Clermont can assert themselves as French rugby’s dominant force

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Recent contests between Toulon and Clermont have been highly competitive affairs, the last seeing the sides draw 26-26 at the former’s Stade Mayol stadium.

Clermont are 4/7 to win the battle of the two French powerhouses, and justify their position as favourites based on the sides’ head-to-head record and their results in Europe this season.

Of the previous six clashes, Toulon have won just once. They are 13/8 to win a first Heineken Cup, while the draw can be taken at 18/1.

Clermont are unbeaten in European competition this term, and have the tournament’s leading defence. They conceded just 64 points in their six group games.

Vern Cotter’s men have been frontrunners in the betting since the start of the competition, and their attacking proficiency has won them many plaudits, as well as propelling them to the summit of the Top 14; they go to Dublin off the back of a 67-3 hammering of Bordeaux.

Toulon, while themselves inundated with international talent, are overly dependent on the boot of Jonny Wilkinson. The fly-half has been responsible for every single one of Bernard Laporte’s side’s points in the knock-out stage. Their fate appears inextricably linked to the Englishman’s fortunes, a vulnerability Clermont will surely exploit.

While Toulon’s achievement in winning the semi-final over Saracens cannot be undervalued, the London side were newcomers to that stage of the competition, and have since gone on to suffer a comprehensive loss to an unfancied Northampton outfit in the Aviva Premiership.

Of those six encounters mentioned previously, five have seen the two sides separated seven points or fewer, suggesting that Winning Margin and Handicap markets should see lots of business.

Clermont are 10/11 to win on a line of -4 points, and 6/4 to secure a triumphant margin of 1-10 points. The latter should find plenty of support in light of recent encounters.

Toulon are 12/5 to win within that same margin – if they are to be crowned champions it is difficult to see them surpassing that points bracket.

With the signs pointing to another close affair, margins of 1-5 and 6-10 should attract attention. A Clermont win by either of those can be taken at 4/1 – the shortest price in that market – while a Toulon win of between 1-5 points is a 5/1 shot.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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