Wednesday, December 19, 2018

European Leagues: Aviva, GP14, T14 re-start

Since November the European Leagues: Guinness Pro14 (2), French Top14 (2) and Aviva Premiership (3) have either played two or three matches. In the English competition, not much change: numbers one and two, Exeter and Saracens resp., have switched positions, Harlequins have inserted themselves into the last playoff slot (for now) after their defeat of Exeter last time out, and Gloucester are now third-placed.

Upcomes Aviva:
               Friday, 12.21
Worcester Warriors (17) v (17) Northampton Saints at Sixways: if travelers hope to improve, here is when and where they must start;
               Saturday, 12.22
Sale Sharks (16) v (18) Bristol Bears in AJ Bell at Salford City: another maker or breaker?
Exeter Chiefs (40) v (42) Saracens at Sandy Park: Match of Weekend;
Leicester Tigers (18) v (24) Harlequins at Welford Road: reality check for Quins;
               Sunday, 12.23
Wasps (24) v (19) Bath at Ricoh Arena: could very well be for sixth;
Newcastle Falcons (15) v (28) Gloucester at Kingston Park: travelers trip?

In Guinness Pro14 competition, the bifurcated European League with a global reach, Group A yet has Glasgow in charge with Munster better than a bonus point off the Warriors hind, but Connacht are now risen to the third, and last playoff position. In Group B, Ulster and Scarlets have exchanged spots at two and three, and Leinster is still in the ordering seat. The next two weeks are intranational in that Scots square off against Scots, Irish v Irish, Welsh v Welsh, and Azzurri v Azzurri, but not South Africans v  South Africans, why? Because Cheetahs and Southern Kings are off and will play their 11th and 12th Round fixtures during the third EPCR fortnight. Wot, you say? It’s true; and it’s because the Northern Hemisphere has effectively three competitions interwoven, though not comfortably nor with respect for one another as each strive for prominence and there is not a twain in sight; all target, relish and covet the almighty shekel... hein?

Upcomes GP14:
               Friday, 12.21
Cardiff Blues (23) v (13) Newport-Gwent Dragons at the Arms Park; could very well be the bonus-point for homeboys;
Ulster (29) v (34) Munster in Kingspan at Ravenhill: Match of Weekend;

               Saturday, 12.22
Ospreys (28) v (29) Scarlets at Liberty Stadium: other Match of Weekend;
Edinburgh (22) v (41) Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield: this’ll be lively, could be high-scoring if weather plays nice;
Leinster (44) v (29) Connacht at the RDS: five for home team?

               Sunday, 12.23
Zebre (15) v (23) Benetton Treviso at Sergio Lanfranchi: careful Treviso!

The French 14 sees Clermont and Toulouse at numbers one and two, resp., and their margin of separation yet three table points. La Rochelle have ratcheted up from sixth on the board after wins over Racing (at home) and Stade Français (in Paris). The aforementioned Stade Français have fallen from third to eighth over the course of their last three, straight losses. Lyon and Racing trail the top three and Bordeaux Bègles are now in the sixth and final playoff slot on the strength of Bègle’s  two-match winning streak.

Upcomes the Top14:
               Saturday, 12.22
Agen  (17) v (28) Stade Français at Stade Armandie: visitors need it; homeys say, “wot?”
Toulon (19) v (31) Lyon at Felix Mayol: Lyon are experiencing a horrendous EPCR run and Toulon are tough as nails at home with all that, “Le Pilou, Pilou,” ruckus;  
Pau (18) v (33) La Rochelle at Stade du Hameau: La Rochelle are on a roll just now, but Pau field a stingy defense that could lay low the travelers;
Grenoble (15) v (26) Montpellier at Stade des Alpes: home team are in a dropspot now and should like a victory, while visitors may be getting to the point where they wonder where their season has gone off to;
Racing 92 (31) v (4) Perpignan at La Défense Arena: 92 will have to try and lose this one; Perps are undergoing a rude Top14 ride;
               Sunday, 12.23
Castres (29) v (30) Bordeaux Bègles at Stade Pierre Fabre: for the last playoff position, albeit mid-season, but this is the Match of the Weekend:
Clermont (41) v (38) Toulouse at the Michelin: actually this is the M-o-W!

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