Thursday, February 14, 2019

Europe on the Weekend: Gallagher, Guinness and Top14

Europe on the Weekend: Gallagher Premiership, Guinness Pro14  and the Orange 14
Gallagher Premiership: 10 Rounds remaining; 50 potential table points; it’ll take somewhere in the mid-60s to reach the playoffs, so every fixture, whether the top players are off for their country or no, is of critical importance should the club be hunting extra time; numbers 1 & 2, Chiefs and Sarries resp., are effectively three bonus-point wins ahead of the pack and likely to remain there, so the turmoil and torment will be in the battles for the last two additional action placements during the last 10 rounds.

Friday 2.15:
               Bristol Bears (24) v (29) Wasps at Ashton Gate: rise and shine!   
               Gloucester (32) v (51) Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm: Cherry-and-Whites are in the final playoff spot just now with a handful of hounds on their near hind; this would be a good one to win for homeys as it’ll not only distance Gloucester from their pursuit, but it would be victory over the current standard in the league.

Saturday, 2.16: 
               Northampton Saints (26) v (29) Sale Sharks at Franklin’s Gardens: each are chasing the playoff dragon; joy today against a Gloucester loss could put the happy XV into a playoff position;

               Bath (28) v (17) Newcastle Falcons at the Rec: a bonus-point win for the home team keeps them on pace for playoffs, while loss for visitors cements their cellar-dwell;

               Harlequins (33) v (21) Worcester Warriors at the Stoop: Quins very much are after a fiver now;

               Saracens (47) v (29) Leicester Tigers at Barnet Copthall: Corsairs can ill-afford a misstep now and most likely won’t suffer that; it’ll be rough hoeing for travelers as their 10, George Ford, is on international duty with the Rose.

Guinness Pro14: seven rounds left, 35 table points on offer, mid-60s should get a club into the top three extra time slots in the global competition encompassing a longitudinal swath of 35on either side of the Prime Meridian from Scotland to South Africa; with two-thirds of the schedule complete, Benetton Treviso and Free State Cheetahs are the hottest teams; Treviso, coached into their current second-place prominence by the astute piloting of former Canada head coach and All Black 15 Kieran Crowley, has not lost since a mid-December EPCR match, while the Fast Cats are on a run of four joys, collecting 19 of 20 possible table points and are into the thick of playoff contention, just two points from third-placed Ospreys with their weekend opposition, Connacht, between them.

Friday, 2.15:
               Edinburgh (32) v (19) Dragons at Murrayfield: may be significant joy for the home team;
               Munster (48) v (19) Southern Kings at Thomond Park: see above;
               Ospreys (38) v (35) Ulster at Liberty Stadium: both seek extra time in their respective divisions and each are poised; victory here would go a good way toward ensuring that;

Saturday, 2.16: 
               Zebre (17) v (58) Leinster at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi: could very well be bonus-point road win;
               Treviso (37) v (35) Scarlets at Stadio Communal: decisive result either way it goes;
               Connacht (38) v (36) Cheetahs at the Sportsground: see above;
               Cardiff Blues (36) v (46) Glasgow Warriors at the Arms Park: homeboys on a run of three-from-four, while their guests have that ratio reversed and have recently given up the ordering seat at their conference table; wotcher Warriors?

Orange (Top, French) 14: 15th round, with 55 table points to be had yet; Toulouse are 11-1-1 since September and have wrested the ordering seat from Clermont; Clermont, for their part, are nipping the frontrunner heel just now, but are experiencing significant deficit with Laidlaw and Lopez, their halfback pairing, off at representative duty; the five placements below the leading duo are separated by a mere half dozen table points, just a bonus-point plus; figure table point accumulation of 60+ could get a club to extra time, but 70 would fair ensure.

Saturday, 2.16:
               Clermont (52) v (43) Bordeaux Bègles at the Michelin: visitors are on a run of four-from-five; this could be a good road outing against a Les Bleus-poached XV;
               Montpellier (33) v (4) Perpignan at the Altrad: should be max points here for the home team;
               Pau (28) v (37) Castres at Stade du Hameau: this is about the time last season when the visitors began their run for the playoffs which saw them come from beyond left field to claim the crown in June;
               Stade Français (42) v (44) Lyon at Jean-Bouin: contest between the playoff-positioned fourth- and sixth-placed clubs should be a doozy... M-o-W, M-o-W;
               Agen (17) v (28) Toulon at Stade Armandie: host are currently on relegation station; guests not that far off; this one’s all about keeping one’s head above water;

Sunday, 2.17
               Grenoble (20) v (46) La Rochelle at Stade des Alpes: home team is close to a dropspot and travelers are on a good run just now, four-from-five; Alpine mountain bastion not quite the happiness provider it has been in the past;
               Racing 92 (40) v (54) Toulouse at La Défense Arena: homeboys just out of the playoff running just now; their guests have recently risen to the topspot in the league; a result of significance for each.

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