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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Cardiff Blues can chase home big two in battle for playoff spot

Owen Lane a big price to top scoring charts

Cardiff Blues celebrate their European Challenge Cup final victory over Gloucester last season
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Conference A
Cardiff, Cheetahs, Connacht, Glasgow, Munster, Ospreys, Zebre

We should be in for a fascinating battle between Ospreys, Connacht and Cardiff for the third playoff spot behind Glasgow and Munster and at the prices, the Blues are the pick.

Cardiff claimed last year's European Challenge Cup crown with a sensational comeback victory over Gloucester and while Sam Warburton has retired and they have a new head coach in Aussie John Mulvihill, most of the main men behind that triumph remain at the Arms Park.

Warburton's last match was for the British & Irish Lions 14 months ago. Danny Wilson was allowed to go to Wasps because he had not only righted the ship but set course for a rosy future. Dmitri Arhip and Samu Manoa add nous and power to the pack and they have never lacked scoring abiliity.

Take electric centre-wing Owen Lane to build on his six-try haul in his first full campaign with a bold bid for top regular-season tryscorer honours. 

A sizeable turnover of personnel counts against the Ospreys even though Scott Williams and George North are standout positive incomings to the Liberty Stadium and there is no doubt that Justin Tipuric will show the way as new club captain.

Late improvement got Ospreys into the playoff with Ulster for a Champions Cup spot this season but a bad defeat in Belfast suggests they have plenty more to find.

The best value way to support the chances of an improved Ospreys showing is backing the precociously talented Sam Davies to be top regular-season pointscorer.

Kicking duties and gametime tend to be shared around in the other high-scoring sides, but with Dan Biggar's departure for Northampton, Davies is the number one fly-half. He has the all-round game to rack up plenty of points.   

Surprise 2016 Pro12 champions Connacht seem to have returned to their role of plucky but often outclassed underdogs. It will be interesting to see if new head coach Andy Friend plus Aussie imports Kyle Godwin, Colby Fainga'a and David Horwitz settle in Galway.

Zebre enjoyed their best season yet with seven wins but treading water looks Michael Bradley's aim, while Kings are easily overlooked.

Recommendations
Cardiff to be in Conference A top three
3pts 9-4 Betway
O Lane top regular-season tryscorer
0.5pt each-way 66-1 BoyleSports  
S Davies top regular-season pointscorer
1pt each-way  12-1 Paddy Power


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Dmitri Arhip and Samu Manoa add nous and power to the pack and they have never lacked scoring abiliity
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