Planet Rugby

Predictions: Heineken Cup, Week 5

11th January 2013 13:22


Richard Fussell Graham Kitchener Hanno Dirksen

Low-scoring fixture: Ospreys v Tigers

It is that time of the week again when 'Orrible Punt sits down in the Planet Rugby hot-seat to give you his calls. Brace yourself for the Heineken Cup.

Remember you can contact Russ with all your comments and questions on Twitter - @rpetty80.

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Northampton vs Castres

These sides are certainly familiar foes, having been placed in the same group in the last 3 seasons. Racing Metro president Jacky Lorenzetti has clearly been impressed, given he has made offers to key individuals from both sides - presumably he will be watching this contest in the manner of a child collecting new toys "Mujati - got, Tonga'uiha - got, Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers - got,got, Kockott...NEED". Kockott, scorer of 207 points this Top 14 season has been named but is surely an unsettling influence, given his comments about wishing to leave.

Saints have won 28/37 home games in the competition by an average of 25-16 but since that Cup Final defeat to Leinster, they have lost 2/5 games there by 27-24.

For their part, Castres have won just 5/27 away games in Europe by 16-26 and 3/8 on the road domestically this season by 18-18. Those victories were against the bottom 3 sides too.

The hosts have beaten Castres by 18-14 and 45-0 on home soil and possess a record of 9 wins from 11 matches against French teams at home by 24-13.

I do think the Saints will win but the 1.2 price and -12 handicap are far from appealing so instead will look at the visitors with +18 points at 1.5. There have been 5 cards shown in 5 games between the sides and both sides have form for sin bins this season, so keep an eye for better than 1.4 for a yellow card.

Racing Metro vs Saracens

Racing Metro have won 7/15 league games this season by an average of 18-18 and 4/7 at home by 20-14. If you want a glimpse of how their varied season has gone thus far, they lost at home to Mont-de-Marsan (who have lost their other 14 games) in round 11 and then won away at Toulon last week (unbeaten at home since the start of 2011/12 season).

Racing have won 6/16 Heineken Cup games by 21-25 and just 3/8 at home by 18-22.

In previous meetings with Saracens there were 5 drop goals attempted so that is worth watching for.

When analysing Sarries' games, what is evident is that the number of points they score rockets up when Charlie Hodgson is at fly-half compared to Farrell. Before last weekend it worked out at an average of 27 with the former Sale pivot playing compared to 14 with the young England International.

Saracens have won 10/13 Premiership games by 21-13 and 8 of their last 11 Heineken Cup matches by 23-15. They've also won 11/21 away games in the competition by 22-20 and 4/5 by 25-12.

There are similarities when you compare the try scoring records of each side, with Racing scoring 16 and conceding 19 in 15 games and Saracens scoring 13 and allowing 10 in 13 games.

That would point to going 'unders' on try and points markets and I am looking to back the hosts to win by 1-10 points in what could be a very tight contest.

Leinster vs Scarlets

Before this season, the last time Leinster had lost consecutive Heineken Cup matches was back in 2008/9 (Wasps and Castres) and they've not been beaten in 3 straight games since the 1998/9 season.

Going back to the start of the 2010/11 season, only Clermont have beaten the 3-time champions in Europe, but sitting on 10 points after 4 rounds, they have plenty to do to if the crown is to be defended. A pair of try bonus point wins would see them on 20 points, an amount that would have gained a Quarter Final place in 5/6 seasons.

A record of 25 wins from the last 27 home games in the competition, by an average of 30-14 is to be respected, as is 51/55 wins in the league there by 28-14. The Scarlets have been dispatched in the last 4 league meetings by 29-13 and by 30-9 in 3 European clashes.

The visitors have won 5/8 away league games by 17-20 but lost the last 2 games by 29 and 30 points to the Ospreys and Ulster respectively. The Welsh side have also lost 7 of the last 8 Heineken Cup games by 16-25.

That handicap line of 20 points looks big, but understandable given their record. A simple backing of Leinster to pick up the try bonus point would have been the play but the team announcement means instead will look to get involved 'in-play', probably after the introduction of BOD and Reddan.

Edinburgh vs Munster

It's going back a while, but when Edinburgh were beaten in the 2003/4 quarter-final by Toulouse, they lost the next 5 European games by an average of 10-27. The reaction to a semi-final loss last season has been 4 defeats by an average of 3-28. They have won 4/13 Pro 12 games this season by an average of 21-24 and 2/7 at home by 24-22.

Over a longer period, they've won just 3/12 at home by 23-24 and lost back to back derby games against Glasgow.

Munster have won 3/6 away games in the Pro 12 by 20-21, that included a 23-18 win over Edinburgh in round 1 and they've won on 4/6 trips there by 15-16. The visitors have won 25/50 away group stage games by 24-23 and 3/8 by 22-24.

Rob Penney clearly has a style of play he wants to implement but the sight of forwards spread on the wings is causing some heated debate amongst fans, as well as the thorny issue over whether 'ROG' should still be picked.

Edinburgh have conceded 9/11 tries in 2nd half and in games where Munster have been big favourites before (namely Zebre and Edinburgh at home), they scored the majority of their points in the 2nd half.

In all honesty, I wouldn't trust either side with too much cash this season and that 10 point handicap doesn't entice, so instead may look to the trend that 8 of the last 9 Munster Heineken Cup games have gone under 40 points.

Ospreys vs Leicester

Both sides will assume that Toulouse are likely going to get maximum points against Treviso, so while a losing bonus point from the Tigers wouldn't be a disaster, picking 0 points from the match would leave with them with plenty to do at Welford Road.

The hosts could really do with 10 points from their remaining games, which is a tough ask.

The pre-match discussions will probably centre on the availability of Toby Flood, scorer of 24 points against the Ospreys in October and cleared after being cited for a tip-tackle on Andy Goode. The scrum will also get a mention, as Leicester have been racking up the penalty tries and the Ospreys weren't happy with how Ryan Bevington was treated in the previous clash.

The Ospreys have won 8/12 Pro 12 games this season by a rate of 21-15 and 6/8 at home (6 in a row) by 22-14. In the Heineken Cup its 23/29 home wins by 25-15 and 19/21 by 28-15.

At home to Leicester, its 2 wins from 3 games at a rate of 16-13, which shows it's been quite a low-scoring fixture. Leicester have won 9/13 games in the Premiership by 21-14 and 4/7 away by 21-13 but those matches away from Welford Road have been scrappy affairs, with the fluency and balance from last season's run-in absent thus far.

They have also won only 6 of the last 20 away Heineken Cup games by an average of 21-22.

What could really count against the Tigers are their slow starts, having trailed at halftime in 8/10 away Heineken Cup games and 7/10 Premiership matches this season.

In contrast, the hosts have led at home in 8/10 European home game and 7/10 Pro 12 games.

Am therefore backing the Ospreys to lead at the break at 1.85 and win a close one by 1-5 points. Will have an 'insurance' of Ospreys halftime / Leicester fulltime at 8.0 too.

There have been 20 cards shown in 10 Ospreys home matches and 13 in the previous 4 Leicester Premiership matches. With referee Lacey giving out 6 in 4 games in the competition so far, will be punting on 2 or more total cards.

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Friday , December 5
Montpellier vs Bath19:45
Saturday , December 6
Sale vs Saracens13:00
Munster vs Clermont Auvergne17:30
Ulster vs Scarlets19:45
Benetton Treviso vs Northampton13:00
Ospreys vs Racing Metro 9215:15
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Castres vs Wasps13:00
Harlequins vs Leinster15:15
Leicester vs Toulon17:30
Toulouse vs Glasgow15:15
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Sunday , October 26
Clermont Auvergne 35 - 3 Sale Sharks
Castres 16 - 21 Leinster
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Saturday , October 25
Bath 19 - 21 Toulouse
Montpellier 13 - 15 Glasgow
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Friday , October 24
Munster 14 - 3 Saracens
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2Clermont Auvergne26
4Sale Sharks21
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3Leicester Tigers24
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1Glasgow Warriors29
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1Racing Metro Paris28