re interested in the odds that are …ahem…fairly decent for Quins (and too big), check here.

This is of course a knockout and a game of sevens, and anything can happen – and Wasps are at home (although it is Coventry…) the ref may feel in true Union fashion that he needs to keep the big names like Wade in the main cup final knockouts by buggering Quins and fixing this game with some bizarre decisions, but LET’S HOPE my cynicism is not merited, and we will all see a FAIR REFEREEING performance, and not one that looks after commercial interests and hoping to keep Wade in the headlines so they get good copy in the media afterwards.

So if we get that, Quins should win, and likely it’s them and Exeter in the final once they avoid each other. Quins are the better side by far in this tournament.

Premiership rugby Sevens Quarter 4 Newcastle Falcons 7s v Ospreys 7s

Newcastle are not as good as they were last year and are a fair bit off the pace. They do have some game changers like Pampers, but he’s prone to error and they don’t have enough good all-rounders bar the two premiership lads.
The Ospreys are depleted – have brought in a few, one sevens player from Wales, so they might win a game if they come up against Northampton, otherwise it’s bottom of the pile more than likely.

Newcastle will win this game, but an Exeter/wasps/or Quins would wipe the floor with them. They might make a final but won’t win.
And that’s your lot for now – if you’re interested in joining the forum it’s free – and I can’t stress enough that you should check out that price on Quins for a tournament in which they are undoubted favourites once we get fair refereeing.

World Rugby Probe – multiple arrests

As the result of a long running investigation, conducted in parallel to the FIFA corruption probe, major changes have been announced at world rugby headquarters for the game of Rugby Union. A number of high profile arrests have been made by Interpol, at the highest levels of national unions and competition authorities. Speaking this morning at IRB HQ on Pembroke Street in Dublin, Ireland, acting Junior vice president Ducky Bazzington read out the mandated Easter proclamation – formulated by the administrators who Interpol have appointed for the interim period – the Dropkickrugby betting forum, based in Dropkickrugby towers, Dublin.

“This organisation and the game is on its knees, and can no longer ignore general common sense and the corruption that is rife in one sense or another throughout the organisation and the game. This is a game for the people, and the punters, and it’s time we introduced transparency in the manner football has; It is time we begin to stamp out the different facets of the game that make our sport a laughing stock to outsiders and insiders alike”.

According to sources there are several signatories to the new proclamation, which is, in essence, a new rugby constitution. The new ruling junta, have been met with international goodwill from fans across the world, despite their much publicised fondness for brazzers, alcohol, chocoprods, and prams full of dogshit. Among the revolutionary ideas gaining traction with gullible naïve rugby snobs, and egg-chasing realists alike are;

  1. A successful choke tackle will now result in a quick tap penalty and not a scrum – this is the equivalent of blue-balls for fans
  2. During a scrum : The CLOCK will only being restarted when the ball has come out the back of a scrum or a penalty has been awarded
  3. International referees being appointed in a transparent manner, in a public draw, chosen randomly by auditors, and not by home unions – the French might actually turn up when they play abroad then. The current situation is a farce and completely corrupt.
  4. An independently funded body will be contributed to by every union equally to review refereeing performances and ask questions
  5. No more raping the French away from home by referees – you’ve had enough now lads. I know you want to keep the biggest country in world rugby down by making things as unfair as possible on them, but they’ve had enough now, their arses are red raw. We all witnessed Nigel and Dan Cole in Paris…there was blocking, and Craig in the world cup final 2011. It’s every game at this point. YES, I know it doesn’t help that they do the daftest shit imaginable on a rugby field, but it’s precisely because they’re getting raped that they’re never really fully arsed and do dumb shit in the first place.
  6. Nigel Owens won’t be appointed referee of the world cup final in England, by the English-run IRB reffing panel, and given England’s grand slam decider in Paris, ever again in the same world cup cycle
  7. Roman Poite will have to be clean shaven for at least one game a month – he has a razor, he just needs to Youze-eet
  8. Give straight yellows for breaching the offside line –it is not being policed, it is stifling attacks. Make the players manage it themselves – referees cannot look at a ruck and the offside line…your arms out stretched aint doing shit lads!
  9. A game cannot end on being held up over the line, or with an unplayable ball (seriously, is this rule a joke! The defending team can engineer this easily!). A reset of possession is a must….this is entertainment people are paying for!
  10. No one country should run the RFU reffing panel – Paddy had it for the Kiwis, now the RFU run it. It has to be independent. Human nature means influence will be used.

Those are the initial ten commandments from the DKR junta. More are on the way – including it becoming mandatory that the Celtic league paying 50 poxy euro flight tickets for neutral refs to fly to wales/scotland/italy or Ireland (why the hell was Dudley Phillips reffing Munster at home to Zebre last week?! Do the Italians not matter?), and more (and some obscure) references to the current “scum” in government in the UK, and concussed players having to wear sirloin steak helmets for ten minutes after a blow.

Interpol have stressed that while there is no guaranteed corruption here, there are systematic issues here that are not conducive to it being a level playing field. With rugby facing numerous challenges, this investigation is an important first step in sorting out a game that is, slowly but surely, losing fans in their droves due to the blatant bias visible every weekend, and the sheer and utter gobshitednessness of some of our game laws. And let’s face it, some of the above is pure common sense, and the current situations cannot be allowed to continue if the game is to grow in any way globally.

NEXT week: Legend tells us how there’s no corruption and there were WMD’s in Iraq, SUAF gives us an update on his tourettes treatment, and a chocoprod Romanian gyppo accuses Shane of fathering her baby.

Premiership Rugy Betting Round 21

Premiership Rugby Betting Round 21

Quality commentary by Legend from the betting forum

Profile

Friday 8th May

Harlequins v Bath

Saturday 9th May

Sale v Newcastle
Gloucester v London Irish
Saints v London Welsh
Wasps v Leicester

Sunday 10th May

Saracens v Exeter

Pressure. Who is going to cope with it the best? Players with experience tend to, so teams who have been in these high pressure games, internationally and at club level, should fare better. Youngsters can often be better at coping as they tend to be more fearless in these situations. However, players or teams who get in these positions and then tend to fall at the last hurdle have demons that hang over them and cause below par performances. This weekend will be interesting as there is a lot at stake for those three teams chasing a play off spot. Also the battle for a home play off game is also in the balance.

The first game on Friday screams back Bath -3 (early line from Unibet, etc..) but if you look a little deeper at their record at the Stoop, it doesn’t make pleasant reading for a Bath supporter. They haven’t won a Premiership game there in their last 6 meetings. But a factor to take in to those games though was that Quins were the favourites. They were at those times in a better place than Bath. If you look back Quins have been a top 4 team for a while now or considered one. Bath have been a work in progress and are in a far better place than Quins now I think we would all agree. So the question is….. will Bath now push on and secure that second spot?

I will put up cap stats but I must admit I think in some cases they become a little irrelevant at this stage of the season, as funny things can happen. I believe patterns tend to form after a few rounds in and stop with a few rounds to go. So I wouldn’t read too much in to them.

Quins have had a poor season covering at home (3-7, 1-1 on a positive cap at home) and they have lost to 4 teams above them in the table but have beaten Leicester and Wasps. They have won their last two games at home against Gloucester and Irish, so recent form is better. It’s not phenomenal but it is better. Bath on the other hand have been good away from home. Their W/L record away is 5-5 and is exactly the same on the caps 5-5. But interestingly when they have been dogged with the favourite tag they have achieved a 4-1 record on a negative cap below 7. They seem to get over the line when they are perceived the favourite in a one score cap. I like that in a team. It’s when they keep losing these ones that worries me. This is a good sign for Bath backers but as I said earlier tis is a funny stage of the season where strange things can happen.

This game is difficult and I keep swinging from one thought to the other. I think it’s a Bath 1-12 market for this with very low stakes or nothing at all. Another angle would be to hope the Bath cap gets bigger and that the Quins team points total gets lower and back that. I think Quins will get a few points in this game.

Sale and Newcastle is a tricky one, as you need to know the attitude of these two teams as neither have anything to play for. Sale can’t qualify for Europe and Newcastle can’t finish higher than 11th. Do they fight passionately to preserve home records or noticeable progress and development, or do they down tools and call it a day to a hard season. From what I have seen from these two teams in the past it would seem Sale tend to take their foot off the pedal, particularly at home for some reason. In the last five times Sale have met Newcastle at home the Falcons have won 3 out of the 5. Slightly surprising. Not as far to travel? Sale taking their eye off the ball against weaker opposition?

Anyway on the caps it’s incredibly even. Sale are 7-3 at home and Newcastle are 7-3 away. On a negative home cap Sale are 5-1 after giving up their 100% record to Quins last week (4-1 on negative caps 7 or below). Newcastle are 6-3 on positive caps away from home. So there is not a lot we can take from that really. Both look good. I think a good healthy cap on Newcastle would be the only option for this one.

Gloucester v London Irish. Now this has potential. What will be the mentality of Gloucester? They are poor at home only covering 3 of their 10 home games. Alright some teams only look to win games they are not interested in covering caps for the betting man, so we need to look a bit deeper. Their W/L record is equally bad with 5-1-4 record and it seems they only bring out the performances when they play a big name. The only trouble is Irish have not got a very impressive record at Kingsholme winning 1 out of the last 6. They played each other at a similar stage of the season last year and the score was 38-30.

Gloucester will they open up now the shackles are off them and relax and play their open attacking rugby or will they, as teams often do after a big game, switch off and think of the games coming ahead for European qualification? That is the one to decipher. If it is the latter, which I tend to think will be the case, there is a great chance with a healthy positive cap on the Irish. As the Irish tend to finish their season strongly as I said last week. Although last week they struggled to stay with Bath after a decent start.

I would be looking closely at the Irish cap for this one.

Saints should secure the bonus point win and then rest up I would imagine. I can’t believe they will look to amass a huge score. They might do I suppose, throw the ball around, use it as a training exercise. But I’d be surprised if players are going to be feeling full of life and energy and wanting to go hell for leather in this one. There is a good chance of a massive cap for Welsh as Saints, as Champions, have been hit very hard with their home caps. They also have had a tendency to just get the job done apart from that first game of the season against Gloucester.

The Wasps game should be a belter along with the one on Sunday at Saracens. These two games are massive.

Wasps are the better team in comparison to Leicester at the moment. The only thing that isn’t is their respective league positions. But that could change on Saturday. Whoever wins this game will be, in my opinion, in the box seat to take the final play off spot. I’m struggling to see anything but a Wasps win in this game. The only thing that could go against them is the lack of big game experience, but they have had a season that has involved some big games, as they were competing right to the end in their Heineken Group stage and battled hard with players missing at Toulon, the eventual winners. So they have experience in some respects.

It’s just the nagging feeling that Leicester always make the play offs. However this has to end some day doesn’t it? Is there a shift from Quins and Leicester in the top four to teams like Bath, Wasps and Exeter now? You can just see a typical massive Leicester performance that sees them to victory. You wouldn’t rule it out. They did beat Toulon, so there is that glimmer of possibility.

I don’t think their record on the caps is very relevant here, but Wasps are 8-2 at home and Leicester are 3-7. Worse than that for the Tigers is that they have been given 5 positive away caps and only covered 1. Extraordinary really that firstly they have received so many and then only covering 1 suggests a drop off from their usual standards. Wasps are 6-2 on the negative home caps.

I would say Wasps on a small negative would be the only route or perhaps a 1-12.

Finally the Sunday game. Saracens have all to play for and so do Exeter. It’s a known fact that home semi-finals are crucial to reaching a final spot, so I’d expect an all guns blazing performance from the Wolf pack here. In which case I’d find it difficult to make a case for Exeter. All their hopes went last week I’m afraid. They needed to beat Wasps and then hoped Wasps did them a favour against Leicester and then all they had to do was win against Sale to make the play offs. Now they are not going to think that of course that’s just how I see it.

The Chiefs played far better than I expected last week and it was only a piece of opportunist brilliance by Simpson sunk them. However, Wasps really should have put them away. Away from home they have covered 4 from 10 and they have failed to do so in their last 2. They are 2-6 outside the International windows as well being 1-4 with positive caps.

Saracens on the other hand have been gaining momentum. Good European performances and recent home league performances have put them in decent form coming in to the latter stages of the league season. They had before that looked a bit vulnerable and out of sorts. They have covered 3 of their last 4 league games at home and I would be looking at Saracens pushing for a bonus point win in this one so that they can sneak that second spot from Bath. Due to the big game situation I would be hoping for a cap in single figures, but fear it will be bigger than that which would make a bet very difficult as I see Saracens winning this well.

Top 14 rugby betting – Semi thoughts 2014

Top 14 rugby betting

Some early thoughts up for this weekend’s TOP 14 semi finals. There’s an overall lack of pattern but some interesting history there nonetheless.

First, a table of results from the past 5 years of TOP 14 semi final playoffs. The middle column contains the semi final lineups for that year, the third colum shows the previous results that season for teams contesting those semi-finals.

[table id=35 /]

As you can see, there’s not many patterns other than the lack of an overall pattern.

In general though Look at Clermont’s results after winning in 2010 – they just don’t seem to have the hunger anymore after those many years waiting – look at 2012 for example – they had Toulon beaten well home and away in the season and then lost the semi at home.

There seems to be a certain amount of keeping the powder dry in March when teams play away from home – Probably because the hard work has been done and they have a plan on where they are going to finish. Also, there must be an element of not wanting to show your full hand against a potential playoff contender.

In general ( i say general as one or two out of kilter on this) but the teams that tend to win the semi’s are the teams that did well in the shit in winter against each other.

You get the feeling that Castres were building a side, and there is a clear progression to winning last year’s semi final, and then of course final.

Toulon have been in the semi-mix since 2012, and the progression suggests they are on here. I have also been saying from the start that this is what they want this year after coming so close, and so many big names in the side want it in their trophy cabinets. However, this is where their big names let them down I think – and their LACK of French players. I feel like the Bouclier means so much more to the teams with more frenchies, and I think this is a passion that the mercs in Toulon find it hard to counter each year at the crunch end of the season. The European cup is a different story unless you’re playing an Irish side in their prime, which neither Munster or Leinster were this season.

Racing Metro might seem like a foreign squad too, but check this out, it’s nearly all Frenchies, with a driven Irishman in Sexton the main man. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racing_M%C3%A9tro_92#Squad_2013.2F14 

Sexton is likely back in Ireland next year for my money, and his motivations here are unquestionable – not many Irishmen have won the TOP14.

As you can see I’m spit-balling alot here. But in general some trends are pointing to Castres being happy with last year, and Racing being in with a major shout v Toulon ( a side they’ve had no fear of in recent years too).

Look how poor Clermont went in the league playoffs after winning it in 2010. Look how utterly static Toulouse have gone since the 2011 and 2012 wins, plodding along and underperforming. Stade Francais and Biarritz in a similar vein from the years before.

Castres beat Montpellier in the Barrage last year 25 – 13 so there’s a BIG element of revenge here for Monty. Racing Metro were knocked out in the Barrage last year by Toulouse 33-19 – they were not going to let that happen again this year and look what happened – they won this time around last week. They also have last year’s winning coaches on board, who masterminded a shock Bouclier win last year ( though some people in the forum kept saying Castres were being underestimated).

In 2012 in the Barrages, Castres yet again knocked Montpellier out by the 25 – 12, and Toulon knocked Racing out by 17-13.

Both Monty and Racing are coming into these games with arguably more french hunger, and with major chips on their shoulders.

We’re not set in our bets on this yet, but hopefully the above will help, and some of you can help narrow the meaning of it all.

There’s a list of Free Rugby bets here

And lots more top 14 info and opinion in our Rugby Betting forum here, with the current thread in the private contributing members area, to be released on Friday at 4.

Rugby Betting tips – Premiership & Rabo round 21

Rugby Betting tips – Premiership & Rabo round 21

There’s only two games left for each of the teams vying for playoff and European places in both the Rabo and Premiership. Friday nights can be unpredictable sods to back at times during the year but we’ve a few situations tonight that should re-enforce our betting logic that can so often go astray on nights like these. So let’s take a quick look at tonight’s most interesting games.

Premiership Rugby – Bath v Northampton 745 Bt Sport

Bath have floundered in these kind of games all season and they struggled to put Wasps away in the Challenge cup last week, despite dominating for most of the game. There’s a mental block in this side and I was tempted to fear for them tonight against a Saints side with nothing to really play for. Saints are second in the table and 7 points ahead of both Tigers and bath with just two games to go. Theoretically Bath or Tigers could catch them for the second home semi final spot but it’s very unlikely due to the fact Northampton have Wasps at home in the final round, and it’s very hard to see a light enough Wasps pack winning that.

On the other hand Bath have to win this game at all costs, as if they don’t , Quins will go away to a hapless and bottling Exeter side on Sunday and beat them, knowing they have Bath at home in the final round to take the final playoff spot and destroy a promising season for Bath (keep an eye on this result and betting odds regarding Exeter- If Bath win tonight, Quins are out of the reckoning and have no motivation to win at Exeter on Sunday, while Exeter still have a hope of a European playoff spot in 7th if they win and Wasps get hammered at Saints next week).

Thus, we have a home side tonight who need to win at all costs, and a Saints side coming away with no pressure on them and a few England Internationals looking for a healthy run out. While it has been tempting to look at Saints here due to slightly better form, the fact is they have no need to put bodies on the line and Bath do, and in rugby that’s all important. Saints have a better backrow with Bath missing both Garvey and Luow, but the backs for Bath are better once they concentrate and click, the second row overall is evens enough with Attwood back for bath (despite Lawes’ fantastic form), and the bath front row is far better than the Saints opposition (who are missing Hartley of course, amongst others). It’s David Wilson, Rob Webber, & Paul James for Bath versus Salesi Ma’afu, Ross McMillan, & Alex Waller and that’s all in favour of Bath.

I think Bath win this out of necessity and though they’ll do their best to shag it up as they so often do, they should fall over the line and secure the playoff spot with home advantage and a Saints side who will definitely show up, but who have absolutely no need of a win with top spot in the Premiership well out of sight. It’s also in the league’s interests for some new blood to be in the top 4 after recent years, so I can’t see the referee Matt Carley being anything but sympathetic to them.

Premiership Rugby Bets for tonight
– bath are 10/11 to win in Paddypower and that’s a solid enough pick. If you’re on lower stakes the 1-12 is 13/8 in Bet365 and Coral, and it’s hard to see them winning by more than 10. Rob Webber is 10/1 anytime try in skybet and 5s elsewhere, get some of that for small money before it disappears, he got two last week and is always a threat.

Rabo Pro 12 betting tips

Ulster v Leinster, BBC and RTE 730pm

Thanks to the Ospreys and the utterly uncommitted and arrogant garbage they coughed up in last night’s loss to Zebre, Ulster now only need a point from their remaining games to get a playoff spot. They play Leinster at home this week and then Munster away in the final round, and they only have to get one point out of both of those games; tonight is obviously the best one to target. Leinster meanwhile do not have top spot secured just yet ( and thus a home final if they win their semi), and are only five points ahead of Glasgow. Glasgow have treviso away this week, and Zebre at home next week – so nine points are very attainable for them. Leinster meanwhile have Edinburgh away in the final round after Ulster tonight.

You can follow the logic; Leinster need a win, and Ulster need a losing bonus point at least. Leinster to win anyone? The teams named stack up in Leinster’s favour, with a strong starting 15 and a strong bench, with front row starters and replacements particularly strong for Leinster. Ulster are still missing Pienaar and Best of course, and without those key men they’re two thirds the side they can be. Indeed if Joe Schmidt started the entire Leinster 15 playing tonight for Ireland in a six nations game (bar Kirchner of course) not too many eyebrows would be raised bar some big hairy Munster one’s (teams listed at the bottom of this post). Ulster could of course win tonight with a side that’s still full of quality, particularly in the backs, but Leinster need this win more, and have sent their main men North for victory. Watch out for an interesting battle between the incumbent Ireland centre BOD and the future 13 Jared Payne.

Rabo Pro 12 betting Tip for tonight – back Leinster to win at evens in skybet, they’re shorter everywhere else. Personally I’m on the 1-12 but I wouldn’t recommend it due to the fact that if Leinster got a bonus point win here they’d be almost set for home semi and final. Don’t back the 13+ either though because the odds are rubbish at 5/1. There’s a niggle in the back of my head though this may happen, thanks to Sportscompiler in the forum pointing out that this is an opportunity for Leinster to help get rid of a dangerous playoff opponent in Ulster potentially. Leinster should win this barring any brainfarts either way, with a solid no risk gameplan in the first half- Ulster are not great chasers.

Also rans – I also like Glasgow to pip Treviso by 1-12 points away from home (best 6/4 in ladbrokes). Glasgow need the win to keep their home semi final on course ahead of Munster and Treviso need at least a point to make sure they get Europe ahead of Zebre. Again, two dovetailing ambitions that should lead to the 1-12 coming in – fingers crossed for a logical night

There’s a list of Free Rugby bets here

And lots more top info and opinion in our Rugby Betting forum here

Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Roger Wilson, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Johann Muller (capt), 3 Andrew Warwick, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Callum Black, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 James McKinney, 23 Darren Cave.

Leinster 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Zane Kirchner, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip (capt), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Luke Fitzgerald.

Saracens v Clermont Rugby Betting Preview

Heineken Cup semi-final betting – Saracens the wolfpick

aracens v Clermont rugby betting one-man-wolf-pack
For a game that I’ve been agonising over for the last week, this preview could easily have turned into a Sarries love parade after this last day’s deliberations. Let me first say I think Saracens are going to win.  So with that in mind, I’ll run through the cons before I list off the pros.

Saracens v Clermont Rugby Betting Preview – Cons – Why Clermont might upset Saracens.

Well, first, they’re Clermont – everyone fears them, they have that ridiculous home record, and they’ve been here before.  They’re a  class team with superstars, a hard edge, and can beat anyone on their day – stating the obvious is a waste of time. This is their last chance as a group you feel for a couple of years with Cotter leaving and a few lads past their prime. So many near misses, so much heart-break, ever the bottlers. You definitely get the feeling it’s now or never for this core group of Clermont servants. It’s therefore a reasonable assumption for the Clermont-fancier to think the big push will come this weekend, and that they’ll give it everything.

And look at their backs. James, Nalaga, Sivivatu the genius, Byrne playing well enough, and Fofana the finisher. When you line Nalaga and Sivi up against Strettle and Ashton, you would be forgiven for having a little Vincent price giggle – it could (& should) be carnage. And let’s not forget Burger for Saracens – a yellow card magnet who loves playing filthy – so Clermont might even get to play against 14 men for a time.

And that’s it. That’s all I see as positive for les Jaunes. I just can’t help this love-in I’m feeling, for the ugly over-achieving red-headed Stepchild that is Saracens. Allow me to explain.

Pros – Why the Sarries Wolfpack ( shudder….) should win the day

Well, there’s a shit-load of reasons in my mind; so let’s try to match up my reasons with Clermont’s failings in those departments.

  1. Saracens have had two weeks rest. They had a high intensity dress rehearsal for this game versus Northampton two weeks ago where they played with openness and scored some excellent tries, showing great cohesion and understanding. They took the foot off the gas at the end but that was the Ulster remnants. Last week they sent the reserves up to Newcastle ( all except Goode who was coming off injury and needed some game time) so they’re totally fresh and ready to keep the tempo high. Clermont on the other hand were mired in a shitfest at hard-hitting-bunglers Racing Metro, with most of the first team playing, failing to make breakthroughs.They did turn up at Racing and tried to score(and win), but they were bested by a brutal Metro team pulling away at the end. It’s been a long season for Clermont, and they’re showing fatigue – no doubt about it.

  2. Saracens are a winning team. They’ve lost two games in the Aviva Premiership out of 20 games, and they lost one game in the Heineken Cup group stages to Toulouse by a point at home. Clermont have also lost just one game in the Heineken group stages (against v racing Metro interestingly, who have the best defence in the TOP14, like Saracens in the Premiership). But look at the TOP14 it’s a different story – just two away wins both v relegated Biarritz and likely relegated Perpignan. Now before you jump down my throat I know, TOP 14 away wins are like hen’s teeth this season – still, that’s no stat to be proud of. In truth they were lucky enough to beat Quins away in the qualifying stages too, and Quins weren’t in great form at that point; But for a seriously cruel bounce of the ball it would have likely been a Quins win ( Nalaga’s butchered earlier chance aside).

  3. Organisation. Saracens are a happy camp. There’s no way I can know the mood in the Clermont camp but I can infer from how they’re playing that all is not well. Cotter’s remarks about the players at the end of last season looks to have sucked the spark out of their play relative to the past few seasons when things seemed to be clicking for them much more. If you look at the preparation for this game it also looks perfect for Sarries after that good run against Saints and a full two weeks rest. You can bet the extensive Sarries backroom staff have analysed Clermont fully at this point and executed accordingly in training in the two weeks off.

  4. Main men in good form. Saracens look to be firing on all cylinders, with good backup in all positions – Hodgson has been dropped (his chargedowns might be missed v James but his tackling won’t) as Bosch can cover fly half; we saw last week his confidence is sky-high with a 56 metre penalty.




  5. Most of the team is playing well and look to be peaking, and Bosch has brought alot to Saracens’ game from his experience as probably the best Argentinian back around at the minute. The two Vunipola’s are well rested and ready to unleash that carrying ability on a tired Clermont backrow and a knackered Hines who has been giving away some daft Jim-Hamilton/Leo-Cullen-like penalties lately. Clermont have lost Captain Rougerie and his absence will be felt. A huge leader for club and country in these sorts of games (and the man who finally unlocked the Leicester defence if you recall), him missing leaves me looking around for leaders in this side in this type of game. Hines is in no form, looks very slow around the park, and he will leave holes. Sivivatu at a push for leader? He did look good last week returning from injury. Still, I’m looking for who pulls them together if things start going against them and I don’t see much bar Parra having a squawk.

In general freshness and hunger I just see Saracens as being the  more likely winner here. Saracens were 100% on their lineout against Ulster and 100% in their scrum. I know Payne was missing and the  ripple effect will have been felt, but that bodes well – along with two weeks practice. In general Saracens have been like that all season, owning their lineout, and own scrum ball. Clermont lost 4 throws against Leicester and they’ve only become more tired since then. As I said Hines looks in bad shape and I feel he’s a liability in the line, the lineout and the scrum.

Lining up both sets of players, there’s no doubt Clermont have an edge in the backs but the question is how much ball will they get from a likely dominant Sarries lineout and marginally dominant scrum.

One key thing I can’t shake out of my head in arriving at the decision to oppose Clermont is their fatigue (relevant to Sarries) and I believe it will tell in the second half particularly. Watching them, you just feel they’re tired, and they’re defending very narrowly – which should open things up for a Saracens side who look to be ramping up for a game of ball-in-hand attack. In the last two big games away from home they’ve conceded to a cross field kick – once against Leicester when they hadn’t the legs to get back and defend the cross field kick on half way, and once against Racing 6 days ago when Imhoff found acres of space from a cross kick. When you line that up against Saracens’ try-scoring exploits this season, it’s ominous for Clermont.

Clermont will expect Saracens to come out controlled and methodical but I don’t think that will happen – I’m expecting an all guns blazing start like the Northampton game, and the selection of De Kock at Scrum half backs that up as he’s much quicker than Wiggleworth. I’m expecting this to get Saracens ahead early, and I don’t think they’ll look back at a Clermont side I feel may be rudderless and past it’s prime. Tomorrow should be about making a statement for who they’ll face in the final, and all signs for me are pointing to an unexpected comfortable Saracens win. I’m very much in the minority and a one man wolfpack in our rugby betting forum, with many supporting Clermont, so don’t go too nuts. I’m confident though – Nigel to bring it home for the home side.

Recommended Rugby bets –

For the cautious – Saracens plus 4.5 on the no draw handicap in Boylesports

For the coy – Saracens to win at 6/4

For the courageous – Saracens to win by 13+ in Stan james at 12/1. I see this as a very real outcome as Sarries will want to make a statement and ensure they don’t get caught (fingers crossed for a Cudmore card and a bit of luck on this one)

For the chaser – Billy Vunipola for anytime try at 15/2 in Skybet looks generous. Ashton at 11/4 in Ladbrokes and Nalaga at 11/5 both look worthy of a punt depending on what side of the fence you’re on too

There’s a list of Free Rugby bets here

And lots more top info and opinion in our Rugby Betting forum here

Munster v Toulouse Heineken Rugby betting

Munster v Toulouse Rugby betting, 130 GMT Saturday

Weather, should be dry enough without too much wind, small chance of rain.

I’ll start with the teams (at bottom of post). No surprises really bar the spark of McAllister likely missing at ten (Beauxis is named; McAl is subject to a late fitness test). Beauxis is inconsistent enough and I’d rather have Keatley kicking the way he did v Leinster than taking a chance with Beauxis. Him starting is great for Munster too as he can’t quite get a backline moving like LM can. Truth be told, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s being held back intentionally, more on that below.

O’Mahony back is of course crucial to Munster and has no doubt been held back for this game. Camara will give him a run for his batch-turnover money but once Munster hit rucks with intensity, which they will; Camara’s heart for the turnover should wane quickly enough. Picamoles looks flogged to death too in recent months.

One of the key things for me here is the Munster attack v the Toulouse defence. I’ve been watching Toulouse a fair bit recently in the run up to this game, and how they defend. They don’t hold a straight line and they usually have one or two pushing up. Munster can be a frustrating side to watch in attack at times under Penney, with the first receiver standing 15 yards back from the opposition defensive line sometimes, giving a regimented line ample opportunity to see what’s coming and just defend by numbers. But the way Toulouse defend I think this will play into Munster’s attacking arms with lots of doglegs and gaps, meaning inside balls and Laulala offloads should pay off big time for Munster getting in behind. You can see this coming off say lineout’s in the Toulouse 22, going into a maul, everybody hitting the deck and then the recycle as it’s sent wide. Either way, i think Munster’s overall attack will work much better here than it has recently, and we know they’ll front up with intensity in defence. Nigel Owens is generally good to Munster too.

More crucially though, Toulouse have shown in recent years that their commitment to this tournament is much less than 100% when they have two away knock-outs in a row on the horizon. If they win here, they have to go away to either Toulon or Leinster in the semi.

Recent history suggests they won’t be as up for this as if they were at home. I know that sounds obvious but I think this has been very pronounced for Toulouse in the last five years or so. Also, and key, is the fact that Toulouse have a very real chance of moving from 6th up to 4th or 3rd in the TOP 14, with a tiny chance of second. They have three games left and a very realistic 15 points, with Grenoble and Brive at home, and Oyonnax away. When you put this beside Castres’ fixtures, currently in 4th and 4 points ahead of Toulouse with tough fixtures to come, you get the meaning here. Fourth place for Toulouse would mean a home barrage playoff before the semi-finals in the league.

Now juxtapose a likely home playoff in the Top14, with two away games at Europe’s powerhouses. I think you can see where I believe Guy Noves’ and his players’ priorities will lie for the remainder of the season – if this game gets tough, I can see them throwing it in. And Munster will make it tough. Hon ta f*ck Munster!

Best bet – Munster -4 at evens looks good to me – I don’t see any value in the 1-12 at 11/8 unless you have it in a multi. Keatley at 10/1 for a try anytime looks worth a flutter playing off Zebo and with his opposite number being Lionel Blair ( er, Beauxis).

There’s a list of Free Rugby bets here

And lots more top info and opinion in our Rugby Betting forum here

Munster Rugby

15. Felix Jones; 14. Keith Earls, 13. Casey Laulala, 12. James Downey, 11. Simon Zebo; 10. Ian Keatley, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Dave Kilcoyne, 2. Damien Varley, 3. BJ Botha, 4. Dave Foley, 5. Paul O’Connell, 6. Peter O’Mahony (c), 7. Tommy O’Donnell, 8. James Coughlan
16. Duncan Casey, 17. John Ryan, 18. Alan Cotter, 19. Donncha O’Callaghan, 20. CJ Stander, 21. Duncan Williams, 22. JJ Hanrahan, 23. Gerhard van den Heever

Toulouse
15. Maxime Médard; 14. Yoann Huget, 13. Florian Fritz, 12. Gael Fickou, 11. Hosea Gear; 10. Lionel Beauxis, 9. Jano Vermaak; 1. Gurthro Steenkamp, 2. Christopher Tolofua, 3. Yohan Montes, 4. Yoann Maestri, 5. Patricio Albacete (c), 6. Yacouba Camara, 7. Joe Tekori, 8. Louis Picamoles
16. Jaba Bregvadze, 17. Cyril Baille, 18. Schalk Ferreira, 19. Romain Millo-Chluski, 20. Gillian Galan, 21. Jean-Marc Doussain, 22. Luke McAlister, 23. Yannick Nyanga