Heineken Cup – Saracens can slip past poor travelling Toulon
This weekend sees a brace of Heineken Cup semi finals going off in England and France with Clermont heavy 1/10 favourites to get past knock out stage regulars Munster, whilst home advantage could give Saracens the edge against Johnny Wilkinson’s Toulon with the sides level at 10/11 in the betting.
In Sunday’s semi, Saracens will be looking to get Twickenham rocking for the visit of Toulon, who are trailing Clermont at the top of the Top 14 by a single point after a loss to Grenoble last time out. The French outfit were kicked into this tie by ace-boot Johnny Wilkinson, who registered no fewer than nine penalties in the quarter final win over Leicester Tigers – Coral go 6/4 about his side opening the scoring with a penalty.
However, Saracens have won all their home games in the Heineken Cup this term and look more likely to progress than Toulon, who are far less of a force away from Stade Mayol having lost four of their last five Top 14 away games, as well as their last Heineken Cup road trip.
Munster disposed of Harlequins – victorious in all their previous Heineken Cup outings this term – and their reward is to come face to face with French Top 14 leaders Clermont, who will be looking for their eighth straight success in this year’s tournament at Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin on Saturday.
Clermont were in ominous form in the previous round, running in five tries to see off Montepellier with the minimum of fuss. However the game only really turned once their visitors lost star man Francois Trinh-Duc to injury.
It’s unlikely that a side with Munster’s reputation for hard-as-nails attritional rugby will allow Vern Cotter’s outfit so many scoring opportunities. Their ability to grind out results away from home in Europe was highlighted in an assured disposal of ‘Quins at the Stoop in the quarter finals, when a dominant back row showing coupled with unerring boot of Ronan O’Gara saw them through.
Clermont have only been denied a win of more than 12 points twice in this year’s Heineken Cup campaign, but one of those was Munster’s fellow Pro 12 outfit Leinster, who achieved it in France. Munster have a deep well of Heineken Cup experienced, having reached 10 semi finals and they can be backed at 10/11 to overcome their hosts (playing away from their own ground in Montpellier).