This year’s Guinness Premiership has been one of the closest-fought in recent years, and the fact that there have been no fewer than 10 drawn games indicates how little there is between the teams. Here is the latest view of the table:
Gloucester’s resounding win over Sale and Leeds’ victory against Wasps has put the relegation battle to the front of many people’s minds. There are now just 5 points separating the bottom 5 clubs and any one of them could face the drop at the end of the year.
Harlequins and Newcastle are very much in the race, but I think they will both survive. Quins take on Worcester at the Stoop this weekend, and I can see them winning that fixture to give them a little more breathing space.
The Falcons now have two home games in a row against Bath and Gloucester, and although both sides have hit some form, I’d expect Newcastle to win at least one of them. They have quite a tough run in after that, facing Saracens, Harlequins and Leicester, which puts increased importance on their home games, and it means we may know more about their destiny after the next couple of rounds.
Sale have suddenly found themselves in the mire after a dreadful run of form, but it’s important to note that they do have a game in hand – the rearranged home fixture with Wasps, taking place on Friday 19th March. Lose that game, and they’ll be very much in the dogfight over the last few weeks. I think Sale will survive, but it will be close.
Leeds were once nailed on for relegation, but have started putting some wins together and now have some momentum and confidence going into the last few rounds. There are no easy fixtures when you are at the bottom of the table, but there is one showdown that stands out – their match with Worcester at Headingley in the penultimate round.
Worcester also have some tricky fixtures, including Wasps and Leicester at home, and their much-needed win at the weekend should give them a confidence boost, but there is no doubt that their trajectory has been downwards compared to Leeds on the up.
The game between the two sides on 25th April is likely to take on huge significance, and I think the winner of that fixture will avoid relegation. A lot can happen between now and then of course, but I’m predicting that Leeds will stay up and that Worcester will take their place in the Championship next season.
The stakes are even higher now, with the Championship’s playoff structure meaning that a swift return to the Premiership is by no means guaranteed. That sort of pressure is what makes this league so fascinating.
Let me know what you think – who will face relegation?