Pinky’s Live Gut Prediction: Montpellier (but possibly Edinburgh or Pau, maybe even a trip to Johannesburg or Newport)
So Connacht are away in Europe on the weekend of April 6th, which is a week after Benetton away in the URC on Easter weekend. We have all been given that week off by Presidential Decree and are going to both games, but where are we going?
This blog will confuse the hell out of you until I figure it out … Stay tuned.
First, the easy bit. We get into the Champions Cup last 16 if Saracens get nothing at home to Lyon.
Otherwise we go into the last 16 of the Challenge Cup, where we would play one of the teams ranked 5 to 8, namely the lower ranked two second placed teams and the higher ranked two third placed teams.
But Ulster will be fifth in Pool 2 and are below Connacht, so we can’t get the better of the second-placed teams.
So unless the fifth placed teams in both the other Pools get ahead of us, we will play a third-placed Challenge Cup team. That would require Bayonne to beat Exeter at home and La Rochelle to beat Sale away (both tomorrow).
Clermont are definitely second in Pool 3 but will almost certainly be the best second-placed team and will thus play another Challenge Cup team. There may be some weird result that lets Benetton or Montpellier ahead of them but I’m fairly confident a trip to the Auvergne is impossible. Likewise Edinburgh are third Pool 3, but look likely to be the lowest ranked third-placer and thus out of the picture, which is no harm as it’s always a nice trip but we’ve already been there, lost and nearly lost toes to frostbite (though that is less of a risk in April).
If Cheetahs win away to Oyonnax in Pool 1, they will be second and Pau third. If they lose with a bonus point, those will be reversed. No bonus point and Zebre will be third. Dragons can still come into play by beating Sharks. If that happens the holiday is cancelled (no offence Newport). We could in theory play Sharks in that case as they would likely be second.
Benetton will probably top Pool 2 if they beat Montpellier into second, with the winner of Lions v Ospreys third (or sneaking into second). If Montpellier win, Benetton will be third, creating the possibility of back-to-back games in Treviso.
Pool 1: Cheetahs romping, so they will go top overnight. If Sharks win tomorrow, they will go top and it will be Cheetahs or Pau. If Dragons win, Cheetahs will stay top and it will be Sharks or Dragons.
Half-time: Oyonnax fighting back. Cheetahs Red Card. If Cheetahs get 1-2 points, the Clan could be on the way to Amsterdam.
45 Mins: TBP secured for Cheetahs, they can lose by up to 16 points and still stay ahead of Zebre. As it stand they are top but can be caught by Sharks.
87 Mins: Unreal! Two bonus points for Cheetahs. They will now be the worst third placed team or else fourth, so they will be away (I think). That puts Edinburgh back in the frame.
Pool 2: Benetton in control so may go top so it should be Montpellier or and the winner of Lions v Ospreys. Likely Lions in Joburg and they may even overhaul Montpellier with a big win, making a trip to Southeast France likely.
47 Mins: Montpellier back into it, so the Settimana del Prosecco is on!
Pool 1: Zebre are out of contention as they are fourth at best. Cheetahs can hold on to third but they will be be worst third team and thus away in the last 16. Pau will be the worst second-placed team and so we could go there. If Dragons get an unlikely try bonus at home to Sharks, Pau would drop to third, and would still be a possibility. A win for Dragons without a bonus would put them third and also in the frame.
Pool 2: Benetton can’t be caught at the top, so don’t book the Hotel Continental for the full week. Montpellier are second, but Lions will catch them with a bonus point win over Ospreys with a 13 point margin. The bookies have them at -19 and that seems fair to me. So I am sticking with Montpellier as the likely best third-placed team and thus Connacht’s likely opponents. So a jaunt along the Riviera is on the cards.
Pool 3: Clermont are the best second placed team so we can’t go there. Edinburgh are the second of the third-placed teams so we would go there if Bayonne don’t beat Exeter and Sale get nothing at home to La Rochelle. However if Dragons beat Sale, Edinburgh would be pushed out of the home seedings altogether.
But all this is irrelevant as Lyon are going to stuff Saracens, right?