Following the end of season dinner on Tuesday and the various awards being dished out, let’s not forget that there are two huge semi-finals this weekend – here are my SportGuru predictions.
Harlequins v Northampton
Quins have had a fine season in the Premiership, and fully deserve to be the top seeds going into the playoffs. The spine of the side in the shape of Robson, Robshaw, Easter, Care and Evans has been almost unstoppable, and the lead they accumulated in the first half of the season proved insurmountable for their rivals.
They’ll be confident of reaching the final, given that they’ve proved over 9 months that they are the best team in the country. But, there might be one or two niggling concerns about facing the Saints, and an upset could well be on the cards.
Northampton won the most recent fixture between the sides by a convincing 21-point margin in a game that made you wonder whether Quins could hold on. Moreover, a recent home defeat to the Tigers will have dented their confidence a little going into the business end of the tournament.
That said, I think they’ll come through. Just. If they can assert their authority up front and get Care and Evans on the front foot, they should have enough to make the final. Harlequins by 3.
Leicester v Saracens
These two sides have contested the last two Premiership finals, winning one apiece with plenty of drama. There will be no love lost going into the knockout stages, and both sides will fancy their chances of lifting the trophy again if they can come through this test.
How many times have we talked about the Tigers timing their run towards the end of the season? After an horrific start during the World Cup, they’ve won 12 of the last 13 games, including a 1-point victory over Saracens in their own back yard. That sort of momentum can have such an impact on games like this, and I’m finding it hard to look beyond them to make the final.
That said, Saracens know what it takes to beat them, and they’ll try to assert themselves up front to disrupt the quality of possession for Ben Youngs and Toby Flood. Both have shown they can be a little flaky going backwards, and I suspect that that will be where the game is won or lost.
The Tigers pack won’t just roll over though, and I’d expect them to continue to provide a solid platform for Flood to pull the strings from fly-half. Tigers by 5.
Would you be happy with a Harlequins v Leicester final? Do you see these games going the other way?