Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Harlequins v Saracens | Saturday 9 January | The Stoop, Twickenham | 17:10
Harlequins are the next side up to take on the juggernaut that is Saracens rugby club. The Wolf Pack have been in impeccable form this season and are yet to lose a game in both their domestic league as well as in Europe. They steamrolled Leicester last time out and will be looking to do the same against Quins this weekend. However they may not have it all their own way as ‘Quins do boast some highly talented players amongst their ranks.
To Win Match
While their game plan follows a path trudged by most English teams – kick for territory and ask questions later – Quins have managed to produce a few enterprising performances. Thier memorable 39-39 draw against Gloucester paying testament to their ability to turn on the style when given a chance.
Their match against Worcester last weekend may not have been as entertaining as that high scoring affair but Quins still managed to cross the whitewash on three occasions - which is all the more impressive when you factor in the conditions at Sixways Stadium. As you may or may not have heard, England has been pummeled by some horrendous weather in recent weeks. While Worcestershire hasn’t suffered as badly as some of the more northern counties, they have received their fair share of rain.
The adverse weather conditions left Sixaways Park rather treacherous underfoot. With the ball slipperier than a bar of soap, both sets of forwards took center stage. Harlequin’s brutes had the better of the first half and ensured their side would go in for the half time oranges with a 17-3 lead. The second stanza completely belonged to the Worcester's big boys, however.
Quins' pack struggled to deal with their fired up opposition during the second 40 and when conditions are poor, you need your big men to keep it tight and not cough up the ball; this is something the Quins forwards' coaching staff will have to concentrate on at practice this week if they are to challenge Saries.
The team from central London are going to need their pack, as well as pivot Nick Evans, to put in flawless displays at the Stoop in the derby this weekend. Saries' forwards were magnificent last week and if they are allowed to dominate, then Quins have no chance of winning this one. However, if Quins can unsettle their more illustrious opposition at the breakdown and front up to their opponents monstrous pack at the set piece, then it may give their exciting backs a chance to exploit the space that will be left due to Saracens having to commit extra players to the ruck.
Sometimes in life, you have those moments where you wish you had just kept your big mouth shut. I had one of those last week. Having run up Leicester’s chances of dominating the set piece against 'Saries', I was made to look a right idiot by the Wolf Pack. Mark McCall’s charges put on a scumming masterclass that resulted in them being awarded three penalty tries. Petrus Du Plessis, Schalk Britz and, arguably their most impressive player last weekend, Billy Vunipola decimated an extremely experienced Leicester front row.
Saracens would eventually go on to win the game 26-6. The result has left them six points clear at the top of the Aviva Premiership log and whilst we're still a few months away from the semi-finals, I honestly can’t see anyone stopping them win back to back Premiership titles.
Mark McCall is yet to announce his side but I suspect he will make a few changes. The most exciting of which could see veteran pivot, Charlie Hodgson, drop to the bench with Owen Farrell coming in for the Saries icon.
Verdict: Saracens 8/10
Saries have scored 24 tries and 232 points while conceding just five tries and 81 points in the Aviva Premiership. If that’s not enough evidence for you to back them, then I’m not sure what is. The Wolf Pack to continue their unbeaten run is my banker for the weekend.
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