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Challenge Cup: Round 2 Selected Fixtures Preview

Rory Kockett of Castres

The opening round of the 2020/21 Challenge Cup featured some massive shocks with Treviso hammering Stade Francais, the in-form Newcastle Falcons going down to the Cardiff Blues at home and Zebre and Bayonne drawing 25-25 in Italy. 

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Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Castres v Newcastle FalconsFriday 18 December

Stade Pierre Fabre

To Win Match

Castres 23/20
Draw 20/1

Newcastle 15/20

Newcastle will be looking to bounce back from their exceedingly disappointing 20-33 home loss to the Cardiff Blues when they take on a Castres outfit that went down 39-15 to the Ospreys in Wales. 

Both teams fielded somewhat weakened sides but it was no excuse for their poor showings. 

While we’re only one game into the tournament, both teams will be viewing this one as a crucial fixture as they simply cannot afford to drop more points due to the structure of this year’s Challenge Cup which is a league format with the top 4 teams advancing to the semi-finals. 

Verdict: Castres 23/20A return to home solid will be welcomed by Castres who will surely field their best XV for this one. Newcastle, on the other hand, are likely to field a weakened squad as they have Gallagher Premiership games just on the horizon. 

Brive v Zebre

Friday 18 December
Stade Amedee-Domenech

To Win MatchBrive 27/20

Draw 18/1
Zebre 6/10

Brive will return home and looking to put their poor 39-17 defeat to the Leicester Tigers behind them when they take on a Zebre side that drew 25-25 with Bayonne in Round 1. 

Zebre have actually fared rather well this season and have put in some solid showings in the PRO14 and have run a number of the bigger sides in the tournament close. They’ll be rather disappointed with their showing last weekend as they should have won the game. 

Brive have more wins then Zebre in their domestic tournament but have been slightly less impressive. They really struggled last weekend but they are likely to field a stronger squad this weekend. 

Verdict: Brive 6/10I reckon Brive will be a bit too strong on home solid for Zebre. 

Treviso v AgenSaturday 19 December

Stadio Communale di Monigo

Betting unavailable at the time of writing.

We continue our Italian-French theme with our next fixture seeing Italian sie Treviso tackle French outfit Agen. Both teams have struggled domestically this term with Agen lying at the foot of the Top 14 ladder with no wins from their 11 games. Trevsio are also yet to win at PRO14 game this term losing all seven of their games. 

The hosts did enjoy a great start to their Challenge Cup campaign, however, as they hammered a much-fancied Stade Francais side 20-44. Agen, on the other hand, continued their run of poor form as they went down 8-34 to London Irish on home soil.  

Verdict: TrevisoI cannot see the Italian side having any trouble getting a win over a struggling Agen outfit. 

Bayonne v Leicester Tigers

Saturday 19 December
Stade Jean Dauger

Betting unavailable at the time of writing.

Our next fixture is a French-Anglo affair with Bayonne taking on the Leicester Tigers. The visitors got their campaign off to an impressive old start as they picked up a 39-17 bonus-point win over Bayonne’s fellow French side Brive. 

Bayonne gave a decent enough account of themselves in the opening round as they managed to hold Zebre to a 25-25 draw in Italy. 

Verdict: Bayonne

I reckon Bayonne will come good on home soil. They have been solid domestically at the Stade Jean Dauger and I can see that strong home form carrying through into Europe,

Worcester Warriors v OspreysSaturday 19 December

Sixways Stadium

Betting unavailable at the time of writing.

The Worcester Warriors will be looking 24-20 defeat to Pau when they take on an Ospreys side that will be riding high on confidence after beating Castres 39-15 this past weekend. 

The Warriors will actually be somewhat aggrieved with last weekend’s loss as they were on for a win until a late Pau try turned things around. The Ospreys, on the other hand, will be mightily pleased with their results as their attacking game was on point. 

Verdict: Worcester

I fancy the Warriors to bounce back at Sixways. They have a solid side who tend to perform well on their own turf. 

London Irish v Pau

Sunday 20 December
Brentford Community Stadium

Betting unavailable at the time of writing.

We’re in England for the penultimate game of the round which will see London Irish play host to French side, Pau. Irish had a great start to the campaign as they hammered Agen 8-34. Pau, while not running up as big a scoreline, also got their European campaign off on the right foot as they beat the Worcester Warriors 24-20. 

Both teams have had tough times of it in their domestic leagues with Irish only winning one of their three Gallagher Premiership games and Pau only winning three and drawing one of the 11 Top 14 fixtures they have played. 

Verdict: London IrishI feel a lot of this weekend’s games will go the way of the home sides and this is another one of them. 

Cardiff Blues v Stade Francais

Saturday 20 December
Rodney Parade

Betting unavailable at the time of writing.

The final game of the weekend will see the Cardiff Blues take on Stade Francais in Wales. The two sides suffered contrasting fortunes in the opening round as the Blues registered a surprise 20-33 away win over an in-form Newcastle Falcons side, while Stade were on the receiving end of the shock of the round as they were beaten 20-44 by Treviso in France. 

Both teams have been relatively hit and miss in their domestic leagues with Stade winning six of their 10 Top 14 fixtures and Cardiff winning three of their seven PRO14 games. 

Verdict: Cardiff Blues

Stade are likely to send a weakened team to Wales and I reckon they’ll pay for it. 

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