Yesterday the LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby) announced a raft of changes to next season’s Top 14. Amongst them was a ruling dictating that losing bonus points will be awarded for being within five points, not seven, of the winning side’s total.
It got us thinking – how much of a difference would the changes have made to the top three Northern Hemisphere leagues this season? We trawled through the season’s results and deducted bonus points on those occasions teams had lost by six or seven points – as will be the case in next season’s Top 14. The results are summarised in the three tables below:
So what does this tell us? First of all, the Top 14 is clearly the most affected league. With one round left to play, Racing would be in pole position for a spot in the top two and a direct route into the semi-finals, rather than Montpellier or Clermont, who would both lose several points and as a result face a game in the Barrages. Toulouse would be another big loser, dropping out of the top six in place of Stade Français and in the process losing not only a play-off spot but also a guaranteed place at next season’s top European table.
At the other end of the league it would be even more poignant – Oyonnax, in reality tied on 50 points with two other teams, would be almost guaranteed safety if they could grab a single point from their final game, and Perpignan would be comfortable favourites for the drop. Sadly no number of bonus points in the world could have saved Biarritz this season.
In the Premiership, there wouldn’t be any positional changes, but with two rounds still to go it would make the play-off race a whole lot tighter given Quins would edge closer to the Tigers. At the other end of the table the gap between Newcastle and Worcester would be cut by two points – who knows what importance that would have had in the mindset of the players in recent weeks?
The battle for the European play-off spot would also have been intensified, given that Exeter would have closed the gap on Wasps to just three points.
There are no positional changes in the RaboDirect PRO12 either, but at the top the Ospreys’ hopes of a play-off berth would have all but disappeared, given that they would drop two points further behind Ulster. The race to qualify for the Rugby Champions Cup next season wouldn’t be affected much either, but Treviso would sit a little more comfortably over Zebre in that guaranteed Italian spot.
So the Top 14 is the only league that would have been drastically affected, but of course, we are looking at all this with the benefit of hindsight – if teams had known that they needed to be within five to get a bonus point at the time, chances are they would have made different choices on the pitch and the results would have been different. Still, it’s an interesting exercise and one that shows next season’s Top 14 could be quite different.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images