Guinness Premiership: The Final Round

James HutchisonSenior Analyst IApril 24, 2009

Tomorrow afternoon sees the climax of the regular Guinness Premiership season, and there is still plenty to play for in most corners of the country.

Ten teams remain in reach of one goal or another, with six still able to qualify for the semi-finals, and four other teams eyeing a spot in next year’s Heineken Cup.

Bath take on Saracens at The Rec and need two points to guarantee their place in the top four, but they’ll be looking for maximum return to clinch a home tie.

Sarries sit in ninth place, and although they still have an outside chance of claiming the seventh Heineken Cup place, I’m backing Bath to win this one.

Harlequins host Newcastle whilst also chasing a bonus-point win and a home semi-final. Dean Richards’ side will be looking for a strong finish after an impressive season, and whilst Newcastle could also qualify for the Heineken Cup, I’m picking a Home win for this one as well.

Leicester have already qualified for the playoffs and are assured of a home tie. They welcome Bristol to Welford Road and are the only two teams which have nothing at stake. The Tigers are likely to rest key personnel ahead of their Heineken Cup semifinal, and although Bristol will put up a fight, I can’t see anything but a Leicester victory as they look to build momentum going into the knockout stages.

Gloucester travel to Wasps after their miserable performance during the week, and the mood in the camp does not sound positive. Dean Ryan has told everyone how rubbish all of his players are, and everyone has told Ryan that he has been responsible for recruiting the squad. Changes are afoot at Kingsholm, and I would think this performance will be the last damp squib of the Ryan era. Wasps to win.

Sale take on Northampton at Edgeley Park with a chance of sneaking into the top four if other results go their way. They are likely to pull out all the stops in chasing a bonus-point win, and were so impressive against Quins last week that I’m backing them to win again. Even though it’s not a Friday night, Sale are very difficult to beat at home.

Finally, London Irish face a tough trip to Sixways where Worcester await. Their hosts will be unable to alter their place in the Premiership table, and so are likely to focus on the European Challenge Cup next weekend as a route into next year’s Heineken Cup. Irish will be desperate to make the semis after leading the way for most of the season, and I think they’ll do it.

Here are my SuperBru predictions for the final round:

Game 127: Bath v Saracens: Bath by 14
Game 128: Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons: Harlequins by 16
Game 129: Leicester Tigers v Bristol: Leicester Tigers by 8
Game 130: London Wasps v Gloucester Rugby: London Wasps by 12
Game 131: Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints: Sale Sharks by 13
Game 132: Worcester Warriors v London Irish: London Irish by 14