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Heineken Cup Matchday 3 Betting Previews

30 November 2004

Pool 2 Saturday 4th December 1600 Benetton Treviso v Bath

When the draw was made, Bath would have seen the two matches against Treviso as banker wins, but their incredible result in Bourgoin made the whole of the rugby world take notice, and Bath will certainly not be taking this tie lightly.

Benetton Treviso lost a league match for the first time this season at the weekend when they went down 29-21 at second placed Arix Viadana. They do though lead the Italian Super 10 by five points. After losing their opening Heineken Cup match at home to Leinster, they went to Bourgoin and pulled off one of the biggest ever surprises in the competition with a magnificent 34-0 victory. Denis Dallan became the first Treviso player to score a hat trick of tries in the Heineken Cup. Unfortunately, the Italian Super 10 took a break during the Autumn internationals so they have not been able to build on this performance. Benetton Treviso have played seven times in the Heineken Cup but they have never made it to the knockout stage. They have won 8 of 19 matches played at home and include in their defeats a 50-27 reversal to Bath in season 1996/97. Gloucester beat them last season 33-12, but they have recorded home victories against Harlequins in 24-23 in 1999/2000 and London Wasps 32-17 in 2001/2002.

Bath beat London Irish at the Rec on Sunday and move to fourth place in the league, on the same points as Sale Sharks. They have now won their last four matches in the Zurich Premiership and have only lost once, at Northampton on the opening day of the season, away from home. They opened this year's European campaign with a home win against Bourgoin before losing 30-11 to Leinster at Lansdowne Road. It was only in the last fifteen minutes though that the Irishmen pulled away. They have won 10 from 17 away from home in the Heineken Cup including the 1996/97 game in Treviso, when Mike Catt scored a Bath competition record 33 points, and they also beat Padova in Italy 56-15 in 1999/2000.

Although it is very unlikely Bath will score 50 points for the third time in Italy on Saturday, they should still win by a reasonable margin.

Prediction: Bath to win by 11 points

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Pool 3 Saturday 4 December 1500 Northampton v Toulouse

The next two weeks will have a significant bearing on Northampton's season as they play back to back games against top French side Toulouse. Both sides are unbeaten in Pool 3 after the opening rounds, yet it is difficult to see how we can compare Northampton, struggling this season in the relegation zone of the Zurich Premiership, with a Toulouse side third in the French Top 16.

Northampton are having a dreadful season in the Zurich Premiership and lost again on Sunday at Newcastle. They have now lost their last nine matches, including five from six at Franklin's Gardens, and have now dropped to the bottom of the league. They won their opening Heineken Cup match in a dour game in Glasgow, but followed this up with their best performance of the season beating Llanelli at home 25-3. Northampton have an excellent home record in this competition and have only been beaten four times in 17 matches. They have met French sides Grenoble, Biarritz (twice) and Montferrand at Franklin's Gardens and only Montferrand, in 2001/02 managed to win.

Toulouse sit a point behind Perpignan and level with Bourgoin in the French League and have already shown in their two Heineken Cup games to date that they will be a big threat again. They were fortunate to win their first match against Llanelli at rain drenched Stradey Park, but beat Glasgow comfortably the following week at home, 43-17. Twice winners of this competition and beaten finalists last season, Toulouse have now played more games, 65, than anyone in the Heineken Cup, and they have also won more games, 46, than any other side. They have won 20 from 34 away games including victories in England at Leicester in 1997/98, Bath in 1999/2000 and Leeds last season. They have lost though on no less than five occasions, at Wasps 77-17 in 1996/97, (their biggest ever defeat), Leicester, semi final 1996/97, Saracens in 2000/01, Newcastle in 2001/02 and London Irish in 2002/03. Add last year's trip to Twickenham and they haven't got the best of records over here.

Northampton and Toulouse have only met once in the tournament and that that was in France in the 2002/03 season when Toulouse won 32-16 on the way to picking up the trophy. Although Toulouse will start strong favourites on Saturday, they may not win by many.

Prediction: Toulouse to win by 8 points

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Pool 6 Saturday 4th December 1930 Gloucester v Cardiff Blues

There will be a guaranteed full house at Kingsholm on Saturday as old adversaries Gloucester and Cardiff face each other for the first time in the pool stage of the Heineken Cup.

Gloucester have hit a rocky patch in the Zurich Premiership and lost three matches recently, including one at fortress Kingsholm, partly due to the opposition and partly due to international call ups and injuries. They now sit in fifth position in the league and have lost valuable ground on leaders Leicester. This is their fourth season in the Heineken Cup and they have a magnificent unbeaten home record having won 10 from 11 played and drawn one. They got off to a bad start this season having a poor 20 minute period at Stade Francais conceding 29 points, and lost 39-31. Returning to Kingsholm, they thrashed Ulster 55-13 and with 86 points they are the top scorers in the competition. Last year's top individual points scorer Henry Paul is setting the pace again and has scored 41 points in the opening two games. Gloucester have played Welsh opposition twice at home in the Heineken Cup, both in season 2000/01. They beat Llanelli 28-27 in the pool stage before beating Cardiff 21-15 in the quarter final.

Cardiff Blues presently sit in eighth position in the Celtic League. They have an awful away record and have not won on their travels to date. On Friday night they presented Borders with their first victory of the season. They have played in every Heineken Cup since the competition started and lost in the inaugural final in 1996. Since then, they have reached one semi final and three quarter finals. They have a poor record away from Cardiff and have only won 7 of 27 games played. They have now lost their last 12 Heineken Cup away games, their last victory was a 32-23 win at Saracens in 2000/01 season. They have not had the best of starts this year losing at Ulster in the opening game before being comprehensively beaten by Stade Francais at the Arms Park.

With Gloucester's excellent home record, and Cardiff's poor away form, it is difficult to forecast anything but a comfortable home win.

Prediction: Gloucester to win by 18 points

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Pool 1 Sunday 5th December 1500 London Wasps v Leicester Tigers

The clash of the English giants takes place at the Causeway Stadium on Sunday as Heineken Cup holders London Wasps entertain two time former winners Leicester.

London Wasps sit second in the Zurich Premiership at the half way stage of the season. They started by losing their first two games, went eight games unbeaten, but were surprisingly beaten at Worcester on Friday night. Only Sale Sharks have beaten Wasps at High Wycombe this season but Leicester came away with a creditable draw a fortnight ago, although both sides were under strength due to international commitments. Wasps have played 20 Heineken Cup matches on home soil and won 15. They have only entertained fellow English opposition once and that was in last year's quarter final when they beat Gloucester 34-3. They have started their defence of the cup well and beat a rather lacklustre Biarritz Olympique at home in the opening game, followed by a 31-22 victory at Rugby Calvisano, when winger Mike Roberts joined Kenny Logan and John Rudd as a Wasps scorer of a hat trick of tries in the Heineken Cup.

Leicester Tigers top the Zurich Premiership by eight points and have not been beaten since the opening day of the season at Sale Sharks. Leicester have played 54 matches in the Heineken Cup which is by far the most of any English club. Of these 54, 27 have been away from home and they have won15 of them. The only time they have met an English team away from Welford Road was when they beat Gloucester in the semi final at Vicarage Road in 2000/01. They started this year's campaign with an easy 37-6 home win against Rugby Calvisano before disappointing in France, going down 23-8 to Biarritz Olympique.

Leicester have much the better record in this fixture. Wasps have only won 2 of the last 12 league meetings. Although we cannot take too much out of the recent draw, Leicester had more players missing, and, in what is likely to be a very close contest, they may come out on top on Sunday.

Prediction: Leicester to win by 3 points.   

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Pool 4 Sunday 5th December 1500 Neath-Swansea Ospreys v NEC Harlequins

Top Celtic League side Ospreys face a must win game against a revitalised Harlequins.

Neath-Swansea Ospreys continue to lead the way in the Celtic League after 10 rounds of matches. They were unbeaten after seven matches, but lost away from home in a high scoring match at Gwent Dragons, and last time out, and under strength, were beaten at home by Connacht. This is only the second year the Ospreys have played in the competition. Last season they finished bottom of Pool 2, their only win coming at home to Leeds Tykes. They started this year with a difficult game at Castres Olympique and went down 38-17. This was followed by a home game against Munster and in a very tight game they were pipped 20-18. They now sit bottom of the group and must win this match to have any chance at all of progressing.

Harlequins have recently turned their improved performances into points and have won their last three matches in the Zurich Premiership to climb to 10th place. They have won one game away from the Stoop, beating a weakened Sale Sharks at Edgeley Park. This is the fifth time they have played in the Heineken Cup. Their best efforts were in 1997 and 1998 when they were beaten in the quarter finals. They have travelled to Wales three times before and have never been beaten. They beat Cardiff in 1997/98, drew with them in 1999/2000 and beat Bridgend in 2001/02. They have played well in the competition this season without winning. Starting with a trip to Thomond Park, they ran Munster close and were unlucky not to beat Castres Olympique at the Stoop and had to settle for a 23-23 draw.

The Ospreys will be favourites to win this at home and should come out on top. Don't be surprised though to see Quins run them very close.

Prediction: Neath-Swansea Ospreys to win by 5 points.

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Pool 5 Sunday 5th December 1430 Newcastle Falcons v Edinburgh

An Anglo-Scottish �derby' fixture here as leaders of Pool 5 Newcastle, host an Edinburgh side looking for their first win in this year's competition.

Newcastle Falcons beat struggling Northampton at Kingston Park on Sunday with all 27 points coming from the boot, and remain in seventh place in the Zurich Premiership. They have only been beaten once at home this season, by leaders Leicester. This is only their second season in the Heineken Cup and they have never met a Scottish team before. They have won two of four games played at Kingston Park beating the mighty Toulouse in 2001/02 and added the scalp of another top French side, Perpignan, this season. Prior to that win, they pulled off one of the best results in the opening round when they went to Newport and beat the Dragons 10-6.

Edinburgh are not having the best of seasons in the Celtic League and are next to bottom. They did pull off a surprise win last time away from home, also at Newport against the Dragons, courtesy of an injury time Brendan Laney penalty. Edinburgh had their best ever season in Europe last season when they reached the quarter final stage for the first time. They have played English opposition in six of the seven years they have participated and have managed to win twice away, at Northampton in 2000/01 and at Leeds Tykes last year.

If Newcastle Falcons are to progress to the quarter finals for the first time they will need to win their remaining home matches. They should have the edge over their Scottish rivals on Sunday.

Prediction: Newcastle to win by 10 points.