Challenge Cup: Round 4 Preview

rugby players engage into a scrum

Round 4 of the European Rugby Challenge Cup gets underway this coming weekend.

The cross-continental European rugby action is coming thick and fast at the moment with the fourth round of the European Champions Cup getting underway just six days after the close of the third round.

Agen v Grenoble
Friday 14 December
Stade Armandie


To Win (80 Mins)
Agen
Draw

Grenoble

We kick the action off with an all-French Pool 5 clash between Agen and Grenoble. Both teams are in with a shot of advancing to the next phase of the tournament with the hosts only a bonus point win adrift of log-leaders Treviso, and the visitors trailing the pace-setters by just two points.

The two sides squared off last weekend with Grenoble running out 22-15 victors. This was actually the second meeting between the two sides this term with the first, a Top 14 clash, ending in a 9-9 draw.

Verdict: Agen
This one should be a very tight contest with both sides rather evenly matched. I have a feeling that the hosts will just sneak this one and in the process, keep their dreams of advancing to the knockout phase alive. 
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Perpignan v Connacht
Friday 14 December
Stade Aime Giral


To Win (80 Mins)
Perpignan
Draw

Connacht

We remain in France for our next fixture which will see French minnows Perpignan take on former Pro12 winners Connacht. The French outfit are yet to win a game this term in both the Challenge Cup and Top 14. They currently sit in third place on the Pool 3 standings and need a win here to have any chance of advancing to the knock-out phase of the tournament.

Connacht have fared a lot better in the Challenge Cup and currently reside in second spot on the standings - seven points behind pool leaders Sale.

Verdict: Connacht
I'm expecting a much-improved showing from Connacht who only managed to register a 22-10 win over Perpignan last weekend. My money is on the visitors taking it by 14 points or more here.
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Stade Francais v Ospreys
Friday 14 December
Stade Jean Bouin


To Win (80 Mins)
Stade
Draw

Ospreys

We travel from Perpignan to the French capital for our next clash which will see Stade Francais take on the Ospreys in a crucial Pool 2 affair. The hosts need a bonus point win here to keep their slim hopes of advancing to the next phase of the tournament alive, while a win for the visitors would all but secure their qualification to the knock-out stage.

The French giants have endured a poor European campaign this term losing all three of their previous fixtures, with their most recent defeat being last weekend's 51-20 trouncing at the hands of the Ospreys.

Verdict: Ospreys
I really think Stade will throw in the towel this weekend and field a highly inexperienced side in a bid to keep their senior players fresh for their domestic commitments. 
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Timisoara Saracens v Northampton Saints
Saturday 15 December

Dan Paltinisanu Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Timisoara

Draw
Saints


Pool 1 whipping boys, the Timisoara Saracens, will take on the second-placed Northampton Saints in Saturday's opening fixture. The hosts find themselves at the foot of the standings with no points to their name and a points differential of -128. They head into Saturday's affair off the back of yet another drubbing as they went down 14-47 to Clermont last weekend.

The Saints enjoyed a much more profitable Round 3 as they registered a 48-14 home win over Welsh club, the Dragons.

Verdict: Northampton
The Saints know that a bonus point win here would put them in firm control of second spot in the pool. I can see them doing just this by claiming a victory in excess of 24 points.
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Clermont v Dragons
Saturday 15 December
Stade Marcel-Michelin

To Win (80 Mins)

Clermont
Draw

Dragons

We stay in mainland Europe for our next fixture which will see Pool 1 leaders Clermont take on the third-placed Dragons. The hosts have enjoyed a flawless first half of the pool phase winning all three of their games and registering a bonus point in each of their three fixtures.

The Dragons have been far less prolific this term and have only won one of their three pool games. They head into Saturday's clash off the back of a heavy away defeat to the Northampton Saints.

Verdict: Clermont
The French outfit are in great form at the minute and should have no troubles seeing off a struggling Dragons side. My money is on the hosts taking this one by 15 points or more. 
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Harlequins v Treviso
Saturday 15 December
Twickenham Stoop

To Win (80 Mins)
Harlequins
Draw
Treviso


Harlequins will be looking to reignite a faltering campaign when they take on high-flying Italian outfit Treviso. The visitors currently occupy top spot on the Pool 5 standings and are three points clear of their opponents. A defeat here, however, could well see Treviso drop to third on the standings.

The hosts head into Saturday's encounter off the back of a five-point away defeat to this weekend's opponents.

Verdict: Harlequins
A return to home soil should be enough to see Harlequins to a win here.
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Zebre v Ensei- STM
Saturday 15 December
Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi


To Win (80 Mins)
Zebre
Draw
Ensei


Zebre will be looking to claim a bonus point victory over Pool 4 minnows Ensei when the two sides lock horns out in Italy this Saturday. The hosts head into the game in second-place on the pool standings, and a bonus point victory here could see them solidify their second place berth with challengers Bristol facing a tough assignment in La Rochelle this weekend.

Verdict: Zebre
Ensei have really struggled this term losing all three of their games by rather heavy margins. I can see another heavy defeat being inflicted upon them here. My money is on the hosts taking this one by 20 points or more. 
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Worcester Warriors v Pau
Saturday 15 December 

Sixways Stadium 

To Win (80 Mins)
Worcester
Draw
Pau


The Worcester Warriors will be looking to put further daylight between themselves and Pau on the Pool 2 standings when the two sides square off at Sixways on Saturday. The hosts have enjoyed a mightily impressive opening half of their Challenge Cup pool phase campaign and have registered two wins from their three fixtures.

Pau, like Worcester, have won two of their three fixtures but sit a point behind their opponents as they have failed to pick up a bonus point.

Verdict: Worcester
The Warriors may have suffered a 15 point defeat to the same opponents last weekend but I fully expect them to bounce back and claim a win on home soil. 
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Sale Sharks v Bordeaux Begles
Saturday 15 December
AJ Bell Stadium


To Win (80 Mins)
Sale
Draw
Bordeaux


The penultimate game of Round 4 will see Pool 3 leaders Sale take on cellar-swellers Bordeaux. The hosts have registered a flawless record thus far and head into the encounter off the back of three bonus-point victories, with their most recent win being last Saturday's 24-50 away win over Bordeaux

Bordeaux, on the other hand, have yet to win a game this term and are virtually out of the running for a place in the next round.

Verdict: Sale
I fear Bordeaux may again be embarrassed by this rampant Sharks side. My money is on the hosts winning this one by 20 points or more.  
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La Rochelle v Bristol Bears
Saturday 15 December
Stade Marcel Delfrandre


To Win (80 Mins)
La Rochelle
Draw
Bristol


We close out the round with what should be another entertaining meeting between La Rochelle and the Bristol Bears. The duo met last weekend in a game that saw over 55 points scored with La Rochelle running out 22-35 victors at Ashton Gate.

The Bears need to at least claim two bonus points from this one to keep their hopes of qualifying for the next phase well and truly alive. As such, we're like to see the English side go hunting for four tries.

Verdict: La Rochelle
I expect La Rochelle to take the honours on their own patch but not by much. If you're offered a plus handicap in the region of eight points, I recommend backing the away side on it. 

Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets


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