Stoop to conquer
Sky Bet's Jordan Fiddes previews this weekend's Aviva Premiership action and tells us where the smart money will be going
By Jordan Fiddes - Twitter: @SkyJordanFiddes. Last Updated: February 16, 2013 10:17am
While you've all been getting your breath back after a fantastic fortnight of Six Nations action, I've been on the hunt for the best bets ahead of this weekend's Aviva Premiership fixtures.
The big match on Saturday sees the top two in the table going head-to-head as Harlequins welcome Leicester Tigers to the Twickenham Stoop.
Second-placed Quins start the game as marginal favourites due to home advantage, however I fancy Leicester to nick this one and increase their lead at the top.
The Tigers welcome back England trio Toby Flood, Manu Tuilagi and Thomas Waldrom, while four players; Tom and Ben Youngs, Geoff Parling and Dan Cole remain in the England camp.
The stats, however, are hugely in favour of the Tigers as they travel to London having won on their last eight visits to the Stoop.
The last time Harlequins beat Leicester at home was in a wildcard semi-final back in 2003.
Leicester are in top spot due to their superior points difference and currently hold the best defensive record in the competition.
This weekend will be the biggest test for a defensive line that has only conceded 14 tries, as Harlequins boast the most potent attack so far in the 2013 Aviva Premiership season.
In Nick Evans, they have the top points scorer, with 196, and they have six players who have scored three tries or more, including Evans himself.
If that is the case, I still expect Leicester to come from behind and take the points this weekend.
In 42 games against Harlequins, Leicester have won 32 and lost just nine, although they did lose 22-9 earlier in the season but, even then, they conceded just one try.
If form is anything to go by, it's stacked heavily in Leicester's favour, although Harlequins have not lost back-to-back games since early 2010.
I'm expecting the Tigers to inflict the second defeat this weekend outright at 5/4.
Bath: In red hot form
In the early kick-off on Saturday, I'm going for Bath to beat the handicap of -8 at home to London Irish.
With both of these teams struggling in the Premiership table, it's likely to be played mainly in the forwards, with each team looking at grinding out a result without exposing themselves out wide.
Therefore, the return of the front-row pairing of Paul James and David Wilson for Bath will prove crucial.
Bath have won more than half of their games with Wilson in the team and his recent performances for his club have earned him international recognition.
Toby Booth's men come into the game having won their last five fixtures whereas London Irish have only managed four wins all season, yet they did upset an under-strength Saracens side last week.
Irish have the worst defensive record in the division and Bath have crossed the whitewash for an impressive 23 tries.
With that in mind, I'm going for Bath to beat the handicap of -8 at 10/11.
Finally, I'll be adding a try-scorer bet to this weekend's accumulator in the form of winger James Short.
Contrary to his name, the odds for him to score anytime are huge this weekend.
Short has scored in 34 per cent of his games for the Sarries with a total of 10 tries and he is 9/4 to score anytime at home against Exeter on Saturday.
A word from the Sky Bet trading room
"Saracens have been given a very healthy start of -10 against Exeter and, looking at their line-up, this is a bit generous.
"They've had a lot of international call-ups and this has been reflected in the team for this weekend, so Exeter to beat the handicap is proving a very popular bet with the Sky Bet punters already.
"Matt Banahan returns for Bath this weekend and their recent form should see them beat the handicap comfortably.
"They have a very strong defence and a big pack to call upon so expect the -8 handicap to a bit bigger come kick-off."