The Fight for Fourth Place

The Premiership has been enthralling, pulsating and at times mightily frustrating, ruling the roost Exeter Chiefs and Saracens have raced away and have booked themselves play-off spots. Below them Gloucester took a giant leap to the play-offs as they staged a second half fightback to beat local rivals Bath at Kingsholm last weekend.

Below that there is still a fight going on to grab that all important fourth place and the final spot in the play-offs. Just six points separate Harlequins who currently occupy fourth place and the eighth placed Sale Sharks, sandwiched in between them are Wasps, Northampton Saints and Bath Rugby.

We take a look at the play-off chasing quintet below.

Harlequins

Currently: 50 points

Run-In: Difficult

Harlequins face a difficult run-in with a game against runaway leaders Exeter Chiefs first up after the European semi-finals. This is followed by a home game against the struggling Leicester Tigers before facing what could be a pivotal game against their closest followers Wasps away at the Ricoh Arena.

Harlequins certainly have the quality to stay and reach the play-offs but the run-in will do them no favours. Can Paul Gustard’s team hang on? We think they may just be the wrong side of the line.

Prediction: 55 points

Wasps

Currently: 47 points

Run-In: Difficult

The most difficult run-in having to play Saracens at home before what is shaping up to be a hugely important match against Bath Rugby before finishing up their campaign at home to Harlequins to try and scupper their hopes.

Wasps have not fired as much as would expect looking at their electric backs and power packed forward unit. Their unfavourable run-in and crucially an away trip to play-off chasing Bath could be their undoing.

Prediction: 53 points

Northampton Saints

Currently: 46 points

Run-In: Moderate

Northampton have a fairly straightforward run-in if there is such a thing as they’ll play bottom two Newcastle (away) and Worcester (home) before the most difficult of tests with a trip to Sandy Park. Whilst we believe they have more than enough to blow Worcester away and claim the full five points we can’t see Saints getting the win at Kingston Park as Newcastle scrap for survival.

Munster_vs_Northampton_Saints,_Thomond_Park_-_10th_April_2010_(4612815231)
By Bob Bob from L o n d o n – Munster vs Northampton Saints, Thomond Park – 10th April 2010, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32150033

Plenty of grit and passion from Northampton and Chris Boyd has the makings of a very good side, the play-offs though look to be a bridge too far this season.

Prediction: 52 points

Bath Rugby

Currently: 45 points

Run-In: Moderate

Bath have been specialist of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory of many occasions. Worcester, Gloucester (twice) and Harlequins spring to mind in the league not to mention that loss to Toulouse (nobody needs to remind Freddie Burns). The trip north to Sale has claimed many victims in the past but a home game against Wasps and a final day trip to Welford Road should work in Bath’s favour.

I don’t think Bath will make the play-offs, too many mistakes and inaccuracy has plagued their season. They need to improve if they want to make the play-offs next season.

Prediction: 54 points

Sale Sharks

Currently: 44 points

Run-In: Moderate

The home advantage against Bath in a couple of weeks time is a key game for them as is the trip to ninth placed Bristol Bears. Sale Sharks finish up with a home tie against the resurgent Gloucester. We believe Sale could finish strongly and fly past all challengers picking up three all important wins.

Sale Sharks Denny Solomona
By Johnmarfleet – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61544801

Sale have not been the strongest of teams over the years but they look to have rediscovered some stardust with South African Faf de Klerk and the Curry twins they are a force to be reckoned with.

Prediction: 56 points

So there you have it Sale are our pick to make the play-offs. Whatever happens it will be close with so many pivotal match-ups the last three week is sure to provide more enthralling, pulsating rugby and definitely an infinite amount of frustration.