ALL TO PLAY FOR
It is at this tense time of the year fans across the Premiership are calculator in hand crunching the numbers to make top 4, top 6 or avoid relegation. At the moment 5 teams are contesting the top four places to see who can get to Twickenham for the show piece final and below that probably two to three teams are fighting for top 6. As for Bristol - as much as it pains me to say it I think they are relegated. They nearly pulled off a staggering result against Exeter last weekend and though they lost grabbed themselves two points. Their problem now is that they are relying on Worcester to slip up and they have a pretty horrendous run in compared to Gary Gold’s boys.
London based Harlequins have a critical game on Friday night which kicks off the weekend. It’s been a rocky ride for them in the Premiership this season but if they can nail 6th place and European Cup rugby I think their fans will be happy and relieved. Standing in front of them however is a road block in the shape of Exeter Chiefs. The Devonian side are sitting pretty in second place but with the Saracens Wolfpack blowing hot breath onto their necks they need this win to keep space between them and cling on for that valuable home semi final. Exeter wobbled last week but the one thing about this team is they do not mind travelling so will feel confident travelling up the M5.
In the West country there will be a bone cruncher in Worcester taking on the glamour boys of Bath. What an improvement Worcester has made and my personal view is their league points don’t do them justice. They have played some good rugby and had some famous wins including one over Saracens. The plastic pitch is an advantage over Bath as is having the tactical and hardnosed nous of South African coach Gary Gold. Clever signing that by Worcester. Another plus point is the quite magnificent Francois Hougaard. How he is not the nailed on Springbok scrum half I can’t comprehend. Just pure class and a game changer. As for Bath they had a pretty impressive win over the Tigers to soothe the wounds from the mauling they got from Saracens. George Ford put on a big display for his new employers and marshalled his side really well. Looking at team sheets you would have to back Bath for this one with the amount of big name players but don’t write off Worcester.
The Cherry & Whites are smarting. Somehow losing games in the last few minutes ends up a self fulfilling prophecy. As you near the 70 minute mark you can tense up thinking ‘please don’t let me make a mistake now that gives the game away so we lose again’. The mind is so powerful it affects your performance both positively and negatively. Gloucester is full of talent and have played some incredibly good rugby but confidence is low and I suspect players and fans can’t wait for the season to end and to start afresh next season. A season which will deliver them a shiny new coach in the shape of highly rated South African Johan Ackermann. Sale do not travel too well and have realistically not much chance of qualifying for the European Cup so this just may be a chance for the Glos boys to play a full 80 and give themselves an outside chance of top tier competition next season.
Final match I am looking forward to should be a humdinger as Northampton Saints go up against close rivals Saracens. These two sides have an interesting history especially with Saints being one of the few teams to have won, not only once but twice at the London club’s fortress Allianz Park. Sarries apparently are resting Farrell and Itoje so there is a real sniff of hope for the Saints boys here. A win for them could put them comfortably in Top 6 which is a real motivator – if one was needed. For Saracens they won’t mind playing away in the semi finals of the Premiership but if they win all their remaining games and Exeter slip up they could nail that home semi final.