2017-12-11 by Liam Del Carme
Leinster v Exeter Chiefs
Leinster, the three-time champions, showed their European pedigree with a hand fought win away to the Chiefs last weekend. It was the kind of grinding performance that has become the hallmark of the Irish side. The Chiefs, in less than favourable conditions to play their expansive game, were suffocated out of the contest and they can expect the Dubliners to employ similar tactics this weekend. Leinster should win the return match and they may even do it with a greater margin of victory over the Premiership front runners.
Bath v Toulon
Toulon had to deliver a rearguard action to secure a home win over Bath last Saturday. They were outplayed in the first half and it took a moment of individual brilliance from France flyhalf Anthony Belleau who scored a late try to get them the win. What the match did prove however is that Bath is a match for one of the high spenders in the Top 14. They would have travelled home in the belief they can reverse the result in their return match against opponents who have had their troubles on the road. Despite Saturday’s defeat Bath will start slight favourites on home soil.
Wasps v La Rochelle
Predictably their clash in France last weekend was one in which the ball travelled through the hands and was used across the width of the field. At the end of it La Rochelle firmly held the whip hand securing a 49-29 victory over the plucky visitors. Wasps lost Willie le Roux to illness shortly before the kick-off which would have blunted some of their threat from deep. He should be fit for this weekend’s return clash.
Wasps were poor in the first half but will want to bottle some of their second half effort which saw them match their impressive hosts. Having slipped to third behind La Rochelle and Ulster, this weekend’s clash is one that will mean more for Wasps than it will for the visitors. Wasps may well spring a surprise on home soil.
Clermont v Saracens
Their match was postponed on Sunday because of the inclement weather in London. The match however was scheduled to be played behind closed doors on Monday. Clermont however should have the benefit of a full house of adoring fans when they host Saracens this weekend. Going into their most recent clash, Saracens boasted a record 20-straight wins in the European Champions Cup which seems to suggest they are not too fussed about hitting the road to get a result.The match of course is also a repeat of last season’s final which Saracens won 28-17 but that was achieved on neutral territory. Going into their last clash Clermont won six out of their last seven matches and they should again prove worthy adversaries to the defending champions. This match is likely to still be in the balance in the final move of the game.
Leicester v Munster
Munster crushed the travelling Tigers 33-10 last weekend. It has given Munster a four-point cushion at the top of their pool but for the Tigers it is now a struggle for survival. The Tigers are third, level on points with Racing 92 but they trail second placed Castres by a point. Winning at home this weekend will be imperative for the former back-to-back champions. They will however have to deliver a spectacular turn around, one which may be outside their range of capability.