After a thrilling set of quarter-finals, we are down to the final four in the Challenge Cup with Lyon, Wasps, Saracens and Toulon hoping to be part of the mix come the Grand Final in Marseille.
Will the two English sides come good? Will we have an all-French final? Or will the Anglo-French theme continue to the end?
Saturday 14 May
Lyon | Draw | Wasps (14:00) *betting tba
I know it’s knock-out rugby but I still expect some fireworks and long-range tries here as Lyon and Wasps are both very good attacking sides with defensive frailties.
To back up my assertion above, one only needs to look at the two quarter-finals these sides played in. Lyon played host to the Glasgow Warriors and the game was an absolute stunner with Lyon coming back from an early second-half deficit of 14 points to claim a 35-27 victory. The star of the show was winger Davit Niniashvili, who scored two tries and inspired the comeback.
Wasps also staged a come from behind victory over Scottish opposition last weekend as they beat Edinburgh 30-34 with a late try from young forward Alfie Barbeary proving to be the difference between the sides.
I’m expecting this one to be end-to-end and full of points. Lyon should ultimately come out on top, however. French sides tend to be really strong at home in European competition and I fully expect them to get the job done here.
Toulon | Draw | Saracens (22:00) *betting tba
We remain in France for our next fixture which sees yet another Top 14-Gallagher Premiership showdown as Toulon square off with Saracens.
The hosts were involved in a cagey old affair last weekend as they edged out London Irish 19-18. The French giants were actually really lucky to win the game as a London Irish side, inspired by an insane solo try from young gun Henry Arundell staged a second-half fightback, and were it not for a Paddy Jackson missing a tough conversion from Arundrell’s wonder try, Toulon would not be here.
Saracens were far more comfortable in the quarter-finals as they hammered local rivals Gloucester 15-44. Their experience was the difference on the day with Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Jame George all having big games.
The North Londoners just know how to get the job done when it comes to the business end of competitions and I can’t see Saracens faltering against this star-studded but unconvincing Toulon outfit.