There isn't a bettor in the world who would have predicted this semi-final. Both Ulster and Edinburgh pulled off big upsets in the quarters and the last four of the Heineken Cup are unchartered waters for many of the players involved.
Ulster won this competition in 1999 but for their current squad Sunday's semi-final is a huge and daunting occasion. I don't think they'll be phased by last weekend's defeat to Heineken favourites Leinster and they will have been raring to get on with this one all week. For Edinburgh it will be exactly the same. They have already achieved an enormous amount by getting this far - I see one brave punter got matched at 1000.00 in the outright winner market - and, as the first Scottish club to reach the semis, I take my hat off to Michael Bradley's men.
Whether Edinburgh can reproduce the panache and fearlessness that they played with against Racing Metro and Toulouse is another matter. Semi-finals are very emotional occasions. For the winners, the biggest match in European club ruby awaits, while for the losers there are recriminations and a haunting sense of what might have been. Every Edinburgh and Ulster player will have gone through the kick-off in their heads several times already but this contest will, in part, be won in the heart. I don't mean it will come down to who wants it more - I mean that whoever can turn their nerves into energy, marshal the adrenalin and get the simple things right, will triumph.
Ulster have the obvious advantage of playing the match at the Aviva Stadium. They were magnificent in overcoming Munster in their titanic quarter-final. Their powerful South African backbone and homegrown heavy-weights combine so that the more nimble men up above, such as Paddy Wallace and Ian Humphries, can cause damage in open space. All did their job as Ulster stormed into the lead at Thomond Park and then stood firm when Munster rallied in the second-half.
Edinburgh's back row have been sensational, with David Denton, Ross Renie and Netani Talei all on the scoresheet in Paris. The nine-ten interchange between Mike Blair and Greig Laidlaw will give the Irish defence plenty to think about. In the end, however, I expect the Edinburgh fairytale to come to an end. They've given their nation's rugby fans something to celebrate, following a dismal Six Nations, but Ulster will be too strong. I expect them to prevail by around eight points and reach their first final for 13 years.
Back Ulster -7.5 points @ 2.08
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