Wednesday, 7 April 2010

What a Weekend!

I can't wait for this weekend, I really can't.

For starters, it's my birthday. 

Yes, this means I will be blowing out an increasingly large number of candles on a chocolate caterpillar cake, and venturing into town for a few shandies.

Not only that, the Grand National gallops onto our TV screens on Saturday afternoon.  I will have my annual flutter on the gee-gees with the hope of topping up my birthday beer fund.

But then there's the rugby.

The Guinness Premiership draws ever closer to its epic finale, and my team Leeds travel down to the Stoop to take on Quins.  There's only really one present that I want this year, and that's a four try bonus point win for Carnegie.  But I'll settle for a win though...

Not only that, but the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup roll back into town.

I love the Heineken Cup.  After the Six Nations it is my favourite competition.  The pride and passion of club rugby is taken to a whole new level on the European stage.  I can't get enough of it.

But who will win this weekend?  As ever, here are my predictions:.

Leinster v Clermont Auvergne

Defending champions Leinster take on Clermont in Friday's much hyped match.  Last weekend, the Dubliners took the prize scalp of Munster in a 16-15 Magners' League win, which will have helped to build their confidence ahead of this crucial clash.  The RDS faithful will also be pleased to see Brian O'Driscoll included in the squad for Friday.

Clermont Auvergne are currently fourth in the French Top 14 but come into the game on the back of a 19-10 loss away to Stade Français.  Clermont showed dazzling ability in their backline during the pool stages of the cup, most notably against a strong Leicester Tigers.  To win, Leinster have to grab the ball up front and put the squeeze on their visitors.

My prediction: Leinster by 5.

Biarritz v Ospreys

Claiming a win in the south of France in a cup quarter final isn't an easy ask for the Ospreys.  The Magners league side beat rivals the Scarlets 27-19 last weekend, but unlike trailblazing leaders Leinster, the Welsh team are firmly mid-table.

Biarritz are also slap bang in the middle of their respective league, and last weekend they crushed Montauban to the tune of 42-13.  In a crunch fixture like this, I think Biarritz will pull it out of the bag again.

My prediction: Biarritz by 10.

Munster v Northampton Saints

Now this should be a game and a half.  Northampton are the only English team left in the competition and were in the same pool as two time winners Munster.  The men in red beat the Saints 12-9 at Fortress Thomond in January's pool clash, but Northampton claimed Munster's scalp in round one in the closely fought 31-27 win at Franklins Gardens.

Both sides are second in their respective leagues, and whilst Munster lost to rivals Leinster last weekend, Northampton only managed to clinch a late win over relegation battlers Leeds.  Maybe both teams had one eye on this weekend's game?  For me, this is the one to watch, and I sense an upset on the cards.

My prediction: Northampton to win by 6.

Toulouse v Stade Français

Two giants of the French Top 14 will battle it out in another mouth watering clash.  Last weekend, Stade beat Clermont 19-10 whilst Toulouse were 28-23 winners over Racing Metro.

I'll be honest and admit that I don't know too much about French club rugby, but I think the home side will have more of an edge.  Either way, this game should be a corker.

My prediction: Toulouse to win by 9.

Over in the Amlin Challenge Cup:

Connacht to beat Bourgoin by 6.
Toulon to beat the Scarlets by 9.
Cardiff to beat Newcastle by 10.
Wasps to beat Gloucester by 4.

And finally, in the Guinness Premiership:

Leeds Carnegie to beat Harlequins by 5.
Saracens to beat Sale by 17.
London Irish to beat Worcester by 13.

This weekend is a proper rugby-fest, and I can't wait!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bamberio, Happy birthday to you! My wife had her birthday on the 7th(yesterday), and we had a very good time, indeed.

    Regarding the Heineken Cup, I think Leinster beats Clermont, Munster beats Northampton(but am rooting for the Saints), Biarritz should win, and I think Toulouse should beat Stade Français.