Heineken Cup: Ulster still have much to prove

Can Ulster overcome Glasgow?

After a frenetic opening round, Geoffrey Riddle selects the best bets from this weekend's Heineken Cup action...

Leading the RaboDirect Pro 12 carries little weight by my calculations after just six matches and what’s more my ratings indicate that this should be a scratch match.

This season's Heineken Cup started with one hell of a bang last week. Seven of the 12 fixtures resulted in matches with more than 40 points and Racing Metro's defeat of Munster in Paris and Northampton's dour win over Glasgow at Franklin's Gardens hit 39.
It is an echo of what has been happening in the Premiership this season, with 24 of the 36 matches played so far weighing in at 40 total match points or over and with a dry weekend expected in many host towns and cities Betfair traders should look carefully at the overs in all matches once again.

Ulster put 40 points on Castres last week and there will be many who will consider four and half points on Betfair a modest deficit to make up for the Ravenhill side when visiting Glasgow at the Scotstoun Stadium on Friday.

On the face of it, Ulster may well merit being rated favourites. Ulster have beaten the Ospreys and Blues away from home this season and they were mightily impressive last week in dispatching Castres at Ravenhill.

The manner with which they dominated the French side was marked. Last year's finalists made nine clean breaks, beat 14 defenders and made eight offloads. In professional rugby, and for that matter in most professional sport, such dominance is irrepressible.

Ulster were many people's dark horses for the Heineken Cup at the start of the tournament, but I just don't see it. They had a charmed passage last season and were firmly put in their place by Leinster in the final. Leading the RaboDirect Pro 12 carries little weight by my calculations after just six matches and what's more my ratings indicate that this should be a scratch match.

Ulster only beat Glasgow by eight points when the pair clashed in the RaboDirect12, and although the league leaders were without Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe, Glasgow were not at full-strength until after half-time. The price just looks wrong.
As predicted last week Leinster got a mighty shock at the hands of Exeter but as a result of that 9-6 success they now look attractively priced against the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets.

Exeter kicker Ignacio Mieres had the chance to book his side an historic draw in their first Heineken Cup outing, but as it was Leinster who secured their 17th success in the tournament from 19 matches under coach Joe Schmidt.

Quite simply, Leinster are a winning machine and the best team in Europe should be more like six-point favourites against a team like Scarlets, rather than the 3.5 they are to give up on Betfair Saturday.

Do not be fooled for a moment by Scarlets' 45-20 home win over Leinster this season as last season's Heineken Cup champions were missing 11 internationals. They also had seven players out due to injury and this is a completely different proposition.
My suggestion to back Harlequins to win Pool 3 at a shade of odds-on last week still looks a decent investment after the London side put Biarritz, their main rivals to the top spot, to the sword last week. Naturally, things will be much more difficult in the return leg in the south of France but Saturday's game against Connacht is just the sort of fixture Quins excel in and another win looks likely.

Recommended Bet
2pts Glasgow +4.5 v Ulster
1pt Leinster -3.5 points v Scarlets

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