As we head into the penultimate round of fixtures, here are the various routes to Quarter Final qualification for Connacht.
The good news is Connacht can't be knocked out this weekend - even a loss to Zebre doesn't spell elimination as long as we follow it up with a win in Toulouse.
The other good news is the results the bookies are predicting (35 point win for Connacht and 10 point win for Wasps) would probably be the best outcome for Connacht.
That would presumably amount to 5 points for Connacht, 4 for Wasps and crucially, nothing for Toulouse, giving Connacht a five point lead over their hosts the following weekend.
Toulouse could still overturn that with a bonus point win and push Connacht into third on head-to-head results, but Connacht would just need to deny them a bonus point or secure a bonus point themselves to get second place. In that scenario, 18 points would probably be enough for a Quarter Final spot (more on that below).
The next best scenario (sticking with a bonus point win for Connacht) is probably for Toulouse to win and deny Wasps a bonus point. This would leave Connacht 5 points ahead of Wasps, with Wasps likely to pick up 5 against Zebre. So Connacht would need one point against Toulouse to secure second. The advantage of this scenario is that a win or draw against Toulouse would see Connacht top the pool.
A LBP for the loser of the Wasps Toulouse match makes it a little harder. A LBP for Toulouse would mean Connacht would have to deny Toulouse a bonus point AND get one themselves, while a LBP for Wasps would mean Connacht would need a draw in the Ernest Wallon (or an unlikely 2 bonus points).
A win against Zebre without a bonus point of course means Connacht need one more point in each of these scenarios.
A loss to Zebre would seem disastrous, but would not actually be terminal. Assuming Toulouse also lose, an away win would put Connacht through. A Toulouse win against Wasps could leave Connacht chasing an unlikely bonus point win in France.
The other pools and the magic number
So how many points will be needed to progress as a second placed team? Three out of five will progress and there were some favourable results for Connacht in Round 4. To finish second Connacht will probably need 18 points anyway. They may be able to pox it with 17 but it's less likely.
To progress, Connacht need to have more points than at least two of the other second place teams (or equal match points and better points difference).
Let's look at the other 4 pools.
Munster are likely pool winners - if they end up in second they will definitely take a qualification spot. Glasgow are likely to be second and have a very good chance of getting at least 19 points and finishing ahead of Connacht.
Toulon on 10 points would need to win both their remaining fixtures. This weekend they're at home to Sale Sharks so that should mean 5 points for them, but their final game is away to Saracens, who are unlikely to take their foot off the gas even if they are already guaranteed qualification.
Montpellier are on 11 points so their threat will hopefully recede with defeat in the RDS. Castres on 9 would need bonus point wins away to Northampton and home to Leinster (unlikely).
Bordeaux and Ulster are both on 9 points with negative points difference so one or other of them would need two bonus point wins to get ahead of where Connacht would likely be if they finish second. Ulster are away to Exeter and Bordeaux at home to Clermont so hard to see a TBP for either of them. They play each other in Ravenhill the following weekend so if either of them is on 14 at that stage, they could threaten.
In summary, it looks likely that if Connacht finish second with 18 points they will progress - the difficult part will be finsishing second.
What about a home Quarter Final?
If Connacht win both their games with one bonus point, and Toulouse beat Wasps, they would top the pool, but would very likely be the lowest seeded team. They could sneak ahead of Munster (if they come back from Glasgow empty handed) or Leinster (if they get less than 6 points from Castres and Montpellier) but it's probably another weekend on the road if we make it. Of course if we get a try bonus in Toulouse ... oh now it's just getting silly.
Without sounding greedy, it would be nice to avoid scraping through in eight spot, with the inevitable trip to Allianz Park. Seventh would throw up some more interesting destinations - Leinster, Munster or Clermont - interesting times.
Brief summary of who to shout for
If you're watching the other games, here are the results you should be looking for.
Leinster v Montpellier - Leinster all the way. Defeat puts Montpellier out of range.
Northampton v Castres - Northampton, but anything other than a bonus point win for Castres is fine.
Wasps v Toulouse - ideally Wasps with no bonus point for Toulouse, but basically shout for whoever is winning. LBPs are the real enemy here.
Glasgow v Munster - Munster. If they deny Glasgow an LBP, points difference could be enough to keep them behind Connacht.
Scarlets v Saracens - Scarlets. Not that relevant but a Scarlets win would give Saracens a bit of extra motivation against Toulon next weekend.
Toulon v Sale - Sale. Not going to happen, but if it does, it's bye bye Toulon.
Bordeaux v Clermont - Clermont. Though anything other than a bonus point win for Bordeaux is enough.
Exeter v Ulster - Exeter. Anything other than a bonus point win for Ulster is fine though so hopefully for their own sake Ulster win but just don't get the bonus. It's the last game so fingers crossed enough results will have gone our way by then and we can support the neighbours.
And just one more curveball ...
The above is based on the assumption that Connacht want the second-placed teams in each pool to finish with as few points as possible, ensuring 18 points is enough for Connacht. But just assume some of the results above go the other way and the target ends up being 19. If Connacht are on 18 and Toulouse on 13 going into the last game, Connacht would now need a LBP to qualify, but since Toulouse would be out of range of the 19 point target, they'd have nothing to play for, so getting that result might be a lot easier than against a Toulouse team out to win and score a try bonus. So maybe we actually want the opposite results in all the above games! Enjoy the rugby ...