As Aviva bows out as the sponsor for the Premiership in favour of Gallagher, Sarge looks at the possible results
After a very disappointing eight months, the last Saints game of the 2017-2018 season is this Saturday. Franklin’s Gardens at 4 pm is the place to be, with Worcester Warriors as our final opponents. For some reason, BTSport doesn’t think that 9th v 11th is the main attraction this week, so if you can’t get to the ground you will have to tune in to Radio Northampton for the commentary.
Let’s have a look at all the fixtures this week:
Bath v London Irish: Bath is only one place ahead of Saints, but with a 13 point difference we can’t catch them. Irish are already relegated and, unless Bath basically put out an academy side I can’t see anything but a home win at The Rec.
Harlequins v Exeter: The Quins season has been as bad as that of the Saints (the thrashing at Twickenham around Christmas notwithstanding), whilst Exeter have carried last season’s form through and sit comfortably on top of the table. The form book would suggest an away win at the Stoop.
Newcastle v Wasps: 4th plays 3rd and with only 3 points between the teams it will be difficult to predict this one. Which team puts in the greater effort may come down to whether they want to visit Sandy Park or Allianz Park in the semi-finals. If I were a betting man I’d avoid putting money on this as it’s too close to call.
Sale v Leicester: Sale are 7th so will definitely be up for this one to scrape into the Champions Cup next season. Leicester in 5th are not guaranteed Champions Cup rugby yet so will also be wanting to take away the points, but (leaving aside any East Midlands rivalry) I think that this game will go to the Sharks.
Saracens v Gloucester: Sarries are 2nd and have a guaranteed home semi-final; will they rest some players this week in anticipation of the big effort required for the playoffs? Gloucester are 6th but are not yet guaranteed Champions Cup rugby. This ought to be a home win but if Sarries rest too many players there could be a shock if the Cherry & Whites play out of their skins (especially if they wish to erase the nightmare of last week’s game at home to Bath).
Which just leaves Saints v Worcester. After being stuck in 10th spot for several weeks, Saints moved up to 9th courtesy of the 2 bonus points from the game at the Ricoh. Worcester also had a good game last week, the win against Quins putting both of those teams on equal points. If Saints win they stay 9th and provide a good send-off for those players about to leave. Lose and they could end up back in 10th, or even 11th if Quins overcome Exeter.
And for my last picture of the season, how things looked at the north end of FG just three short years ago.