The penultimate stage of Pool games were completed yesterday with wins for Toulouse against Leeds Tykes and Biarritz victors over Sale Sharks.
One round of pool matches to go and perhaps a picture emerging of how the quarter finals may work out. The final matches in round five were played yesterday with Toulouse successful in Leeds and Biarritz coming good in Sale to keep alive their hopes of a place in the semi-finals.
In Pool One it’s down to a winner take all encounter between Leicester Tigers and Stade Francais in Welford Road. Leicester have recovered remarkably well since that awful mauling in Ravenhill and their rehabilitation included an extraordinary reversal of performance and result at home against Ulster followed by a gritty display in Rodney Parade on Saturday when they defeated the Gwent Dragons and secured a bonus point into the bargain. So they will be at short odds to close the deal in Welford Road and qualify for the knock out stages.
Remaining games: Leicester Tigers v Stade Ulster v Gwent Dragons.
Pool Prediction: Leicester – 19 pts.
Edinburgh became the first Scottish side to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Heineken Cup and remain the only side with a 100% record. Their last game is against Toulouse away and in the unlikely event of them winning there then they’d end up number one seed. However that’s a huge ask and on the evidence of their performance in Leeds on Sunday, Toulouse should win this and perhaps with something to spare.
Remaining games: Toulouse v Edinburgh: Ospreys v Leeds Tykes.
Pool Prediction: Toulouse – 25 pts.
Edinburgh – 22 pts.
Biarritz showed loads of guts and determination to win in Sale on Sunday and set up yet another winner take-all duel in the final game in Pool 3. Biarritz need to win and deny Leinster a bonus point if they want to advance to the quarter final and with the injury situation as serious as it is in the Leinster camp, the home side and supporters will be devastated if Thomas Lievremont’s side don’t close the deal. However, there is a determination about this Leinster team that has seen them carve out wins in unlikely situations. They may lose in France but not without earning that precious point.
Remaining games: Biarritz Olympique v Leinster Lions: Cardiff Blues v Sale Sharks.
Pool Prediction: Leinster – 19 pts.
Either Saints or Scarlets to emerge from Pool 4, that outcome to be decided in Franklin’s Gardens. Llanelli were narrow winner (14-9) when the sides met in Stradey Park in the opening game. Northampton had a fine win over Agen to set up this decider and again home advantage makes them favourite to deny Llanelli a place in the quarter-final for only the second time since they entered the competition.
Remaining games: Nortampton Saints v Llanelli Scarlets: Borders v Agen.
Pool Prediction: Northampton Saints – 22 pts.
Gloucester are a shoe-in to rachet up the scores in Kingsholm and end with a bonus point victory to complete the Pool 5 stage on 24 pts. Therefore Munster need to win and four at least four tries to match them and end up Pool winners. In that scenario, Munster might then host Gloucester in the quarter final. Were Munster to win and not get the bonus then they could find themselves travelling to Kingsholm for the quarters.
Remaining games: Munster v Bourgoin: Gloucester v Benetton Treviso.
Pool Prediction: Munster – 24 pts.
Gloucester – 24 pts.
Perpignan at home to London Wasps for a place in the quarters, simple as that. Well not quite. If Perpignan were to win and deny Wasps the bonus. And if Celtic Warriors get five from their last game (away to Calvisano, then the Welsh would go through.
Remaining games: Perpignan v London Wasps: Calvisano v Celtic Warriors.
Pool Prediction: London Wasps – 19 pts.