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Challenge Cup FINAL Preview

By Quins4life
May 11 2016

Was there a game last weekend? I cannot seem to remember. Normally I start the previews with a little reflection on the previous game but I didn’t want to rewatch the game this week like I normally try to do. The brutal truth was that we were torn apart in that second half by an Exeter side that is on the verge of great things this season. Whilst the second half was awful, the first half wasn’t too bad, especially as we had a pretty clear try disallowed and I still I don’t understand why it wasn’t given. However, I don’t think I have seen a better side play at the Stoop, including the great Leicester and Wasps sides that conquered Europe all those years ago. 

Exeter showed that whilst you can be a strong, physical side, it does not limit you and they played some outstanding rugby. There was not much between the two sides on paper, but on the pitch there was. That loss hurt and I don’t think I have felt more humiliated, especially as it meant finishing outside of the top 6 again and without automatic Champions Cup qualification. Quite simply put, with the side we are able to put out, top 6 should have been the minimum we achieved this season and whatever happens this Friday, we need a serious rethink in order to find the consistency required across a Premiership season. 

As I have read a lot, in sport you do not get many second chances to right the wrongs of a previous match, but we do in the form of yet another Challenge Cup final. At the start of the season, we set out to win the two competitions available and whilst we have seriously fallen short in one, we have a great chance to make some success this season still. However in our way stand a very formidable opponent in the form of Montpellier, who are sat in 2nd place in the Top 14 ahead of the likes of Toulon and Champions Cup finalists Racing 92. Montpellier are also chasing there first ever pieces of European silverware which seems to be a real point of motivation for their side. 

Team V La Rochelle Last Weekend
15 Anthony Floch, 14 Julien Malzieu, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Marvin O’Connor, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Kelian Galletier, 7 Sitaleki Timani, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Robins Tchale-Watchou, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Mickaël Ivaldi, 1 Pat Cilliers 

Team V Dragons in semifinal 
15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Robins Tchale Watchou, 3 Jannie Du Plessis, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili 

It is clear that Montpellier are targeting this game by the amount of players they rested last weekend away to La Rochelle, which they ended up losing. Obviously having met Montpellier in the group stages we know a little bit about the side, even though they rotated for the game at the Stoop which we won very comfortably. Having already secured top spot in the group we chose to rotate the team for our visit to Montpellier, in which they enacted revenge on us with their strongest side out on the pitch. The semi final team above is likely to be the one we play on Friday, but there is the potential of Australian Jesse Mogg returning. It is clear there is a South Africa spine to this side with them having the Du Plessis brothers, with Bismark being the man of the match in the Quarter Final win against Sale. They also have the incredibly physical Spies in the backrow, partner with the Fijian beast Qera and French international Oudraogo who is know finally getting the international honours he deserves. In the backline, they have monster kicker Frans Steyn and French international Benjamin Fall. 

Team Selection 
Well who deserves his spot for the final after last weekend? Robshaw? Not many other. But anyway here is what I think we should do. 

In the front row, I think Marler will definitely start at loosehead, even though Lambert has been outstanding in his absence. Alongside him is a tricky decision. At hooker, we have 3 very different options, with Buchanan finally being fit again after being injured since early February. I have been calling for Ward to start in recent weeks but his throwing was awful last week, and I actually felt we missed Gray. However, if he is fully fit, I would start Buchanan due to his extra physicality and scrumaging ability. At tighthead, one certainty will be Sinckler on the bench for his impact, but who do we start out of Collier and Jones. The latter has more experience which means he will probably returns which is slightly unfair on Collier but that’s life. 

In the second row, Matthews and Merrick weren’t the best second row partnership to put it nicely last weekend so I think there is no doubt that Twomey returns alongside Horwill, who I expect will be fine to play this weekend. 

In the backrow, earlier in the season this would have been an incredibly tricky decision, but now I think it is an easy one to make. Robshaw and Easter are nailed on to start at 6 and 8 respectively, whilst I think Wallace will be starting at 7. We have sorely missed him this season when he hasn’t been fit and how well he plays will have a huge impact on deciding the winner of this match. This means Clifford will have to settle for a bench spot, with Luamanu too covering meaning him and Easter will be the second row cover. 

Captain Care will start at 9 obviously. 10 is slightly more tricky but I expect Evans to start due to his big game experience and knowledge of winning these games. Montpellier bound Botica will want to impress if he gets on against his future club and I have a sneaky feeling he may have a huge say in deciding the outcome of this game. 

In the centres, Roberts and Lowe will be the combination. Stanley has impressed in the last two weeks but it is clear these two guys are growing as a partnership and hopefully we see them spark. 

The back three is going to be Yarde, Visser and Brown if Visser is fit. If Visser isn’t fit then Walker will start due to Chisholm showing why his position is fullback not wing after some horrific defensive lapses last weekend. 

Team to face Montpellier; Marler, Buchanan, Jones, Twomey, Horwill, Robshaw, Wallace,Easter; Care (C), Evans, Visser, Roberts, Lowe, Yarde, Brown. 
Subs- Ward, Lambert, Sinckler, Luamau, Clifford, Dickson, Botica, Walker

I was slightly struggling to get confident for this game after last weekend and I hope the players have been able to park that result and move on. But this is a one off game and anything can happen. I was wondering how I could make everyone excited and pumped for the game and came up with this. These are why we can be hopeful; 




We may not have the top European rugby honours, but we have a European pedigree which not many sides possess, including Montpellier. We have players throughout the side likely to play who have all been involved in big European fixtures and have upset the odds. Players such as Evans, Brown, Robshaw, Care, all get up for games like this and thrive in knockout fixtures. On top of this, we now have big game experience from other countries to call upon with Horwill who has captained Australia to big win and also Grand Slam winners with Roberts and Jones, with Roberts being one of the best players in the world and always has an impact in the big games. 

Having this big South Africa influence in Montpellier, it is quite clear this game will be won up front and if we can get a strong foothold in the game. Montpellier strength is in their pack clearly, and I think if we can get parity with them, our backline can have some fun as I think our backline is a lot scarier and dangerous than theirs. On top of this, I think Robshaw and Wallace have a big responsibility to dominate the breakdown against a Montpellier backrow which relies more on its strength and power rather than their ability over the ball. 

Another factor will be which side can adapt to Mr John Lacey style of refereeing. Both sides have had him in the knockout stages and he is a real example of a momentum ref that normally gives decisions to teams that are on the front foot. I am personally not impressed that the EPCR couldn’t find a more experienced referee for this final. Like George Clancy is being wasted as a touch judge in the final of the Champions Cup. But it is what it is, and having had him a lot in recent years it seems, hopefully our players and management have also studied his style of reffing. 

Okay well prediction time. Montpellier are a good side and we are going to obviously have to play very well. We need a response and the team not only owe us as fans one, but also themselves as they know they are a lot better than that shambolic performance against Exeter. We have some real quality throughout this team and have players who can single handedly win the match for us. However most importantly, being out of the Champions Cup next season again will be a disaster for this side and this represents our best opportunity for us. It seems like a lot of Quins fans are going on Friday to get behind the side and hopefully that will inspire the side. Let try and get to the ground early on for the arrival of the team to show them our support. We can do this regardless of last week. I believe. Come on you Quins, lets finish on a high. 

Match Prediction- Harlequins 24 Montpellier 20

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Challenge Cup FINAL Preview (IP Logged)
11/05/2016 13:51
What do you think? You can have your say by posting below.
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Re: Challenge Cup FINAL Preview
InsertQuinsPunHere (IP Logged)
11/05/2016 14:21
Excellent as always, thanks Q4L... the last one of the season, hopefully you can get back to your scarily accurate predicting ways!

Re: Challenge Cup FINAL Preview
ChiddQuin (IP Logged)
11/05/2016 17:12
Thanks for the write up. Fingers crossed!

Re: Challenge Cup FINAL Preview
gregory p (IP Logged)
13/05/2016 12:37
Thanks for this and all the other good previews. I really hope your prediction mojo is back on song. I'm suddenly very jealous of all of you out in Lyon!

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