It is that time of the week again when 'Orrible Punt sits down in the Planet Rugby chair to give his calls. After the Bledisloe comes some Heineken Cup.
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The Tigers have an impressive home record in the competition with 37 victories in 44 games, by an average score of 34-14. It's perhaps to be expected, given they have won 215/254 game at Welford Road in the Premiership too. The Ospreys have just 1 win in their last 12 European away games, but the average score is 21-26 which suggests that they been competitive on the road. There has been a points difference of 1-6 points in 7 of those last 12 away games and the 5/6 games between these sides have had similar margins. The O's have won the last 2 games in Wales against the Tigers and picked up a draw in Leicester in 2009, with a 26-point blitz in 20 minutes and Dan Biggar scoring 22 points. The 8-9-10 combo is crucial for a team's fortunes and with Ben Youngs out of form and number 8 duties being shared between Jordan Crane and Thomas Waldrom, Leicester go into this match under pressure. Comments about them appearing "na´ve" were spot on. Looking for offloads in wet conditions or turning down 3 points in close games aren't the hallmarks of a streetwise side. I am taking the +9 available for the Ospreys in this game and it's worth mentioning that the 40/1 for them to win the tournament looks a bit too big considering how other teams are currently priced. Keep any eye out for the alternative handicap markets.
I'd planned to oppose the Blues whenever possible this season, with the only involvement occurring when there was a big price available for Alex Cuthbert to score anytime in a match. The erosion of a 15-point lead last week at Sale and a hat-trick for the mentioned wing haven't done much to dissuade. They have won 16/18 home games in the Heineken Cup by an average of 27-17, but more recently have lost 5 of the last 7 matches there in the PRO12 by 19-25. Toulon have lost 3 of their 4 away games at this level, despite leading at half-time in 3 of them. However, they have won 6/7 away games in the Top 14 this season (always a measure of team spirit) by an average of 26-17 and have been made overwhelming favourites for this game. If the saying "forwards win matches, backs decide by how many" is true then the Blues are in trouble. Shorn of Martyn Williams, Xavier Rush, Paul Tito and Gethin Jenkins they have lost at least 2 scrums a game all season (bar against Treviso) and 7 at home to Glasgow. That Toulon star-studded pack will likely accumulate a number of penalties in the set-piece and with the hosts conceding 15 against Sale, I think Jonny Wilkinson will have a busy time with the kicking tee. I'll be taking the -6 on Toulon here.