We are heading into the final couple of rounds of European Rugby Challenge Cup group games. Will some sides totally throw the towel in? Will some try not to qualify as they concentrate on domestic matters? Those are always the problems with this competition but we still have to have a go at predicting the outcomes.
Here is my video with my European Rugby Challenge Cup Round 5 Predictions:
Perpignan v Bordeaux Begles – Bordeaux Begles by 3
Both these sides are out of the competition and don’t really want to be playing. This is probably Perpignan’s best chance of getting a victory this season. They have lost all their games in the Top 14 and got just 1 draw in the Challenge Cup so far. With that record I just can’t back them even though I fully expect Bordeaux to be resting players. When I say players I mean the entire team.
La Rochelle v Zebre Rugby Club – La Rochelle by 7
La Rochelle were going really well in this competition until Bristol won on the road in the last round. With home and away games against Zebre this weekend is really important if they want to qualify. I think at home La Rochelle should be able to do the business over the Italian side.
Dragons v Timișoara Saracens – Dragons by 25
Saracens have lost all their games by 30+ points. Except for the cancelled home game against Saints. This weekend is going to be little different and I expect Dragons to pick up an easy moral boosting home victory.
Stade Francais v Pau – Stade Francais by 5
Another one where both teams are effectively out of the competition already. I don’t think either side wanted to be in it in the first place. So go with 2 weakened sides and the home one to keep the points.
Enisei-STM v Bristol – Bristol by 15
Bristol gave themselves a chance with that win on the road against La Rochelle. 2 ties against the Russian side Enisei should yield up 2 TBP wins on the way to qualifying for the knockout stages.
Benetton Treviso v Agen – Benetton Treviso by 5
Group 5 is crazy close. All the sides have won 2 and lost 2, rather predictably winging at home and losing away. So this group could easily come down to bonus points. I’m expecting Agen to rest a bunch of players as they think about domestic matters for this one. Which means more home wins and away losses.
Ospreys v Worcester Warriors – Ospreys by 5
Worcester top the group on 13 points with Ospreys just behind on 11. With those totals it looks like only the group winner will be going through. With Worcester sitting 11th in the Premiership do they even want to qualify? Either way I think Ospreys will take a home victory but with their inconsistent performances I’m not saying it with much conviction.
Harlequins v Grenoble – Harlequins by 10
The second game in group 5 where all the games have been won by the home side. So unsurprisingly I’m going for the home win again. Also with Grenoble having not picked up bonus points and sitting at the wrong end of the Top 14 expect a weak side to get on the airplane to London.
Connacht Rugby v Sale Sharks – Connacht Rugby by 3
This was the hardest game for me to call in this round. Connacht have a good home record but Sale have been in fine form recently. That form has been aided by short term South African recruits and at least one of them has finished his stint. In the end I have to go with the home advantage to win this one.
Clermont Auvergne v Northampton Saints – Clermont Auvergne by 7
These are names you’d normally associate with a Champions Cup clash rather than Challenge Cup. Shows how times can change. Clermont have been storming this competition however the opposition haven’t been though. Still I think they have enough squad depth to get the points even when they rest players.
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