With two derbies to look forward to and confidence in Gloucester’s ability to win at Wasps, the West Country dominates today’s best rugby odds round-up.
The Rugby Tipster keeps you up-to-date with the latest on each round of matches in the Gallagher Premiership. Our in-depth knowledge of form and team selection can guide your rugby betting selections.
Friday 27th November
Sale by 4
To beat a top side like Sale Sharks you need to do the basics well, have a solid set-piece, kick your goals and have a bit of luck with decisions and the bounce of the ball.
Other than kicking their goals, Newcastle ticked most of those boxes in surprising everyone bar themselves with a 19-12 victory over Bath at The Rec last Saturday.
Dean Richards’ side were five from five at scrum-time on their own feed, were close to the 90% mark in the lineout and retained the ball efficiently as well as only giving away five penalties.
Had Newcastle not left 11 points out there, they would have been even more convincing winners. Brett Connon had a nightmare in front of the poles, missing his first three penalty attempts and two of his other kicks at goal in a total of seven attempts.
We’re happy to put that kicking display down as a one-off, though. Looking at his stats in Newcastle’s last top-flight campaign, Connon kicked 20 out of his 24 attempts (in all competitions) for a success rate of 83%, pretty decent by anyone’s standards. And even if he does forget his kicking boots again, Toby Flood is no mean replacement.
The Falcons cannot afford to see so many points go begging again and will look to build their score from the off and put pressure on a Sharks side that wasn’t wholly convincing in beating Northampton in round one.
Sharks travel without captain and workhorse, Jono Ross, and it’ll be interesting to see what impact that has on the visitors. Connor Collett, a debutant in the win at Bath, Sean Robinson and two-try hero Gary Graham (25/1 for the 1st try) are real grafters in the home side’s back row.
As for the handicap, Sale need the ball to score points. Yet Newcastle enjoyed the most possession of any team in round one, while Sale had the least (the difference was nearly 11 minutes!).
If that trend continues at Kingston Park on Friday night, the Sharks will have to use what little ball they have very effectively to stand any chance of racking up the points and defying the handicapper.
If Sale are not up for it on a cold north-east night, where the thermometer is forecast to barely get above zero, the bookies may regret giving Newcastle a nine-point start.
Saturday 28th November
PREDICTION – Saints by 7
Two infuriatingly inconsistent sides come together at Franklin’s Gardens for a game that history says should go to the home side.
Harlequins haven’t won at the East Midlands venue since December 2012, but all of the defeats since then would have come in front of a packed crowd – something we don’t have the luxury of, just yet.
Even with home advantage effectively made null and void, Saints should boss this one upfront.
While Quins only have one forward with more than 50 appearances to his name for the club (Alex Dombrandt), Saints’ pack is full of experience.
Paul Hill, David Ribbans, Nick Isiekwe, Lewis Ludlam andTom Wood bring with them international quality while Ludlam’s co-captain, Alex Waller, has been around the block and will relish his duel with Quins tight-head Wilco Louw.
Quins’ half-back axis of Danny Care and Marcus Smith gets another run-out and Mike Brown is a reassuring presence at full-back, but Saints have their own threats in the backs and should enjoy more front-foot ball.
Saturday 28th November
PREDICTION – Bears by 8
Bristol are still missing some of their big guns in Callum Sheedy (Wales), Semi Radradra (Fiji), Kyle Sinckler and Luke Morahan (injury). But they are boosted by the return of Ioan Lloyd, who made his debut for Wales against Georgia but has been released back to his club, and, importantly, No.8 Nathan Hughes.
With those two now back in the fold, the Bears should be able to build on a very good performance down at Wasps which very nearly got them a shock win.
Saturday 28th November
PREDICTION – Gloucester by 5
Already badly hit by injuries and international call-ups, Wasps have lost a few more bodies for the trip west.
Jack Willis has been retained by England for their game against Wales, alongside Joe Launchbury and Dan Robson.
Likewise, Will Rowlands and Matteo Minozzi are still away with Wales and Italy respectively, while Jacob Umaga and Brad Shields are fresh additions to the treatment room.
Gloucester need a response to their lacklustre showing at Welford Road in round one and the team they’re fielding should be good enough to deliver.
Ollie Thorley is back on the right wing and hooker Jack Singleton is another of the five changes made by head coach George Skivington.
Saturday 28th November
PREDICTION – Chiefs by 16
After coming unstuck against 13/1 shots Newcastle last week, it promises to get worse before it gets better for Bath.
Trips to Sandy Park haven’t ended well in the past, and with the Chiefs benefitting from Scotland’s game against Fiji being called off, they are not too badly off in terms of availabilities. Sam Skinner and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne return to the fold as a result.
Bath looked off the pace against Newcastle and could easily have been beaten more heavily than 19-12. Whilst a reaction can be expected – and Chiefs boss Rob Baxter has reminded his side to be wary of ‘the wounded animal’ – its hard to imagine the outcome ending any differently than has recently been the case.
Chiefs have won their last three home games against Bath by a margin of 29 points (last season’s semi-final), 37 points and 19 points.
Sunday 29th November
PREDICTION – IRISH 4
Admittedly, backing Irish does not strike anyone as the logical choice, seeing as they were narrowly beaten at Worcester in a poor game in round one and Leicester thumped Gloucester.
But allow us a bit of romantic indulgence; heaven knows we need some right now!
After years in the planning, London Irish have finally returned to the capital with the Brentford Community Stadium about to become the 39th venue to host Premiership rugby.
So why can they christen their new ground with a win? Well, despite analysts and kick-for-territory-style coaching taking over the game, there is still room for emotion in sport if channelled in the right way. Argentina proved this in beating New Zealand for the first time in history.
Irish have had a reputation for signing internationals cruising towards their pensionable age, and it’s about time that these players stood up to be counted and strung some results together.
After all, most Premiership sides would be happy with a front-row of Allan Dell, Agustin Creevy and Sekope Kepu backed up by flankers of the calibre of Sean O’Brien and Blair Cowan. Former Tiger Steve Mafi is ready to lend his weight to the cause if called upon from the bench.
Age may be against them but we fancy Irish to come good today (Evns for the win) and leave the Tigers feeling bluer than their new kit which gets its first airing today.