Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: European Rugby Challenge and Champions Cup: Semi-Finals Preview

European Rugby Challenge and Champions Cup: Semi-Finals Preview



Darry Worthington previews the semi-finals of the 2019/20 European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, which get underway on Friday the 25th of September.

Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sport

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

After what seems like an eternity, the European Challenge and Champions Cups are drawing ever closer to their conclusions, with the two competitions reaching their semi-final stages this coming weekend. 
 The Challenge Cup - which has been something of the ugly stepdaughter of European rugby - has two cracking fixtures in-store with a rampant Bristol Bears side taking on a talented Bordeaux Begles outfit, and French giants Toulon taking on a floundering yet dangerous Leicester Tigers team. 

The Champions Cup will also see two Anglo-French affairs with Racing Metro 92 taking on Saracens and the Exeter Chiefs squaring off with Cheslin Kolbe's Toulouse. 

Challenge Cup
Bristol Bears v Bordeaux Begles
Friday 25 September
fi18:45

To Win (80 Mins)
Bristol 3/10
Draw 22/1
Bordeaux51/20

Handicap
Bristol
Bordeaux

The first of this weekend's all Anglo-English affairs will see Pat Lam's sensational Bristol side take on Christophe Urios' solid Bordeaux outfit at Ashton Gate. 

The hosts have been nothing short of phenomenal since the domestic English season restarted winning five of their seven games on their way to putting themselves in the hunt for a Gallagher Premiership semi-final berth. They have also carried that form into the Challenge Cup it seems as they hammered the Newport Gwent Dragons 56-17 in last weekend's quarter-final. 

Bordeaux will know the odds will be well and truly stacked against them when they take to Ashton Gate this coming Saturday. Bordeaux have played far less rugby than their opponents in recent weeks with only two friendlies, a Top 14 fixture and last weekend's Challenge Cup quarter-final clash under their belts. They have won all of the aforementioned fixtures, however, with their last victory being a 23-14 Challenge Cup win over Edinburgh. 

Verdict: Bristol (-) *Handicap to be added on release
The Bears are unstoppable at the moment and I can see them winning this one at a canter. 

Toulon v Leicester Tigers
Saturday 26 September
Stade Felix Mayol
20:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Toulon 1/5
Draw 24/1
Leicester 7/2

Handicap

Toulon 
Leicester

*Handicap to be added on release

We cross the English channel for our next fixture which will see mega-spenders Toulon play host to a Leicester Tigers side that lost a number of stars during the COVID break. 

The hosts have enjoyed a decent enough rugby restart winning one of their two Top 14 fixtures - they beat Lyon 36-14 after going down 29-15 to La Rochelle in the opening round of the 2020/21 Top 14 season - while grinding out an 11-6 Challenge Cup quarter-final win over plucky Welsh side, the Scarlets. 

Leicester haven't fared as well domestically since the Gallagher Premiership restarted and have only won one of their six domestic fixtures. They managed to get through their Challange Cup quarter-final with no problems, however, as they beat the Cardiff Blues 30-20.

Verdict: Leicester (+ ) *Handicap to be added on release
I reckon this one will be extremely tight with Toulon having not run away with a knockout game in what seems like forever. As such, I'll be all over any plus handicap in excess of six points. 

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Champions Cup  

Racing Metro 92 v Saracens
Saturday 26 September
Paris La Defense Arena
14:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Racing 6/10
Draw 20/1
Saracens 27/20
Handicap
Racing 
Saracens

*Handicap to be added on release

Onto the big guns now, and the first of this weekend's Champions Cup semi-finals will see 2017/18 runners up Racing Metro take on reigning champions Saracens. 

Both sides caused upsets last weekend with Racing beating local rivals and short favourites  - well, they were short by the kick-off  - Clermont Auvergne 27-36, while Saracens beat much-fancied and unbeaten Leinster 17-25. 

Saracens, who are already without star pivot Owen Farrell, are likely to be robbed of yet another veteran player with former Western Province flanker Michael Rhodes having been cited for a head butt during last weekend's quarter-final. 
This will be music to Racing's airs as they will fancy themselves to win the physical battle with hardmen Farrell and Rhodes set to miss out for 'Saries. 
Verdict: Racing 6/10
While Saracens were great last weekend, I cannot see them matching that intensity against Racing in France.

Exeter Chiefs v Toulouse 
Sunday 27 September

Sandy Park
16:30

To Win (80 Mins)
Exeter 13/20
Draw 20/1
Toulouse 13/10

Handicap
Exeter
Toulouse

*Handicap to be added on release

The curtain will come down on the Champions Cup semi-finals over in Devonshire where Gallagher Premiership leaders Exeter will play host to reigning Top 14 champions, Toulouse. 

The hosts put in a rampant second-half display against local rivals Northampton this past Sunday, with their 38-17 victory seeing them set up a date with Toulouse. Last weekend's victory was Exeter's seventh since their season restarted with their only defeat being a 40-17 Gallagher Premiership defeat at the hands of Saracens. 

Toulouse were also in solid touch last weekend as they saw off Irish Province Ulster 36-8, with Springbok winger Cheslin Kolbe grabbing two tries.

Verdict Exeter 13/20
I reckon home ground advantage is the only thing that is separating these two sides, which is why I'm backing Exter to get the job done at Sandy Park. 

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