Round 4 and the second of the double headers. We are halfway through and whilst most sides have a mathematical chance of qualifying, some know that in reality it’s only pride from here on. With that in mind here are my predictions for round 4.
How did your predictions for the third round go?
8 out of 10, so fairly good even if there weren’t too many upsets.
Stade Francais v Newcastle Falcons
Last weekend Falcons claimed a famous victory over the French side and are on a very good run of form. How ever I just can’t see Stade allowing themselves to lose again in front of their home supporters. Whilst Stade have had a poor European campaign they are sat 3rd in the Top14 compared to Newcastle in 10th in the Premiership.
Stade Francais win
Newport Gwent Dragons v Bucharest Wolves
Dragons won away by 27 points and got the TBP. I think this one is fairly easy to call as a home win with TBP. They had to fight for it in the first half against Wolves and so they will know that they have to build the win and complacency shouldn’t be an issue.
Newport Gwent Dragons win
Lyon v Bordeaux Begles
Bordeaux aren’t flying as high as they were in the Top 14 but they are in with a good chance of qualifying in this competition. Sitting in the relative comfort of mid table they also don’t need to rest too many players. Lyon are right in the relegation battle and have already lost twice to Bordeaux this season, even if they were both away. With little chance of qualifying I think they will select a side with Top14 battles to come in mind.
Bordeaux Begles win
Rugby Rovigo v Grenoble
Another easy one to call, Grenoble won by 58 points last week at home. They are away so it might not be as big a gap this week but it should still be a regulation win.
London Irish v Cardiff Blues
Irish let me down last weekend but they were on the right side of a lot of the stats. If they can get more players involved and improve their kicking they should have a good chance at home. Cardiff will be very much up for this game as winning should give them the group. This week though they are back on grass and so their more incisive running may be blunted. So I’m backing Irish to bounce back and keep this group alive.
London Irish win
Exeter Chiefs v La Rochelle
Exeter got a very impressive win away to La Rochelle last weekend effectively ending the French sides hope of qualifying. With much more important Top14 clashes coming up to save them from relegation, I see a much reduced side sent across to the channel. Exeter will also make changes with the flyhallf already saying he’s looking forward to a weekend off. But Exeter’s current form is very good, carrying them to 3rd in the Premiership and this should be another win.
Exeter Chiefs win
US Oyonnax v Brive
With Brive having lost all three of the European games so far and Top14 relegation to fight, I think a much weakened side will travel to Oyonnax. Oyonnax really could do with some bonus points if they are going to qualify as a best second place. I don’t see the gap being that big but I do think the home side will notch another win.
US Oyonnax win
Zebre v Gloucester Rugby
Jack Fenwick thinks that Zebre have a good chance of turning over Gloucester at home. I don’t see it, Zebre are clearly the better of the two Italian sides this year but they lost by 25 points last week. As long as Gloucester take this competition seriously and pick a strong side they should also take the win. With Gloucester sitting in 8th in the Premiership they aren’t likely to make the playoffs, so this is probably their best chance of silverware and I think will take it very seriously.
Gloucester Rugby win
Bayonne v Connacht Rugby
Bayonne aren’t going to qualify and like a lot of the French teams in this competition have relegation in the Top14 to think about. This is really a distraction from the main business and I think you saw that with the result last weekend. Connacht are having a decent season, sitting 6th in the Pro12 and giving this competition a good fight. So I’m backing the Irishmen to have a good weekend in France.
Connacht Rugby win
London Welsh v Edinburgh
Welsh haven’t won game all season and whilst they did put up a better fight last weekend, have consistently struggled in the latter part of games. Edinburgh will know that they just have to tire out Welsh first and then go for the jugular in the last quarter, if they don’t already have a comfortable lead.