Following that try bonus point taken from Harlequins on Sunday we are still in with a shout of qualifying for the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals…just. If we had got the two bonus points we’d be laughing, but that wasn’t the case so we just have to crack on with what we’ve got, so here goes.
So, this is us. Our task is actually very simple, and it’s absolutely hammer Calvisano at the Arms Park on Friday. The bonus point is crucial, get that early and then ensure the points difference is as big as possible. From there it is out of our hands, and it gets a bit complicated.
Firstly, we have to finish second in our group, and to do that we’ll have to keep an eye on the Montpellier v Harlequins game out in France at the same time as us on Friday. We basically just need Quins to win. Even if Montpellier get two losing bonus points they would finish on the same points as us (this is all assuming/hoping we get the bonus point win), and we would be second ahead of the French team due to gaining a higher number of competition points from our two games before Christmas (Cardiff 6-5 Montpellier).
Obviously Harlequins won convincingly at the start of the campaign but things have changed. Montpellier clearly still have something to play for to finish ahead of us, while Quins are assured of top place in the group and a home quarter-final, and the only reason they may want to win is for momentum purposes and to be top seed of the pool stages, not that it really matters. I would expect them to name a second string side, but we did see what the second string team could do at CAP in November.
Then it gets even more complicated, as to qualify for the quarter-finals you have to be one of the best three runners-up, so we go to the other pools…
Here we find our best bet of getting into the top three runners up, with pool four already out of the running and pool two un-reachable. What we need here is Connacht or Brive to lose. With Connacht playing at home to tier 2 Russians Enisei-STM that seems unlikely, therefore all eyes on Brive, or more accurately Newcastle.
The Falcons host Brive on Saturday afternoon at Kingston Park and we really only need to win by a point. Brive could get two losing bonus points but it wouldn’t matter, but for a different reason to Montpellier, as we haven’t played Brive so it would come down to overall points difference. As we are assuming here we would get the BP win, our points difference would be superior.
Essentially, if we get the BP win over Calvisano and Harlequins beat Montpellier, then we’re all Newcastle fans on Saturday!
Now we’re in the worst case scenario area. So we’ve got the four-try win, Montpellier have lost and we’re second in the pool on 17 points but, Connacht and Brive have both won. All hope is not lost though. We just would need a French miracle from pool five on Saturday night.
As things stand, Edinburgh are second in the pool on 17 points and travel to pool leaders Grenoble. If the Scots were to lose without a bonus point then we would leapfrog them in the qualification rankings with a superior points difference. It doesn’t end there though.
At the same time London Irish go to pool whipping boys Agen. If Irish win with a bonus point, as they should, they would also get to 17 points. They start with a better points difference to us by 20, so we would need to win by 20 more points over Calvisano than Irish win over Agen.
Confused? I don’t blame you! It’s all very complicated, but all we can control is battering Calvisano on Friday night. So get out and support the lads, and make sure you have every piece of lucky underwear and socks on, each lucky stone in your pocket, and every finger and toe crossed. Come on Cardiff!!