Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Heineken Cup permutations UPDATED

Sky Sport's permutations

Sky give a decent overview of the situation, but don't into too much detail. I've been looking at the remaining fixtures and come up with things that seem likely, or pivotal games for all concerned.

sidenote: This is why the Heineken Cup is such a fantastic competition. So many things to play for even if you are qualified ensures that you don't get meaningless games like you would in the Champions League.

extra thought: Why not incorporate the quarter final draw system into the RWC? It could make things so much more interesting. IT's one of the best things about rugby, why not use that?

Anyway, I digress.

In chronological order:

Friday: Pool 3

RESULT : Harlequins 28 points

Not much to play for on Friday. The only game of note is between Biarritz and Harlequins in Biarritz. Harlequins are already through, and I think have a home quarter final secured, with 24 points and only 3 other teams capable of reaching that total. Biarritz can get a maximum of 19 points which would be enough to put them in the mix. Hopefully Harlequins are aiming for as high a seeding as possible, which would mean two things;

1. Biarritz won't get 19 points and are therefore not going to qualify
2. They seem the "weakest" of the teams likely to get home quarter finals. Which will be relevant later from an Irish P.O.V.

Prediction: Harlequins 28 points.

Saturday: 1.30 GMT Pool 4

Both games seem relevant in terms of teams still mathematically in the competition. Northampton travel to Glasgow needing maximum 5 points to be in with a chance of qualifying on 19 points. One thing against them is their low try tally which stands at 6 at the moment. A 5 pointer brings it to at least 10, but will that be enough? It is a poor Glasgow side, so backing Northampton to get the 4 tries is likely.
The other game in the pool sees Ulster, who have already qualified, travel to Castres. Ulster have never won in France, and need a win to secure a home quarter final. Castres are still mathematically in with a chance, and can qualify with 18 points, but so many things need to go their way, that I'm not going to waste my time or yours. Bonus point win for Ulster guarentees a home quarter, which seems necessary given some of the other ties, but Castres are no mugs, and having never won in France, a bonus point win seems a daunting challenge. It all depends on whether or not Castres are up for it and whether they want a Challenge Cup place or not.

Here's hoping.

Prediction: Ulster 23 points.

3.40 GMT Pool 6

Possibly the most important tie of the round. Scratch that, Definitely the most important tie of the competition so far.

Toulon (23 points, 23 tries) travel to Montpeiller (18 points). Toulon will qualify as at least a second place team, but Montpeiller  can overtake them with a bonus point win and more than 22 points. It seems unlikely.

Toulon only need a point to qualify for a home quarter final, but a bonus point win, almost guarentees them one of the top two seedings, and theoretically an "easier" draw.

If Montepeiller win, or manage to get any points from this game at all, they will squeeze through.

From an Irish point of view, a Toulon bonus point win, by more than 7, and denying Montpeiller 4 tries, both frees up both 2nd place spots, and ensures one of the 2nd place teams play Toulon.

Another, Here's hoping.

Prediction: Toulon 28 points, Montpellier 18 points.

6pm GMT Pool 5

To the Irish provinces, Leinster, 15 points, need at least a win. 19 points might be enough, but with their low try count, 8, they can't be assured of that. At this stage they will know how many 2nd place spots are up for grabs with Montpeiller and Toulon's game having finished.

If Montpeiller lose and don't have more than 20 points, then Leinster qualify with a bonus point win, provided how unlikely it is that Toulouse will get two points in a loss to Leicester (to come). A win without the bonus, might be enough, if Biarritz don't reach 19, and other results go their way.

But let's not leave it up to chance eh?

Clermont, like Toulon, need only a point to have a home quarter final, and effectively a semi final place. A bonus point win, which is likely given their form and Scarlet's atrociousness, means they will seed at least 3rd, and probably one of the top two, meaning watch out Irish provinces. It all comes back to that Pool 6 game.

Prediction: Clermont 28 points, Leinster 20 points

Sunday: 12 45 GMT Pool 1

Munster (15) host Racing, and Saracens (18) host Edinburgh.

Munster, still in with an outside chance of winning the group, but they won't. Edinburgh are too bad a side to trouble Saracens, and Sarries are likely to get a bonus point win, and will be sniffing at the heels of Ulster to see who gets to be at home between them. If Ulster didn't get the bonus point, Sarries will be max 5 tries away from overtaking them, which given they are going for a 4 try bonus point, is nothing. Those teams are likely to be seeded 4th and 5th, and will play each other.

Munster also need a win. They will know how much of a win they'll need, and given Biarritz shouldn't be on 19 points, they will have the most tries of any team on 19, so a bonus point might not be necessary. Which is fortunate, because I don't think they will get it. After last weekends poor performance, I'm not 100% sure they will even win. But again, with a French side out of the competition, they might try and focus on the Top 14, especially given it's an away game.

Prediction: Saracens 23 points, Munster 19 points.

3pm GMT: Pool 2

Given Spratt's last minute try for Ospreys in that cracking draw in the Liberty stadium at the weekend, this game takes on slightly less significance. Still important though.

Leicester (16 points) take on Toulouse (18 points)

It's winner takes all, unless Leicester win by 7, without 4 tries, but Toulose get 4 tries. In that scenario both teams end up on 20 points, and Toulouse advance given their superior head to head match point count. However, That should be enough for Leicester to take a runners up spot, and with 13 tries, that would be likely.

The only other possibility for both teams to go through is if Leicester win with a bonus, and Toulouse get a second place, or Toulouse could still qualify with one match point on 19 points, if the second place team only has that much.

This is probably hardest to call. All of those situations seem unlikely, and I think Toulouse will be too good and avoid all the complications.

In fact, given this is the last game of the round, were any of those outcomes to arise, one would have to suspect some match-fixing. But that's only a frivolous observation.

Prediction: Toulouse 22 points.

Quarter Final Draw

1. Harlequins v 8. Munster
2. Toulon v 7. Leinster
3. Clermont v 6. Toulouse
4. Ulster v 5. Saracens

Gives a solid chance of all three Irish sides in the semis with a mouth watering tie of Clermont and Toulouse.