Challenge Cup: Round 3 Preview

rugby players engage into a scrum

The European Rugby Challenge Cup will enter it's third round on Thursday the 6th of December.

The European domestic rugby season is back in full swing and we'll see some cross-country action this weekend with both the Champions and Challenge Cups entering their third rounds.

The second tier of Europeans elite domestic rugby competition has really produced the goods this year with some breathtaking rugby being served up in the opening two rounds. Hopefully, another tasty course is in-store for us this coming weekend.

*All odds to be added upon release

Pau v Worcester Warriors
Thursday 6 December
Stade du Hameau

To Win (80 Mins)
Pau
Draw
Worcester

We kick the third round off with a clash between French outfit Pau and English side Worcester. The hosts currently reside in third spot on the Pool 2 standings and are five points off the table-topping Warriors.

The visitors do head into this one off the back of an 18-point domestic loss to Gloucester, but they had been in solid touch on the home front up until that point. They have also been brilliant in the Challenge Cup racking up an away win over Stade Francais in the opening round and a home win over Ospreys in Round 2. Pau, on the other hand, have only tasted victory once this season with that win coming over Stade at home.

Verdict: Worcester
This should be a really tight fought game with Pau fighting for their survival in the tournament and Worcester looking to virtually cement their place in the next round. My money is on the vistors edging it by no more than five points.
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Grenoble v Agen
Thursday 6 December
Stade des Alpes

To Win (80 Mins)
Grenoble
Draw
Agen

The second and final Thursday night fixture is an all-French affair with Top 14 minnows Grenoble and Agen squaring off at the Stade des Alpes. Both teams have only managed one win this term with Grenoble beating Harlequins by six-points in the last round, and Agen beating Benetton by one point in the same round.

In terms of domestic form, Agen head into this one off the back of a morale-boosting victory over reigning Top 14 champions Castres, while Grenoble went down 22-3 to a struggling Toulon outfit this past weekend.

Verdict: Agen
I'm going to go with the away side here. They have been decent if not spectacular away from home this term, and I can see them edging a hard-fought game.
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Ensei STM v Zebre
Saturday 8 December
Yug Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Ensei
Draw
Zebre

On to Saturday's action now, and our first fixture of the days sees Russian side Ensei take on Italian outfit Zebre. The hosts have struggled this term losing their opening two games by mammoth margins. The two heavy defeats have seen them head into this round with a points differential of -99.

Zebre have been more impressive than their opponents bouncing back from their opening round away defeat to the Bristol Bears by beating the same opponents by three points in the second round.

Verdict: Zebre
The Italian side has produced some decent rugby this term. And while they aren't the best of travellers, I can still see them picking up a win in excess of 15 points here.
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Timisoara Saracens v Clermont
Saturday 8 December
Dan Paltinisanu Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Timisoara
Draw
Clermont

Next up we have a true 'David versus Goliath' clash with minnows Timiasoara taking on French giants Clermont. The visitors have got their Challenge Cup campaign off to a rollicking start and currently sit at the top of Pool 1 standings having claimed bonus point victories in their opening two fixtures.

Timisoara, on the other hand, have been woeful this term and currently reside at the foot of the pool with no points to their names.

Verdict: Clermont
When these two sides met in Clermont in Round 2 the hosts run out 72-12 victors. And while I can see the French outfit resting a host of players for the long trip, I can still see them clearing a handicap which will likely be set at around the 40 to 45 point mark.
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Benetton v Harlequins
Saturday 8 December
Stadio Comunale Di Monigo

To Win (80 Mins)
Benetton
Draw
Harlequins

We head from the cold fields of Eastern Europe to North-Eastern Italy for our next fixture, which will see Benetton take on Harlequins. The English side claimed a massive scalp last week as they beat the previously unbeaten Exter Chiefs in a Gallagher Premiership match.

Treviso also head into the Third Round of the Challenge Cup off the back of a win as they beat the Kings by three-points in a Pro14 tie.

Verdict: Harlequins
Both sides currently sit on six points on the Pool 5 standings which means that this game will have a massive bearing on who first place. While I think it will be a hard-fought affair, I can see the English club coming out on top and pushing themselves into pole position to claim pool honours.
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Northampton Saints v Dragons
Saturday 8 December
Franklin's Gardens

To Win (80 Mins)
Northampton
Draw
Dragons

From Italy to England we go for our next clash which will see the Northampton Saints tackle the Dragons. The hosts head into this one level on pool points with their opponent, and really need to bag this home win if they are to remain in the hunt for a berth in the next round.

The Dragons were handed a massive reality check in the Pro14 last weekend as they were hammered 10-59 by a Leinster side missing a plethora of their first stringers. Northampton fared far better on the domestic front last week as they beat a talented Wasps side 36-17.

Verdict: Northampton
The Saints are starting to hit their straps and I can see them claiming another impressive win here. My money is on the hosts taking it by eight points or more.
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Connacht v Perpignan
Saturday 8 December
The Sportsground

To Win (80 Mins)
Connacht
Draw
Perpignan

We continue Saturday's action with a tie between in-form Irish Province Connacht and French strugglers Perpignan. The hosts head into this one off the back of a solid Pro14 away win over the Cheetahs while Perpignan make the trip having suffered yet another Top 14 defeat - an 11-22 loss to the Bordeaux Begles.

Verdict: Connacht
I haven't gone into much detail here as I feel Perpignan are in for a hiding. My money is on the hosts taking this one by 20 points or more.
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Ospreys v Stade Francais
Saturday 8 December
Liberty Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Ospreys
Draw
Stade

We're in for a tasty clash next up as the Ospreys take on a Stade side that have once again failed to deliver the goods in Europe. The hosts have won one of their opening two Challenge Cup fixtures but sit in second spot on the Pool 2 standings due to their penchant for picking up bonus points.

Stade have endured a far tougher start to the campaign than their opponents losing both their opening games. These two losses have relegated them to the foot of the pool standings.

Verdict: Ospreys
The hosts should be able to take this one mainly due to home ground advantage.
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Bristol Bears v La Rochelle
Saturday 8 December
Ashton Gate

To Win (80 Mins)
Bristol
Draw
La Rochelle

The penultimate game of the weekend should be an absolute epic with resurgent La Rochelle taking on the attack-minded Bristol Bears. The hosts have enjoyed a solid start to the campaign and currently sit second on the Pool 4 standings. A win here would see them leapfrog the visitors into top spot on the pool standings.

La Rochelle have carried their European form with them into the Top 14 with the French side racking up some massive scalps on the domestic front over the past two months.

Verdict: Bristol
This should be a cracker of a game with Bristol intent on running the ball from all quarters. I can see their gung-ho approach seeing them to a win here.
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Bordeaux Begles v Sale Sharks
Saturday 8 December
Stade Chaban-Delmas

To Win (80 Mins)
Bordeaux
Draw
Sale

We close out the Round 3 action with a tie between the Bordeaux Begles and Sale Sharks. The hosts desperately need the win here as they currently only have two points to their names, while a Sale bonus-point win would all but assure the Manchester sides appearance in the next round of the competition.

In terms of recent form, Bordeaux head into this one off the back of a good 11-point Top 14 away win over Perpignan while Sale make the trip having gone down 31-25 to Saracens.

Verdict: Sale
I can see the Sharks continuing their red-hot European form this weekend.

Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets


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