Heineken Cup Predictions 2012: Semi-finals
My quarter-final predictions left a little to be desired – I had Toulouse, Munster and Saracens all to go through, but hopefully these semi-final picks will make amends.
Ulster v Edinburgh
Can Edinburgh repeat their heroics and reach the Heineken Cup final for the first time? They’ll approach the game in reasonable shape given that they aren’t in contention for the Pro 12 playoffs, but playing Ulster in Ireland will be a different story.
The Scots have only won three away games all season – two in the Heineken Cup pool stages, and one against Treviso in the Pro 12 – and they have lost to Ulster home and away in the domestic league, conceding 80 points across the two fixtures.
Ulster’s win at Thomond Park was just as remarkable as Edinburgh’s victory over Toulouse, and the power they showed in Limerick is likely to give them the edge on Saturday. It’s technically not a home game, but they’ll have the majority of the support in Dublin, and I fancy them to reach the final. Ulster by 8.
Clermont Auvergne v Leinster
Clermont v Leinster is tough one to call. Whilst Ulster and Edinburgh produced a couple of upsets, these two sides were convincing winners over Saracens and Cardiff respectively. The defending champions are in fine form, and would be favourites if the game was being played in Ireland, but playing in France is a different proposition.
Clermont out-muscled Saracens in the quarter-final, and at times it looked like men against boys, such was their superior physicality. If they put in another similarly bruising performance, Leinster will struggle to get past them.
On the other hand, if Leinster can get the upper hand in the scrum, it should help to nullify Clermont’s potent backline, and keep their opportunities to a minimum. But they’ll need to find a way to score themselves, and whilst Sarries couldn’t find a way through the defensive wall, Leinster ought to have a few more attacking weapons.
It really could go either way, but I’m leaning towards the French. Clermont by 5.