Bristol Bears are heavy favourites to secure a spot in the semi-finals of the European Challenge Cup as they gear up for Friday’s clash with Gwent Dragons.
The European Challenge Cup enters the knockout phase on Friday when the Bears welcome the Dragons to Ashton Gate.
The quarter-final action continues over the weekend with a double-header on Saturday and the final tie to be played out on Sunday.
Bordeaux Begles and Edinburgh meet in Saturday’s 13:30 kick off with Toulon hosting Llanelli Scarlets at 21:15, while Leicester Tigers welcome Castres to Welford Road at 15:00 on Sunday.
Brilliant Bears to Extend Unbeaten Run
Bristol reached the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup for the first time since 2006-07 last season, losing 39-15 to La Rochelle.
They look much better placed to advance to the semis this season and that is clearly represented by their
1/20 rating in the Match Result market.
The Bears, who haven’t played in the semi-finals of the competition since 1999-00, breezed through the group stage – winning five and drawing one – and they certainly have the tools to reach this season’s final.
Dragons’ 2019-20 Pro14 ended last month in disappointing fashion as they won just once in their final five games and had to settle for fifth place in Conference A.
Indeed, their form on the road is a major concern ahead of Friday’s trip to Ashton Gate, having not won in five, and that woeful record is further highlighted by Bristol’s impressive record at home – winning six of their last seven across all competitions.
It’s also worth noting that Bristol were solid defensively in the group stage, conceding just 58 points as they scored 209, so backing them at -18.5 in the handicap market at
25/28 could be the way to go.
Home Advantage Key for French Pair
Bordeaux Begales boast a formidable record on home soil and that should see them prevail in Saturday’s early quarter-final against Edinburgh.
The French outfit, who held a healthy lead at the summit of the Top14 standings before the 2019-20 season was cancelled in May, have won their last 13 games across all competitions when turning out at the Stade Chaban Delmas.
They beat Edinburgh 32-17 in January in the Pool stage of this year’s competition and will be confident of repeating that success this weekend.
Meanwhile, Toulon will also hope to make home advantage count in Saturday’s 20:15 kick-off when Llanelli Scarlets visit the Stade Mayol.
Toulon and Scarlets were also drawn in the same Pool earlier in the competition with the French side winning all six of their outings to finish top.
They have won six of the last eight meetings with Scarlets including victories home and away this season.
Castres Can Stun Tigers
The Match Result market suggests that Leicester should come through Sunday’s quarter-final tie with Castres but the underdogs, who can be backed at
7/4, can’t be underestimated.
Leicester have lost three of their last four outings and could be there for the taking at Welford Road.
It’s also worth noting that Castres won the most recent meeting 39-0, albeit in 2018, and this could prove to be the upset of the round.
Castres have won three of their last four games on the road with their sole loss during that sequence coming when they went down valiantly 26-24 against Bordeaux.
*All odds correct at time of writing