Challenge Cup: Round 2 Preview

rugby players engage into a scrum

Round 2 of the European Rugby Challenge Cup gets underway on Thursday the 18th of October. 

The opening round of the 2018/19 European Rugby Challenge Cup went almost exactly to script with French big guns La Rochelle and Clermont racking up mammoth wins. The only real surprise of the round came out in Paris where an injury-stricken Worcester Warriors beat a star-studded Stade Francais outfit by 11 points.

Round 2 looks slightly tougher to predict on paper with a lot of strength versus strength games set to take place. The most evenly matched and intriguing affair looks to be the French derby between Pau and Stade Francais.

*All odds to be added upon release

Agen v Benetton Treviso
Thursday 18 October
Stade Armandie

To Win (80 Mins)
Agen 6/10
Draw 20/1
Treviso 13/10

We kick the action off with a French-Italian clash between Agen and Treviso. The hosts come into this one off the back of a 54-22 defeat to Harlequins in London while Treviso make the trip off a far more positive result as they beat Grenoble 40-14.

Verdict: Treviso 13/10
The Italian club really are enjoying a magnificent start to the season. I will be backing them to continue their rich vein of form here. 
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La Rochelle v Ensei STM
Thursday 18 October
Stade Marcel Delfrandre

To Win (80 Mins)
La Rochelle 1/1
Draw 30/1
Ensei 20/1

La Rochelle will be looking to register another big win when they take on minnows Ensei for the second week running. The French side enjoyed a marvellous start to their European campaign as they hammered this weekend's opponents 21-82 out in Krasnoyarsk.

Verdict: La Rochelle 1/1
They may rest a few more players this week but I can still see La Rochelle racking up a big win. My money is on the hosts taking it by 40 points or more. 
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Dragons v Northampton Saints
Thursday 18 October
Rodney Parade

To Win (80 Mins)
Dragons 
Draw
Northampton

We leave France for Wales for our next fixture which will see PRO14 outfit the Newport Gwent Dragons take on English side the Northampton Saints.

The hosts got their season underway with a solid 17-54 victory over minnows Timisoara Saracens while Northampton went down 20-41 to tournaments favourites Clermont at Franklin's Gardens.

Verdict: Dragons
I expect this to be a closely contested affair which sees the home side take the spoils by no more than four points. 
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Pau v Stade Francais
Saturday 20 October
Stade du Hameau

To Win (80 Mins)
Pau
Draw
Stade

Next up we have the headline clash of the round with Pau and Stade Francais locking horns in an all-French affair.

The hosts head into the derby off the back of a 27-0 defeat to the Ospreys out in Wales while Stade make the short journey having gone down 27-38 to English outfit Worcester on home soil.

The two sides have already met in domestic competition this term with Stade running out 13-25 victors at the Stade du Hameau.

Verdict: Stade
I suspect Stade will field a much stronger side this time around. The return of their all-star cast should be enough to see them to victory over a Pau side they have already beaten this season. 
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Zebre v Bristol
Saturday 20 October
Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi

To Win (80 Mins)
Zebre
Draw
Bristol

We make the short journey from France to Italy for our next game which sees Zebre take on the Bristol Bears.

The Italian outfit got their 2017/18 Challenge Cup campaign off to a woeful start as they went down 43-22 to this weekend's opponents at Ashton Gate. The bonus-point victory will have given the Bears - who were starting to lose a bit of momentum domestically - a massive confidence boost.

Verdict: Bristol
The Bears are certainly a team to keep an eye on this season. They have a great squad who should be able to get one over Zebre away from home.  
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Clermont v Timisoara Saracens
Saturday 20 October
Stade Marcel-Michelin

To Win (80 Mins)
Clermont
Draw
Timisoara

Timisoara Saracens face the unenviable task of taking on mighty Clermont at the Stade Marcel-Michelin this Saturday.

The hosts were in fine form during the opening round as they beat the Northampton Saints by 21 points at Franklin's Gardens. Timisoara enjoyed a polar opposite start to their campaign as they went down 17-54 to the Dragons.

Verdict: Clermont
This will inevitably end in tears for the visitors. I think Clermont may well put 70 points over Timisoara this weekend. 
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Worcester v Ospreys
Saturday 20 October
Sixways Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Worcester
Draw
Ospreys

Next up we have an Anglo-Welsh battle between English Premiership side Worcester and PRO14 out the Ospreys.

The English side produced the result of the opening round as they beat Stade Francais 27-38 in the French capital. Ospreys also got their tournament off on the right foot by racking up a 27-0 victory over Pau.

Verdict: Worcester
I wouldn't underestimate the English club. They played some mesmerizing rugby last weekend, and if they play half as well here they'll claim the points. 
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Sale Sharks v Connacht
Saturday 20 October
AJ Bell Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Sale
Draw
Connacht

Our next encounter sees Sale and Connacht square off in Manchester. There's a lot of talk over Ireland and England having a hard border, and while that issue will be settled at the European Union this game may have just as many spats as both teams contain some very aggressive players.

Sale got their campaign off to a solid start as they registered a 21-44 bonus point win over French minnows Perpignan. Connacht also enjoyed a successful opening round beating the Bordeaux Begles 22-10.

Verdict: Connacht
Sale have struggled domestically this year and I think home pressures may take their toll here. My money is on the visitors nicking a win. 
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Bordeaux v Perpignan
Saturday 20 October
Stade Chaban-Delmas

To Win (80 Mins)
Bordeaux
Draw
Perpignan

We move on from Anglo-Irish rivalries to French domestic ones with Bordeaux playing host to Perpignan. Both teams head into this one off opening day defeats with Bordeaux going down by 12 points to Connacht in Ireland and Perpignan losing to Sale by 23 points in France.

Verdict: Bordeaux
When French sides meet it is usually the host team that comes out on top, and I can't see that trend ending here. 
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Grenoble v Harlequins
Saturday 20 October
Stade des Alpes

To Win (80 Mins)
Grenoble
Draw
Harlequins

We close out the round with a game between French minnows Grenoble and English side Harlequins.

The two sides head into this one off the back of conflicting results with 'Quins hammering Agen 54-22 and Grenoble going down 40-14 to Treviso. Both teams have rather ragged defences, so we could well see a big scoreline here.

Verdict: Harlequins
The English club should have no troubles getting one over the French minnows. My money is on 'Quins taking this one by 15 points or more. 

Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets


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