Challenge Cup victory for Leicester or Montpellier will go some way in easing what have been average domestic campaigns for both clubs.
After a disrupted season that saw the groups stage of the Challenge Cup scrapped before it reached its conclusion, we now arrive at finals weekend.
Leicester Tigers v Montpellier
Friday 21 May
To Win Match
The Tigers will be looking for their first European success since they won the Heineken Cup way back in 2002. It’s fair to say that the Tigers have underperformed in recent years but they look to be getting things back on track somewhat under the stewardship of Steve Borthwick.
They have enjoyed a fantastic time of it in Europe this year but haven’t pulled up any trees on the domestic front, as they currently lie sixth on the Gallagher Premiership.
Borthwick’s men have been rather eye-catching in the Challenge Cup play-offs having beaten a decent Connacht side 48-32 in the round of 16 and then given their domestic foes Newcastle a rugby lesson in which they saw off the Falcons 39-15 in the Challenge Cup quarters. The best performance came in the semi-finals, however, where they beat a much-fancied Ulster outfit 33-24.
Mega-rich Montpellier will be looking for European salvation this year as they have endured a rather frustrating domestic campaign that has seen them linger near the foot of the Top 14 log for the majority of the season.
The French outfit have pulled away from the relegation mire in the past few months with a good string of results seeing them move up to 10th on the Top 14 ladder. Like their opponents on Saturday, they have no realistic chances of making their domestic play-offs, so their only shot at silverware this term comes on Saturday.
Montpellier have produced a solid Challenge Cup knock-out phase – although their opponents for the first two rounds were a lot easier than the ones Leicester had to face – beating Glasgow 26-21 in the Round of 16, Benetton 31-25 in the quarters and Bath 10-19 in the semis. Their win over Bath coincided with the return of Springbok Handre Pollard who came off the bench to deliver an absolute masterclass. He will be pivotal for the French outfit again this weekend.
Verdict: Leicester 8/10
I have to side with the English club here. While I do think an in-form Pollard could win Montpellier the game, I just think Leicester will be smart and shut the Springbok pivot down from the start.