Challenge Cup: Round 5 Preview

rugby players engage into a scrum

The Fifth Round of the 2018/19 European Rugby Challenge Cup will get underway on Friday the 11th of January.

Round Five of the 2018/19 Challenge Cup promises to be a tasty one with teams desperately trying to secure passage through to the knock-out phase of the tournament. There's some great value on offer this weekend along with some tasty clashes including the French-Anglo affair between Clermont and the Northampton Saints.

La Rochelle v Zebre
Friday 11 January
Stade Marcel Delfrandre

To Win (80 Mins)
La Rochelle 1/50
Draw 25/1
Zebre 14/1

We get proceedings underway with a French-Italian affair as La Rochelle take on Italian outfit Zebre. The hosts head into this one having won three of their four Challenge Cup fixtures, with their only defeat being their 3-13 home loss to the Bristol Bears in Round 4.

Zebre have also enjoyed a marvellous Challenge Cup campaign and have an identical win/loss record as that of their opponents for this weekend. Like, La Rochelle, Zebre's only defeat in the tournament came at the hands of the Bristol Bears who beat them 43-22 at Ashton Gate in Round 1.

Verdict: La Rochelle 1/50
The French outfit will be exceptionally keen to take this one having lost their domestic fixture against Clermont last weekend. I can see the hosts winning it by more than 14 points and securing their place in the next round.

Perpignan v Bordeaux Begles
Friday 11 January
Stade Aime Giral

To Win (80 Mins)
Perpignan 16/10
Draw 20/1
Bordeaux 5/10

Next up is an all-French affair with Perpignan taking on Bordeaux. The hosts have endured a nightmare of a domestic season and are yet to register a win in the Top 14. They have also failed to win a game in the Challenge Cup with their best result being a commendable 25-25 draw with Bordeaux in the first leg tie between the sides.

While Perpignan have no chance of advancing to the next phase of the Challenge Cup, Bordeaux are still in with a chance, although they'd need a minor miracle if they are to overhaul second-placed Connacht who sit seven points clear of them on the Pool 3 standings.

Verdict: Perpignan 16/10
I quite fancy the hosts to bag their first win of the season here. Bordeaux are unlikely to take this one seriously as their hopes of advancing to the knock-out phase are slimmer than a supermodel who's come down with a case of diarrhoea. As such, the visitors are likely to field a much-weakened side this coming Friday.

Dragons v Timisoara Saracens
Friday 11 January
Rodney Parade

To Win (80 Mins)
Dragons N/A
Draw 33/1
Timisoara 22/1

We head from France to Wales for our next instalment which will see the Newport Gwent Dragons take on Russian whipping boys, Timisoara Saracens. The hosts currently sit fourth on the Pool 1 standings with only a solitary win to their names, while the visitors are rooted to the foot of the log with a staggering points differential of -156.

Verdict: Dragons
The Dragons are out of the running for a berth in the knock-out phase, which means they'll field a very youthful looking squad. Despite the expected mass rotation, I can see the hosts still winning this one by more than 28 points. 

Stade Francais v Pau
Friday 11 January
Stade Jean Bouin

To Win (80 Mins)
Stade 1/5
Draw 22/1
Pau 9/2

We return to France for Friday night's final fixture which will see Stade Francais lock horns with Pau. Both teams have to win this one in order to stay in the hunt for a place in the knockout phase, so this one should be extremely hard fought.

In terms of Challenge Cup form, Stade have only won one of their games, which was a 12-3 home win over Ospreys in Round 4, while Pau's two wins have come against Stade and Worcester at home.

Verdict: Stade 1/5
Pau really do struggle on the road and I can see them losing another game away from the safety of home.

Ensei STM v Bristol Bears
Saturday 12 January
Yug Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Ensei
Draw
Bristol

We kick Saturday's action off with a clash between Ensei-STM and the Bristol Bears. The former find themselves without a win in the tournament and rooted to the foot of the Pool 4 standings and with no chance of advancing to the next round, while Bristol are in third position and still have a shout of making it to the knock-out phase.

Verdict: Bristol
The Bears will be targeting a bonus point win here that could see them move into second place in the pool headed into the final round of the group phase. My money is on them achieving this by bagging a win in excess of 17 points.

Benetton Treviso v Agen
Saturday 12 January
Stadio Comunal di Monigo

To Win (80 Mins)
Treviso
Draw
Agen

In-form Zebre take on French minnows Agen in the day's next fixture. The hosts currently lie second in Pool 5 and are only one point off first-placed Harlequins, who take Grenoble this weekend. Agen also find themselves in a handy position headed into the final two games of the pool phase sitting only a point off Treviso.

Verdict: Zebre
I can see Treviso delivering a knock-out punch to Agen here. The hosts have been in scintillating form in the PRO14 and head into this one off the back of a famous victory over the Glasgow Warriors. I can see them winning this one by eight points or more.

Harlequins v Grenoble
Saturday 12 January
Twickenham Stoop

To Win (80 Mins)
Harlequins
Draw
Grenoble

The Pool 5 action continues out in London with pool leaders Harlequins taking on third-placed Grenoble. A bonus point victory for the hosts would guarantee them a spot in the knock-out phase while an upset away victory would well and truly throw the cat amongst the pigeons in an already competitive group.

'Quins have picked up some form of late, impressing in their domestic competition, the Gallagher Premiership. They head into this one off a solid 21-point away victory over the Newcastle Falcons.

Verdict: Harlequins
I'm backing the hosts to secure their place in the next round by registering a big win over their French opponents. My money is on them taking this one by more than 16 points.

Connacht v Sale Sharks
Saturday 12 January
The Sportsground

To Win (80 Mins)
Connacht
Draw
Sale

We make the short trip from London to Ireland for our next fixture which will see a red-hot Sale side lock horns with Connacht. The hosts currently sit three points off the visitors who lead Pool 3. A win here would see them move into the driver's seat to claim qualification.

Sale can secure their participation in the next round with a win here. The English side have been in great touch domestically a come into this one off the back of a magnificent victory over Premiership heavyweight Saracens.

Verdict: Sale
This Sale side really are starting to exceed expectations. I can see them making it a famous fortnight in the club's history by getting one over Connacht here.

Ospreys v Worcester Warriors
Saturday 12 January
Liberty Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Ospreys
Draw
Worcester

The penultimate game of Round 5 will see Ospreys and Worcester square off at the Liberty Stadium. Only two points separate the sides on the Pool 2 standings with Worcester currently occupying pole position. The English side have struggled for form of late and could well come up short against an Ospreys side, who while hit-and-miss, know how to produce the goods on home soil.

Verdict: Ospreys
Worcester can't buy a win at the moment and I can see them struggling against a solid Ospreys outfit.

Clermont v Northampton Saints
Saturday 12 January
Stade Marcel Michelin

To Win (80 Mins)
Clermont
Draw
Northampton

The tournament's scheduling authorities certainly saved the best for last this coming weekend with Clermont and Northampton set to square off in a first versus second Pool 1 clash. The hosts only need a point from this game to guarantee themselves a berth in the next round while two bonus points would be enough to ensure Northampton's participation in the knock-out phase.

Clermont have been the form team in the tournament winning all four of their previous games with a bonus point. Northampton have also fared well with their only loss being a 20-41 home defeat to this weekend's opponents in the opening round of the tournament.

Verdict: Clermont
This should be a cracking match with both teams keen on running the ball. I can see Clermont winning a high-scoring game by eight points or more.

Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets

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