The Hollywoodbets Sharks have a great opportunity to pick up their first win of the season against Zebre in Parma, while Ulster welcome defending champions Munster to the Kingspan in round four.
Friday 10 November
Zebre 17/10 | Draw 25/1 | Sharks 4/9
The Hollywoodbets Sharks and Zebre will both be desperate to get a first win here for different reasons. The Durbanites have begun the season under new coach John Plumtree with three straight defeats on the road. While the opening losses in Munster and Leinster are understandable, their 5-19 loss to Ospreys a week ago was a massive disappointment considering the lack of vision with which the side played.
The hosts haven’t tasted victory in any competition since beating Dragons at the Sergio Lanfranchi in April of last year. They’ve been encouraging over the opening three weeks of action this season and could well spring a surprise on the Sharks.
Verdict: Zebre (+6.5) 9/10
I reckon the Sharks will just edge this tie. Back Zebre to keep within the (+6.5) handicap.
Cardiff 2/1 | Draw 20/1 | Bulls 38/100
The Bulls overcame Zebre in a high-scoring affair in Parma a week ago but Friday’s encounter will be a totally different affair with wet weather forecast in the Welsh capital. Although Jake White’s side still have the game to adapt to such conditions, the hosts will definitely have the edge.
Matt Sherratt’s charges fell 25-31 at Scarlets in the last round but their home support should lift them here. The Bulls will challenge them up front but ultimately Cardiff’s experience playing at the Arms Park will work in their favour.
Verdict: Cardiff (+7.5) 5/6
The rain should allow Cardiff to grind out a relatively comfortable victory. Let’s negate the risk and take the Blues on the plus.
Ulster 3/5 | Draw 20/1 | Munster 27/20
The clash of the weekend sees the defending champions tackle Ulster in Belfast. The hosts are enjoying a typically good start to the new campaign with two wins from three but a result over Munster here would give them a massive confidence boost so early on.
The reverse is also true for Graham Rowntree’s side, who remain unbeaten after a draw at Benetton in round two. After beating Dragons comfortably last week, picking up an away win at the Kingspan would be the perfect start to what is a daunting upcoming fixture schedule that also includes the Stormers, Leinster (twice) and Glasgow.
Verdict: Ulster 3/5
It would be some statement for Munster to take this but it’s tough to see this stubborn Ulster outfit being undone in what should be a tight encounter.
Saturday 11 November
Benetton 1/1 | Draw 18/1 | Stormers 4/5 (17:00)
Benetton continue to punch above their weight in the URC, opening their campaign with two wins and a draw to Munster. They pushed past the Lions 15-10 last week which will add to their confidence but the Stormers will be a different beast.
John Dobson’s boys fell 9-20 in Glasgow last week but should be back in full force at the Stadio Communale. Given the lofty standards the Capetonians set for themselves, they’ll be eager to bounce back on Saturday.
Verdict: Stormers 4/5
Benetton will keep it tight in defeat.
Scarlets 31/100 | Draw 25/1 | Lions 23/10
Scarlets’ recent win over Cardiff was much needed after a devastating tour to South Africa that saw them on the receiving end of massive losses to the Bulls and Stormers. They’ll be eager to pick up another against the Lions in Llanelli before they begin a string of four consecutive away games.
The Lions are one of four teams yet to register a first win of the campaign. With a daunting trip to Belfast still to come on their Euro trip, a win or even losing bonus point here would do Cash van Rooyen’s side a world of good.
Verdict: Lions (+8.5) 87/100
Scarlets should just be too good for the Joburgers at the end of the day.
Ospreys 9/5 | Draw 20/1 | Glasgow 42/100
Ospreys and Glasgow are both locked on 10 points apiece after each winning two from their respective three games so far. The hosts last week breezed past the Sharks but should face a sterner test in the form of a Warriors outfit that has already beaten Leinster and the Stormers.
Toby Booth should be welcoming Justin Tipuric back into his matchday squad after his Barbarians heroics at the Principality last week. His experience and leadership will give the side a boost, but it remains to be seen whether they can put some much-needed consistency into their game with another win here.
Verdict: Ospreys (+6.5) 17/20
The Warriors should take the win here by a slim margin. I’m on the Ospreys to remain within the ‘cap.
Edinburgh 2/7 | Draw 22/1 | Connacht 5/2
As good as Connacht have been in winning all three of their games so far to top the log, winning in Edinburgh won’t come easy. The hosts may be one from three, but the two defeats came away from home and they’ll back themselves to get the job done in front of their home support here.
Connacht though won’t one an easy beat, particularly if their form is anything to go by. Their two-point win over Ulster was impressive but their winning run should come to an end on Saturday.
Verdict: Connacht (+8.5) 4/5
The visitors should claim a losing bonus point at the DAM Health Stadium at the very least.
Sunday 12 November
Dragons 15/2 | Draw 33/1 | Leinster 1/20
Winless Dragons aren’t likely to turn the tide against Leinster. Though they will have the Rodney Parade faithful behind them, Leo Cullen’s men will be far too good. After a reasonably slow start to their campaign, Leinster won’t hold back here.
Verdict: Leinster (-19.5) 5/6
Absolute banker here. Get on Leinster to cruise past Dragons here.