Bath And Leicester Can Challenge For Glory

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Bath and Leicester are still on course to make the Challenge Cup final but Ulster and Montpellier could prove to be tough semi opponents.

Steve Borthwick

The prospect of a fifth all-English Challenge Cup final was kept alive when Leicester and Bath were kept apart in the draw for the semi-finals, which take place this weekend.

But Irish powers Ulster – who visit Leicester – and Bath’s opponents Montpellier have won European silverware before and won’t go down without a fight in what looks a mouthwatering pair of ties.

Tigers’ Discipline Key To Pushing Ulster

Leicester and Ulster kick off the action in a battle of the former European champions – and it’s likely to be close.

Leicester, 6/4 shots, have been revived under Steve Borthwick to the extent that Lions’ chief Warren Gatland wants the former England lock to join his Lions’ coaching staff this summer.

Right now, though, it’s Tigers not Lions weighing on Borthwick’s mind and getting his club side into the final at the expense of an Ulster team who are in the midst of a 15-year trophy drought. And as every year goes by, the challenge to snap the sequence gets harder and harder.

Dan McFarland’s men are 10/21 and have certainly proved already they’ve got the measure of Premiership sides having travelled to both Harlequins and Northampton in the last two rounds and won each time. McFarland, however, reckons Leicester will be a step up in opposition because of the way Borthwick’s side plays.

Ulster have got skipper Iain Henderson fit again and that’s a positive, while Borthwick will be looking to England mainstays of the calibre of Ellis Genge, Tom Youngs and George Ford to make life as uncomfortable as possible for their opponents.

Both sides lost at the weekend but if the Tigers can keep their discipline – they’ve had 22 cards in 19 games which is way too many – they can at the very least run Ulster close. Leicester with a 4.5-point start looks the bet at 50/59.

Bath Can Make It Hellish For French

Montpellier have endured a “hellish” season, according to captain Fulgence Ouedraogo, and it’s something of a surprise they have reached the last four.

The 2016 winners have had a terrible Top 14 campaign with 13 defeats in 20 fixtures though they did at least save the best till last by beating Toulouse at the end of March.

They boast the historic knowledge that the only one time they have ever previously reached the semis they went on to lift the trophy, but if they are going to prevail at The Rec they need to show far more than they did in their nervy last-eight success over Benetton.

Bath, 10/31 shots, look to have more options and if they can get the ball to the likes of Anthony Watson and Joe Cokanasiga then the 2007-08 champs can get the job done easily.

Beaten by Wasps last weekend (though ahead when they went down to 14 men) they have covered a -7 handicap in four of their last five wins and in their last two matches against Montpellier. They may well beat the handicap again, on offer at 5/6.

*All odds correct at time of writing.

Steve Davies is an occasional contributor to the MansionBet Blog. He holds a keen interest in many sports, with Darts taking the first position.

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