European Champions Cup – round 2 – Sunday matches

Castres vs Leinster

While an over-reliance on stats can be dangerous, am happy enough to approach most Castres European games with the angle of opposing them 2nd half.


They have been outscored after the break in 16 of their last 20 European games and have scored a combined total of 119 points after the break in those matches. You have to go back 16 matches for the last time they managed more than 9 points in a 2nd half and their home scores last season in the 2nd half were 9,9 and 5 points. That included a round 5 contest with Leinster, when they led by 5 points at halftime and were then outscored by 12 points in the next 40 minutes.

Castres have lost their last 3 home matches against Irish teams and 14/18 at all venues. The first half has been highest scoring in 7 of the last 8 and they have been outscored 2nd half in the same number.
While it is a different story in the Top 14 and they have managed 10,17,14 and 24 points after the break at home, it isn’t that helpful to compare the two competitions in this instance. Their focus has traditionally been on the league. After a poor start and with coach under pressure, attention will surely be directed at gaining a top 6 spot instead of European success.

The build up to round 2 in this competition often includes teams announcing contract extensions, proudly stating which players have been included in International squads or perhaps being linked to new signings. Factors that may add a boost, if required. They don’t usually involve news about the club captain leaving, having key players omitted and some of the squad doing an advert for feminine hygiene products –

Leinster have seen a 2nd half deficit in only 2 of their last 22 pool games and average an advantage of +7 points in that run. Looking at their last 10 away matches, the average score after the break is 5-12. They came back from a 9 point deficit last week against Wasps and while the idea of one team ‘wanting it more’ is often unfairly used, in this case it may be appropriate. That doesn’t mean Castres should be written off – they made 16 offloads / beat 29 defenders in this fixture last year. However, when it gets to the final quarter, would rather have the visitors backed.

Leinster 2nd half handicap of -1

Draw HT / Leinster FT is 26.0, while Castres under 10.5 2nd half points is

Heaslip made 8 carries for 106m last year in Castres and 23 runs for 43m last week. He is 5.5 to score anytime.

Greg Garner carded 2 Castres players last season in the away game at Leinster and has handed out 23 cards in 16 Heineken Cup matches (at least 1 in 11/16). He has given 7 in 5 Prem matches this season, with at least 1 in 4/5 games. There has been a card shown in 8 of the last 10 Leinster away pool matches.

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Max Evans, 13 Christopher Tuatara-Morrison, 12 Romain Cabannes, 11 Remi Grosso, 10 Remi Tales (c), 9 Cedric Garcia, 8 Jannie Bornman, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau.
Replacements: 16 Mathieu Bonello, 17 Mihaita Lazar, 18 Yohan Montes, 19 Christophe Samson, 20 Mathieu Babillot, 21 Romain Martial, 22 Julien Dumora, 23 Antoine Dupont.

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Darragh Fanning, 13 Gordon D’Arcy, 12 Ian Madigan, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c), 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Mick McGrath.





Clermont vs Sale

Despite the defeat last week, Clermont were still a best of 2.6 to win the pool compared to 2.4 for Saracens, going into this round. With Fofana missing a couple of excellent opportunities to score and then the swing from a disallowed try to Saracens scoring the decisive try, the hosts will likely feel very disappointed that it ended up 5 match points to 1. They did score 23 points against Saracens away though and given the group could be decided by bonus points, are still in with a fair shout due to their ability to score plenty of tries.

The last side to beat Clermont at home in a pool game was Sale, back in October 2008. Since then, Clermont have won 17 in a row there in the group stage by an average score of 32-13. They are another side with a dominant 2nd half record – averaging a +12 point advantage after the break and only conceding an average of 5 points.

Allowing for the point that Sale are much improved from their 2012/13 season, it can still be seen that they have been outscored 2nd half in their last 6 matches at this level by 11,6, 45, 15, 10 and 17 points.
They have lost their last 26 away matches at top 4 Prem teams (recently Saracens, Northampton, Leicester and Quins), by an average of 18 points and even though their away form has improved, they still aren’t used to knocking over top opposition on the road. The visitors will also be aware that it is very rare for a team to lose a round 1 home game and make the quarter-finals. Only 3 sides have managed it since the 1997/98 season and none of those were pooled with 3 semi-finalists from the year before.

Not sure there are many angles to get excited about here, it is fair enough to expect a comfortable home win… but Clermont have been missing chances and there is the unpredictable ‘Clancy’ factor to consider. May have a small play on Sale +22 and hope for a similar game to the 23-16 home match against Quins from last year, which he also officiated.

Arscott has 5 tries in 6 Prem matches and is 5.5 anytime scorer while Lee is 4.33
Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Ludovic Radoslavjevic, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Julien Bonnaire (c), 5 Loic Jacquet, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 20 Vito Kolelishvili, 21 Thierry Lacrampe, 22 Brock James, 23 Aurélien Rougerie
Sale: 15 Michael Haley, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Tom Arscott, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Mark Easter, 7 David Seymour (c), 6 Magnus Lund, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Jon Mills, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts.
Replacements: 16 shalva mamukashvili, 17 Alberto de Marchi, 18 Ross Harrison, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 Dan Braid, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Andy Forsyth






Treviso vs Racing Metro

Treviso have now lost 7 European matches in a row by an average score of 7-35. They have scored just 3 tries in that run but conceded 12 cards. In the past it was worth backing them 1st half in their home games, having led against Biarritz, Leicester (twice), Saracens and Toulouse at halftime.

Given Racing Metro have trailed by at least 10 points at halftime in their last 4 European trips and last 3 league away matches, on paper it would be worth taking Treviso on the halftime handicap.

However, that would ignore the fact that it is basically a different Treviso squad this year. There were 19 departures and 24 arrivals in the summer which means they are almost starting from scratch. Of the 19 leavers, 16 were Italian compared to 9/24 of the arrivals and the language issue has been raised by the coaches. On the Pro 12 site, backs coach Marius Goosen also highlighted the low average age of the team and that it may take a year for the team to gel.

The visitors have now won in round 1 for 3 consecutive seasons, however their away form in the competition isn’t particularly good – with 3 wins and a draw from 12 trips. It may well be the case that 9 match points (5 at home / 4 away) is the minimum requirement from the 2 matches against Treviso and the side that fails to achieve that, ends up in trouble.

There have been examples of complacency in the past when a French team has travelled to Italy – Toulouse at Zebre last season would be an example. Racing appeared to have gone the other way this week and the talk has been of having ‘a chance’ of winning if they get it right.

Similar to the Clermont match, there isn’t too much of interest here but the 2nd half handicap is probably worth a go. Treviso were outscored by 11, 24 and 20 points after the break in their home matches last season and the line is -8 today. That also allows for the possibility of a decent start and then them fading.

There have been 13 cards shown in Racing Metro’s last 5 European away games and 20 in the last 10 at all venues. Going back to the start of the 2012/13 campaign, 29 cards have been handed out in 13 Treviso matches in Europe. 2 or more cards is 2.5.

Sexton and Claaseen are both 5.0 anytime scorer
Treviso: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Simone Rgusi, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Ludovico Nitoglia, 10 Samuel John Christie, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Alessandro Zanni, 7 Meyer Swanepoel, 6 Simone Favaro, 5 Marco Fuser, 4 Antonio Pavanello (c), 3 Rupert Harden, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Matteo Zanusso.
Replacements: 16 Amar Kudin, 17 Albert Alfred Anae, 18 Romulo Acosta, 19 Tomas Vallejos, 20 Mathew Henry Luamanu, 21 Marco Barbini, 22 Enrico Bacchin, 23 James Ambrosini

Racing Metro: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Juan Imhoff, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Teddy Thomas; 10 Jonny Sexton, 9 Maxime Machenaud (c), 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Juandre Kruger, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Virgile Lacombe, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Thibault Dubarry, 20 Camille Gerondeau, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Johannes Goosen, 23 Yoan Audrin




Wasps vs Harlequins

Quins have won 7 of the last 8 league games in this this fixture and there are some regular trends that are worth considering. They have tended to be close contests, with 3 of the last 4 decided by a single point and 7/10 matches by 3 point margins.

Wasps have led at halftime in the last 5 games against this opponent,(9/12 over a longer period) and also scored 1st try in the last 5. Quins have ‘won’ the 2nd half in 8 of the last 10 games and by an average score of 13-7.

It is worth noting that due to the round 1 match between the teams usually being at Twickenham, Quins haven’t had that many away games at Wasps recently. The last one was December 2011.

The hosts were given a very tough start to the season – with games against Saracens (1st last year), Northampton (2nd), Quins (4th), Newcastle (11th), Bath (5th), Sale (6th) and then Leinster last weekend. Playing top level opposition most weeks will have been a bonus for the side in some respects, but they may reach a stage when it catches up on them.

There will have been disappointment after the Leinster defeat, especially after leading by 12 points after 34 minutes. The announcement on Friday that Joe Launchbury has signed a new contract was therefore very well timed. It can be used by the club to endorse their move to Coventry and having their star player stay at the club sends a message to fans, their own players and other clubs. It means they go into the weekend on a very positive note and the Leinster loss or Wade being left out of the England squad will be forgotten in the build-up.

Wasps Ht / Quins FT has covered in 4 of the last 5 meetings and like the look of backing a decent Wasps start and then Quins to come back into it. Quins +6 on the main handicap is also a bit bigger than was expected.

Varndell has 13 tries in 14 Prem matches against Quins and is 3.25 anytime scorer while Wade is a best of 2.75. Care is 4.5

Wasps: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliott Daly, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Sam Jones, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan (c).
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Tom Young, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Rob Miller, 23 Chris Bell.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 George Lowe, 11 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Luke Wallace, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler (c).
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Jordan Turner-Hall, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.