London Wasps v Exeter Chiefs | Saturday 5 December | Ricoh Arena | 19:25
The pick of this week's European rugby action sees the second-placed Exeter Chiefs travel to London to take on one of the most exciting attacking forces in European rugby, the London Wasps.
With Saracens opening up a larger gap at the top of the Aviva Premiership log with each passing week, both of these teams will be going all out to ensure they close the chasm between themselves and the log-leaders.
To Win (80 Mins)
* Odds to be added upon release
The Aviva Premiership's answer to Sigfried and Roy continued to leave fans of Union spellbound with last weeks magnificent exhibition of skill. The magicians in question, Charles Pitau and Frank Halai continued their scintillating start to the season, by donning the roles of playmakers in chief against London Irish.
The duo's combination play once again proved to be the catalyst for Wasps as they wracked up their third victory of the season by beating the Exeter Chiefs 15-33. Halai managed to grab two tries. The first was set up by Pitau. The All Black caught Irish's defence napping with a quick tap inside his 22. He spread the ball to James Haskell, who went surging up field. The England International was hauled down deep inside the opposition twenty-two. The ball was recycled and after a few of the big men carried it up, the ball was eventually moved wide to Halai, who had a simple run in for his first try of the game. Ruriadh Jackson was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt, but it didn't really matter as Wasps took an 11 -3 lead into the halftime break.
The Halai and Pitau show continued in the second stanza, with the former Auckland Blues running the London Irish defence ragged. Although, Irish tried to fight back, Wasps just had too much quality in their ranks for their opponents to contain. Halai dotted down for his second with only seconds left on the clock and ensured there was a bit of extra gloss added to an already comprehensive winning margin.
Wasps are in for a much tougher test this weekend as the Chiefs have been playing some exciting - and winning - rugby themselves. There will be some huge personal battles between the two sets of players that will swing the game either way. The key area for me is the battle between the two flyhalves. Ruaridh Jackson has been in fantastic form for the London-based club whilst his opposite number, Henry Slade, has been in immaculate form himself. With both teams likely to feel each other out for the opening stanza, there's going to be a huge emphasis on the pivots converting their kicks.
A late penalty miss from former Sharks man and current Harlequins ten, Tim Swiel, saw the Chiefs claim their fourth victory of the season. The men from Exeter haven't lost a game since the opening round and look like the only team in the league who can truly challenge Saracens for the title. However, it's been a strange start to the competition and I'm not bold enough to declare the Chiefs as the only contender to Saracens thrown. Their opponents for this weekend could also factor in to the equation come the end of the round robin fixtures next year. While the league is still in its embryonic phase, this game is being labelled as a must win for both teams.
If the Chiefs are to make it five wins from six games they're going to have to keep Halai and Pitau quite. Fullback Phil Dollman is likely to play a crucial role in doing this. Regardless of how good your defensive structure is Halai and Pitau are going to break through it at some point. Dollman will be the one scrambling across to try shut the two former Blues boys. Another man who could play a key role for Chiefs is utility back Henry Slade. The young Englishman has been deployed as an outside centre for the start of the campaign and his ability to marshal a backline will be crucial to the Chiefs chances.
Make no bones about it, this game is going to be a tight affair. I fancy Wasps to just sneak it - they've been playing some good running rugby and with the Halai, Pitau combination seemingly at the peak of its power they should be able to get one over the men from Exter. Back Wasps to get the job done.
Bet on this match now at Hollywoodbets.net! Haven’t got an account? Open one here now