Just about six months on from our original predictions for 2012, now seems like a good time to look back on our prophecies from earlier in the season and see where we’ve gone right, and wrong.
Champions: Harlequins (Prediction – Saracens)
Relegated: None (Prediction – Newcastle)
Technically despite Newcastle finishing in 12th place, both of these are wrong. Back in January, Saracens had just beaten Harlequins in the Big Game and were the form team in the league. But Quins continued to rack up the wins whilst Saracens lost out in crucial games at Wembley and at home to the Tigers. Leicester’s outstanding run of form led to them finishing second instead of Saracens and consequently winning the semi-final at Welford Road.
As for relegation, Newcastle did indeed finish bottom of the table, but due to London Welsh having their promotion application denied and Bristol losing out in the RFU Championship semi-final to the Cornish Pirates, no one is coming up, meaning no one is going down.
For reference, here was our predicted table at the start of the season (the Harlequins placing was slightly off the mark!):
Predicted: 1. Leicester (Champions), 2. Saracens, 3. Northampton, 4. Bath, 5. Gloucester, 6. Irish, 7. Wasps, 8. Harlequins, 9. Sale, 10. Exeter, 11. Worcester, 12. Newcastle
Actual: 1. Harlequins (Champions), 2. Leicester, 3. Saracens, 4. Northampton, 5. Exeter, 6. Sale, 7. Irish, 8. Gloucester, 9. Bath, 10. Worcester, 11. Wasps, 12. Newcastle
Champions: Ospreys (Prediction – Leinster)
Well, until the 78th minute of the final on Sunday, this prediction looked good! But a moment of Shane Williams magic and Dan Biggar’s trusty boot prevented the European Champions from completing a famous double. Instead, the Ospreys picked up the title, with their form improving rapidly over the last few months following the appointment of Steve Tandy. Their hammering of Munster in the semi-finals was one result that was not expected however, with our original prediction expecting an all-Irish final. Glasgow however did finish in 4th spot as predicted.
Heineken Cup & Amlin Challenge Cup
Champions: Leinster (Prediction – Leinster) & Biarritz (Prediction – Stade Français)
Success. Leinster added a third Heineken Cup in four years to their collection following a heavy win over fellow Irish side Ulster in the final at Twickenham. We originally marked out Toulouse and Harlequins to be competing with them in the final, so Ulster’s run comes as a bit of a surprise. But, no one could really hold Leinster back. It makes you wonder whether they can do it again this time next year.
As for the Amlin Challenge Cup, given Biarritz’s appalling domestic form we failed to even consider them as contenders for the title, picking a group of London Wasps, Toulon and Stade Français to compete. It just goes to show that if you have a good enough kicker like Dimitri Yachvili, anything is possible.
Champions: Wales (Prediction – Wales)
As expected, Warren Gatland’s young side came together to win yet another Grand Slam, this time with key wins against England at Twickenham and Ireland in Dublin. It was a special tournament for Wales who made up for the heartache suffered at last year’s Rugby World Cup, led superbly by Sam Warburton with their star wingers Alex Cuthbert and George North stealing the show. The final game against France wasn’t exactly the decider predicted, but there was no doubt about the champions.
With the RFU Championship, Top 14, Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship still to be decided we’ll leave those for some other time, but with three out of six predictions correct, we could have done better!