Well perhaps not the “Grand Finale” but I always look upon this weekend as the culmination of the blood sweat and tears that have gone into the campaign over the season. There is obviously the business end of a semi-final and a final to be played, but there is nothing like the feeling of being the top of the statistics pile come season end.
It doesn’t matter what competition you play in, there is a distinct sense of satisfaction that knowing you played the other teams off the park week in week out, but this season is tight for those bragging rights and I mean really tight at the top end.
Both Wasps and Exeter have had outstanding campaigns this season and this is testament to the breadth and depth of their player talent, as at one point or another throughout the campaign, both teams have been short on key players thanks to international duties, and they still held their composure, slotted the players in and out like a master tactician playing a high stakes game of chess and pulled it out of the bag. Whoever comes out on top of the pile will be very deserving victors of the table, and will probably stand a very good chance of sewing up the competition in it’s entirety.
Who has the easier job on their hands this weekend? Exeter, without a doubt, and that is a bit crushing for me to say as an ex-Gloucester player who is backing the away side at Castle Grim, but despite the undoubted flashes of inspiration we have seen from the Cherry and Whites this season, you would have to say that a pumped up Chiefs side who have a chance of making the top of table, will want to despatch their enemy with clinical precision on the day. I could have this all wrong, Gloucester could come out of the traps the way they did in the Challenge Cup against La Rochelle and cause a major upset, but after their drubbing at “The Rec” last weekend, I fear the worst. We will see!
As for the main competitors Wasps, well, they have the main competitors Saracens to take to task on Saturday, and boy would I love to be a fly on the wall in either changing room before the game at the Ricoh. Sarries have got a real opportunity to mix up the top three, dethrone Wasps from their position of near invincibility at the top end of the table and really mix things up for the finals.
If you aren’t going to either of the afore mentioned games and you have know way of recording both, you better find one fast, because I sense to epic games of club level rugby on the cards. The stakes are high, the competitors are strong and the timing is perfect for this to produce some of the best rugby seen for a while.
For the best of the rest, there will be a couple of good games being played for pride and also to secure a position in the Champions Cup next season. I expect to see a fantastic scrap between Northampton and Harlequins, both teams vying for that coveted 6th position in table.
Near every other team this weekend will be playing for pride, but that does not mean for a second that I would expect them to be going any less hard than those who are scrapping it out at the top of the league.
Undoubtedly this is going to be one of the most fiercely contested weekends we have had in the Aviva Premiership, and I for one am fizzing with excitement at the prospect of two or three of these games producing some stunning performances at individual player and team level.
Who could want more? Oh the weather is supposed to be pretty good to. Sun, Rugby and a couple of cold beers to round out the season. Heaven.
Enjoy your weekend!