After an exhilarating first weekend of action the Heineken Cup returns for its second round of action. There were impressive performances from the French giants with Toulouse, Toulon and Clermont all laying down markers with powerful wins. Exeter came extremely close to upsetting the defending champions Leinster, while Harlequins were extremely clinical as they produced a bonus point victory over Biarritz.
Here are my pick of the round two matches with best bets for each game:
Castres v Northampton – Friday 8pm
Castres endured a torrid start to their campaign and were soundly beaten 41-17 by Ulster, but despite the heavy loss the French side showed flashes of what they are capable of with a couple of well worked scores. Northampton produced a powerful second half display to earn a victory over Glasgow, with two George Pisi tries helping them claim maximum points from round one.
When these two sides met in France last season the hosts came out on top in an open game, and the home side are 4/6 favourites (Boylesports). The Saints are well priced at 11/8 (Paddy Power) but the home strength of French sides as to be taken into consideration.
Exeter v Clermont Auvergne – Saturday 6pm
The Exeter Chiefs showed no signs of nerves on their first Heineken Cup outing and came within three points of earning a draw with reigning champions Leinster. This weekend they return to Sandy Park and welcome another goliath of European rugby, Clermont Auvergne. The French side opened their account with a comfortable bonus point victory over the Scarlets, and they will be looking to consolidate their position at the top of the group.
Exeter have made Sandy Park a fortress over the past three seasons, with only a handful of teams leaving Devon with a victory, and as they proved in round one the Chiefs will be no pushovers. There is no doubting that this will be an extremely tight game, likely to be low on points, so Exeter’s handicap of +6 is a tempting prospect. Clermont are a classy outfit but they have tended to struggle away from home in recent years and their price of 4/9 (Sky Bet) isn’t worth backing.
Cardiff v Toulon – Sunday 12.45pm
Cardiff looked certain winners at half time of their opening match against Sale, after Alex Cuthbert’s hat-trick gave them 12 point lead. But Danny Cipriani inspired the hosts to remarkable comeback, and the Blues had to settle for a losing bonus point. By contrast Toulon started their campaign with a powerful display against Montpelier, with Delon Armitages two tries helping them to a bonus point win.
French sides traditionally struggle on their travels, but Toulon are a team who can handle the pressure of playing away from their own patch, and their odds on price of 4/11 (Bet 365) is justified. Cardiff need to get back to winning ways and they can send out a big message with a win over the much fancied French side, they are best priced at 9/4 (Bet Victor).