Predictions: the Aviva Premiership run-in

Aviva Premiership

Leeds’ remarkable victory at Kingston Park at the weekend kept the relegation race very much alive, and although the top four look relatively comfortable, it’s all to play for mid-table for the Heineken Cup places.

Relegation battle

Leeds have a tricky run-in, with three games remaining to secure Premiership status next season. They travel to Wasps this weekend, then host Harlequins before an away match at Northampton on the final weekend.

Wasps are looking somewhat vulnerable with their various injury struggles and loss of form – they’ve picked up 5 points in their last six matches – but winning at Adams Park is never easy. Leeds beat Wasps twice in the league last year, but can they take the points this weekend? I think they’ll need to, because they won’t want to rely on beating either Quins or Northampton to survive.

Newcastle, meanwhile, have a game in hand over Leeds, but there are no easy points on offer. They host Northampton on Friday night, then play Leicester Tigers the following week before back-to-back fixtures with Bath in the course of 8 days – three of the traditional powerhouses of English rugby.

Technically Sale are not out of the woods yet, but their win over Gloucester means that I’m ruling them out of the race.

In a two-horse race then, the fact that Newcastle have three home games out of four, compared to Leeds’ one home fixture out of 3, is persuading me to lean towards Newcastle to stay up. This weekend is crucial though if Leeds can beat Wasps.

Top 4

Leicester and Saracens look like clinching the home semi-final spots, with Gloucester and Northampton very likely to make up the top four.

The rearranged Gloucester v Northampton fixture next Tuesday night could decide who plays who in the semis, but the Cherry and Whites have a slightly tougher run-in and will probably end up in 4th.

London Irish, Harlequins and Bath have an outside chance of making the playoffs, and Bath have a game in hand over the other two – but they would need to win their remaining games and rely on Gloucester or Northampton to drop points, and I can’t see it happening.

Heineken Cup places

Instead, these teams should be concentrating on securing Heineken Cup rugby next season.

It’s looking like there will be only six English teams, unless Northampton can win the tournament this year and grant the team in 7th a place. I can see them beating Perpignan at home, but I think Leinster or Toulouse would have the experience to see them off in the final.

So I’m working on the basis of just two spots outside the top four. I think Bath will claim one, given their game in hand and their fixtures at home to Quins, against Wasps on St George’s Day and Newcastle twice where you’d fancy their chances.

It’s then a toss-up between Quins and Irish, neither of whom have particularly easy fixtures, but I’m going to go for Harlequins whose current form and momentum I think will carry them through. Sorry Benny Coles.

Relegated: Leeds
Top 4: Leicester, Saracens, Northampton, Gloucester
Other Heineken Cup places: Bath, Harlequins

What do you think? Do you see things differently? Here’s the current table from SportGuru:

Aviva Premiership Table

Photo: Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images

14 thoughts on “Predictions: the Aviva Premiership run-in

  1. I think that with the win over Bath at the weekend Leeds will have been given a huge confidence boost. It helps that they have a gritty, determined coach in Neil Back who, although has little experience of this type of situation as a player, showed last year that he is capable of leading this side out of the danger. I truly believe that it will come down to the final day and that it will be Newcastle who fall through the trap door. I feel Exeter deserve a mention here as well because who honestly thought they wouldn’t be involved in at least some way in the relegation batlle, tremendous season.

    Other than that I completely agree. Bath are on good form and the extra game in hand almost guarantees them the Heineken Cup place and Quins have picked up since the likes of Care and Easter have returned, as well as the talismanic Evans who continues to show he is still one of the best fly-halves in the world.

    As for the top four, I think it will be a Leicester v Gloucester and Saracens v Northampton semifinal. No one can argue that they have been the in form sides this season.

    I’m looking forward to the next few weeks, should be exciting stuff!

  2. Good shout on mentioning Exeter – incredible stuff from them, and should win Team of the Year, with Rob Baxter picking up Coach of the Year. It will be interesting to see how they fare next season now that they’ve had more of an opportunity to plan for life in the Premiership.

    Agree on your semi-final fixtures, and I wonder if Saints can get revenge for defeat in the reverse of that fixture last year.

    Would like to see Leeds stay up, and they do have more momentum, but they need another big win.

  3. Would have to agree with Nick W. After that massive win over the Falcons, Leeds will have the momentum to push on and stay up. I am sure it will go down to the last day but I just can’t see Newcastle winning again. If Leeds can turn Wasps over at the weekend, they will stay up. I think they will beat Quins at home also.

  4. I agree with it all, the only possible debate comes in the shape of Newcastle or Leeds. Leeds have momentum and are in the best form they’ve been all season (which admittedly isn’t much but it is still something that Back & Wentzel will draw on in the changing room) although Newcastle certainly have the ‘easier’ fixtures. It’ll be tighter than front-five squeeze!
    Incidentally, why only predict the top 4? Why not put your professional expertise on the line and predict who will be in the final and who will go on to win it? (I reckon Leic vs Glos & Sar vs Saints semis with Tigers beating Saints in a very close final)

  5. Has to be a Saints v Tigers final in my eyes. I know they have had a dip in form but this Saints side are hungry for success and will edge Sarries away from home. However it will be a game too far for them and the Tigers will more than likely pick up the title. Nice to see so much competition across the table going into the final few weeks though.

  6. Can’t see Leeds pulling it off this year. I do think the Tigers will win in the final but I think the Sarries will make it past Northampton to get beaten in that final. I think that Northampton will be concentrating on Heineken final (which they’ll lose) (They’ll win their semi) and so they’ll trip up in the premiership semi.

    I agree with who will qualify for heineken except that I think that Quins have an outside chance of winning the Amlin (with Munsters mind on the Magners and I think they can take the French sides) and so the Irish would qualify as well.

    It all looks an exciting run in. Except for Wasps and Exeter that is, who aren’t doing much of anything mid table as they are.

    Any comments on who may be promoted? Looking good for a return for Worcester in my limited knowledge of the championship.

  7. Worcester and Cornish are at the top of the championship. worcester has 26 points and Cornish have 25.
    I agree that wasps had a very unexciting year. It was disappointing as a wasps supporter to see them finish so low in the premiership and do poorly in the hieneken cup as well.

  8. At the current stage, wouldn’t Cornish Pirates play London Welsh and Worcester play Doncaster Knights for a place in the playoff final.

    As an aside, it would be great to see the Pirates up in the Prem. The South West has always been a hotbed of rugby and fans in that area of the country are so passionate. The team have got a good set-up as well, and are growing for the future from what I’ve read.

    Back on topic though, I don’t think Wasps have truly recovered from losing their “changing-room leaders.” It was always going to be hard to replace Dallaglio et al, and while the likes of Shaw, Benson, the returning Lewsey and to some extent Andy Powell help, they need some of their younger players to step up and develop a long-term plan for moving on.

  9. I would also like to see the Pirates come up – does their ground meet the Premiership entry criteria? I have a feeling that it does.

    Worcester and the Pirates are the two unbeaten teams in the ‘playoff’ phase, which consists of the top 8 teams in two pools. Then there are semi-finals and a two-legged final to decide who gets promoted. Worcester and the Pirates are looking the most likely at the moment, but it’s not impossible that another team beats them.

    The Andy Goode-inspired Worcester are probably favourites, but as we saw last year, anything can happen. I’m enjoying the additional coverage on Sky though, and it can only be good for the game.

  10. What that article could also mention is that out of the teams now competing for “promotion”, it’s only Worcester who can actually be promoted. The others are just competing for the trophy it seems. If Worcester do not win then there will be no promotion or relegation..

    Strictly this will be decided by the RFU when the winner has been determined, but it’s unlikely that the winning team, unless they are Worcester, will be allowed entry into the Premiership.

    NB: Only Worcester, Nottingham & Bristol applied for having their facilities assessed for potential promotion. For others to apply they’d have to invest massively. Brian Kennedy’s comments the other day about the hardships owning rugby clubs does seem very accurate in this case..

  11. It’s a tough place to be really. 3,000 is obviously not a big enough stadium, but then again, investing in a 10,000 seater is clearly a lot of money.

    Perhaps the RFU could reward the side through other means. Whether that is compensation for not being able to move up to the top tier or, and perhaps more beneficial for all, include them in the LV Cup. While most of the Aviva Premiership clubs often view it as a bit of an afterthought, it would help the Pirates drastically (I could happily go on about seeing a return to the previous knock-out cup competition now but will hold back!).

    Other than that, until the RFU or local authorities recognise that investment in new grounds will not only increase revenue but also the sport’s popularity, it will continue to be the same story.

  12. Saints to beat Gloucester tonight and Irish at weekend and bonus point against Leeds and then beat Saracens. In the final of the Heineken cup they will beat Leinster by a point. And in the Aviva premiership they will beat leicester by a point again!

  13. A club win a league by 19 points yet every one of their supporters dread the stupid play-offs from the Championship. Worcester may not get promotion due to this stupid system. Sort it, the RFU, by ensuring the best team goes up – tables do not lie but you continue to live on television led routes!

Comments are closed.