Friday, May 23, 2014

Amlin and Heinken...Bath, Stade and Toulon...

 Heineken Cup logo
 With the Rabo taking a break this weekend, there’s a few top matches to catch across in Europe.

The final of the Amlin Challenge Cup takes place tonight, an all English affair between Bath and Northampton.  Bath had a pretty decent season this year, just missing out on a playoff spot for the Premiership, but they can still end their season on a high tonight. Northampton, meanwhile, are in the Premiership final already, and did that with 14 men for a good chunk of the match. Just to spread the wins around, I’ll be supporting Bath, even though I reckon Northampton will win. I’m not against the Saints, I hope they win the Premiership. I’m hoping for an open match, there’s not the pressure you get from playing in a HC final.

Wasps travel to Paris to take on Stade Francaise, after taking the home leg of the tie, for the last spot in the imaginatively named European Cup. They did well, because Stade have a much better season than of late, although there is always the brutal away form of French clubs to think of. They start with a great line up, as do Wasps, but Stade have 4 internationals on the bench, so over the 80 minutes I reckon that will tell, and I expect Stade to be in Europe next year.

Finally, it’s the big one, Saracens v Toulon in the final of the last ever Heineken Cup, also notable for last European appearance of Mr. J.Wilkinson. And no doubt his kicking prowess, while not what it used to be, will have a big say in the final outcome. The packs will be like two panzer divisions facing off, and the breakdown is going to be lethal, as 6 of the best loose forwards in the world get stuck in. Toulon’s edge is in the backs, with just an edge in power and skill, and they have a better bench. It’ll probably only be a few points either way, but the right side I think for Toulon.

Heineken Cup
Saturday , May 24
Toulon vs Saracens 
Stade Francais vs Wasps 
Amlin Challenge Cup
Friday , May 23
Bath vs Northampton 

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