Heineken Champions Cup 2018/19 – Sunday 21st October

 

Sunday 21 October

Newcastle Falcons (+4) v Montpellier (-4)

1.00pm, BT Sport 2 and 4K UHD

 

This is a blockbuster clash with pole position in the pool up for grabs. Newcastle were not expected to take anything more than a bonus point at best from their trip to Toulon, but they came away with a deserved win, recovering from a horror early start thanks to superior discipline – they had one yellow card to the hosts’ three – and the super kicking of Joel Hodgson, who landed four penalties and a conversion.

 

Montpellier started quickly against Edinburgh, scoring 21 first-half points, and then managed to deny the visitors a bonus point, something that will be important when it comes to the final showdown in the pool. Their two converted tries in the last minutes of the first half were a sign of their class, with Benjamin Fall breaking through a series of tackles before touching down and then a fantastic cross kick found the arms of Gabriel Ngandebe.

 

That shows the brilliant individual quality that Montpellier have but they are shorn of many leading names, especially at flyhalf where Ruan Pienaar had to fill in last week. In such an environment he could be exposed, especially with high winds expected.

 

Montpellier do have a huge pack, filled with quality, but Newcastle dominated much of the contact exchanges in the first half and now can give themselves a real chance of qualifying with a win against the visitors.

 

Advice: 3 pts Newcastle +4 (10/11 Betfair)

 

 

Cardiff Blues (+3) v Glasgow (-3)

3:15pm, BT Sport 3 and 4K UHD

 

 

The one thing this is sure to be is tight. Cardiff come here after a sensational performance against Lyon, when their superior speed at the breakdown and pace around the park ran a Lyon side off their feet as they won comprehensively in France. Glasgow got no reward for their serious fight against Saracens but gave the visitors one of their roughest tests of the season, with defences on top in a brutally physical encounter.

 

 

This game should be more open; Coach John Mulvihill says it was his side’s defence which secured them a 30-21 European Champions Cup win in Lyon but there was 51 points in the game as Tomos Williams and Gareth Anscombe dominated, and Glasgow’s Adam Hastings ought to relish a chance to show more of his abilities. This is a rare encounter between two teams that bothy play on artificial pitches and as such both are familiar with eachother; The last two games held here between the two have finished 23-19 (Blues win) and 29-20 (Cardiff win) so dutching a 1-5 point winning margin for both sides could be value although a back to lay on the draw could be interesting.

 

Advice: 1 pt back to lay, Draw (23 Betfair)

 

Sunday 21 October

Toulouse (+7) v Leinster (-8)

3:15pm, BT Sport 3 and 4K UHD

 

Leinster served a serious notice of their ambitions to retain this title with their 52-3 dismantling of Wasps and they can put themselves in the driving seat of this pool with victory against Toulouse. The Champions were in sparkling form last week even before a yellow card to Lima Sopoaga effectively ended the game as contest but it’s doubtful that Wasps would have been able to cope in any case with the speed and subtlety of their attack.

 

Last week the only starter in their XV who wasn’t a test starter was James Lowe, who went onto score two tries whilst Luke McGrath (2), Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw, Jack McGrath and Sean Cronin also scored.

 

Wasps didn’t have an answer to Leinster’s sheer quality but it’s unlikely many teams in Europe will and Toulouse have a huge challenge. They have given themselves a fighting chance of qualifying given their smash and grab win at Bath last weekend, but it was a game that they lost – or namely Freddie Burns – rather than Toulouse winning.

 

Credit must go to the hosts for their sharp offloading game and resilience to come from 17-7 down. Maxime Medara won the match for them with a fine try and brilliant knockdown, Cheslin Kolbe evaded defenders all day, and Sofiane Guitoune’s excellent lines were a constant problem. But facing Leinster, who won at Montpellier, Glasgow and Exeter last season, is a different kettle of fish and they can’t be trusted to make the same mistakes as Bath did. A handicap of nine is an ambitious one but they can pass it and win convincingly.

 

Advice: 2 pts Leinster -9 (10/11 general), 1 pt Leinster to win by 11-20 points (10/3 Betfair)