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Newport – Timisoara

Newport Dragons Timisoara Saracens preview

Newport Dragons and Timisoara Saracens will square off on Friday in the 5th round of the European Rugby Challenge cup group stage. Both teams are already out of the race for qualification, as the Dragons have only 5 points and Timisoara has zero.

The Dragons had a pretty good season so far, considering their massive struggles in the last few years, when they were barely winning any games. The hosts have won 4 matches out of 13 in the domestic Pro14 competition, and were decent in the Challenge Cup as well considering the strong opposition. The Dragons beat Timisoara by 37 points in Romania, lost to Clermont by 25 in France, and lost twice to Northampton (by 14 and 34).

Timisoara Saracens has been, as expected, the worst team in the Competition. Not only is Romanian Rugby a step below this level, but Timisoara is actually not even the top team in the country anymore. The reigning champions lost a big chunk of their financing over the Summer, which resulted in the departure of some key players, and the visitors (currently 3rd in Romania) are not expected to repeat at Champions. Timisoara lost all games in the Challenge Cup by an average margin of 42.7 points. They played just three, as in the previous round they had their meeting with Northampton cancelled due to heavy snow (Timisoara losing 0-28 via disqualification).

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Team news & lineups:

The Dragons will pretty much shuffle their entire lineup here, like they did in the previous game against Timisoara. The visitors continue to miss some key players, most notably their full back Fercu.

Newport Dragons: Jordan Williams; Dafydd Howells, Hallam Amos, Jack Dixon, Will Talbot-Davies; Jason Tovey, Rhodri Davies; Gerard Ellis, Richard Hibbard (c), Chris Coleman, Joe Davies, Matthew Screech, Ben Fry, Nic Cudd, James Benjamin.

Timisoara Saracens: Marius Simionescu; Daniel Vladut Zaharia, Tevita Manumua, Florin Popa, Stephen Shennan; Luke Samoa, Gabriel Conache (c); Sione Taupaki, Eugen Capatina, Horatiu Pungea , Dorin Lazar, Marius Iftimiciuc, Thomas Whitehurst, Vlad Neculau, Michael Stewart.

This will pretty much be a “B” lineup for the Dragons here, but that might be a good thing. With the Dragons out of the competition, the starters might have been less motivated, but these substitutes will be eager to prove their worth. The “B” lineup of the Dragons (which still features some Welsh Internationals) is still miles better than Timisoara, as it was proved in the previous meeting, when a similar Dragons side in terms of strength rolled Timisoara over in Romania.

Timisoara actually managed to keep its games pretty tight in the first half in this group, but their conditioning is not what it is required at this level, and they ended up getting blown out in the second half of each game. The Challenge Cup really is a step too high in terms of quality for Timisoara. They couldn`t even compete a few years ago when they had their best roster in years and brimmed with confidence, and they definitely can`t compete now when they have so many problems.

The visitors are definitely in a bad spot, they lost their financing, they lost key players, and there are problems with salaries. Some players have voiced their discontent at not getting paid, so atmosphere in the locker room can`t be good. The fact that Timisoara had its last Challenge Cup match cancelled due to the inability of officials to clear the pitch of snow has been another blow to team morale.

A 31,5 point handicap seems well within Newport`s grasp here. They won by 37 in Timisoara and should be able to get a similar score here, maybe even bigger.

Home court advantage should also be huge here. The Dragons might not currently be one of the powerhouses of British Rugby, but they actually have a winning record at home in the PRO14 against the highest level of competition, and they won 11 out of their last 13 at home in the Challenge Cup. Meanwhile, for a small Eastern European club like Timisoara, playing away against this kind of opposition is much tougher than playing at home. Timisoara played just once away from home in this group so far and lost by 58 points against Clermont.

My tip will be Newport to cover the 31,5 point handicap. The line is currently moving up. If it continues to go in that direction and you can`t find the -31.5, I`d probably go as high as -34, with stakes decreasing gradually for each point. Prediction: Newport Dragons – Timisoara Saracens 50 – 10.

Pick: Dragons -31,5
Odds: 1.93 @ Pinnacle
Stake: 8
Possible profit: 7.44
Event date: 11 January

About Rostick

Former bookie & water polo player. Rugby Union expert. - EDITOR INFO & STATS
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