Posted on 11 Apr 2012 at 16:56 PM by Ruck Driver
Back in November, this column had a look at the antepost betting for the Heineken Cup, and now that the 24 teams have been whittled down to a mere four, this seemed like a good time to revisit that market. Our views back then - http://www.betting.com/blogs/cominginfromtheside/archive/2011/11/11/heineken-cup-antepost-preview.aspx - were that Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne were the value bets. Toulouse may have unexpectedly bitten the dust in Edinburgh last week, but Clermont's win has salvaged matters and now the question is simple - whether to hold or trade our position on the free-spending French side.
Even at odds of 4/1 (BetVictor) and 16/1 (Sportingbet) the protagonists in the first semi final between Ulster and Edinburgh make little or no appeal. Michael Bradley may have worked miracles at Edinburgh and without doubt Ulster's win at Thomond Park has to be respected, but these sides are not in the same class as Clermont or Leinster. Ulster supporters may feel a little aggrieved by that assertion since they were very competitive in their two games against the French side, but Clermont have all but assured their place in the top 14 playoffs now so they can concentrate their efforts on their upcoming Heineken Cup battle and will probably be a stronger side for that. That's not to say that Ulster or Edinburgh can't win - there is no such thing as can't in the betting world - but that we'd need much better odds to be enticed into a covering wager.
Secondly, any side with a lot of new recruits takes time to gel and fit together. Clermont took some time at the start of the season to do that but they are now a potent force with plenty of attacking flair and if they can overcome Leinster, they are unlikely to slip up in the final and certainly will be a much better team than the side Ulster went toe to toe with in the pool stages.
So our question is a very simple matter - do we back Leinster or not?
Against Cardiff, the Dublin-based side looked imperious. Brian O'Driscoll's try in the first half was an exquisite piece of play that had most commentators salivating at the quality, but Leinster's ability to produce such magic was never in doubt. However even more impressive was the quality of their defence, restricting Cardiff to a mere three points. That will be particularly important when they play in France against Clermont's backline.
However with all that said, the odds are simply too short to justify trading out at this stage. A rampant home win over a disorganised Cardiff team is all very well but travelling to the south of France trying to pick up a win over Clermont is anything but a foregone conclusion. Confidence is possibly a little too high in the Leinster camp at the moment and with no price bigger than 6/4 available, the time to hedge will probably be at big prices in the final rather than now, at a little over evens, and with another banana skin waiting in the wings.