It’s back to the Gallagher Premiership with round 20 this weekend after the pulsating European semi-finals last week. There are just 3 games to go with everything still up for grabs, survival, semi-final places and top spot.
The showdown for the top spot is between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens, whilst the two semi-final places are still theoretical open down to ninth-placed Bristol Bears while the battle for survival is between Leicester, Worcester and Newcastle.
Who will emerge victoriously, gain breathing space or cement a semi-final berth this weekend, when points are all that matter!
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints, Friday 26th April, Kick-off @ 7.45 pm
The Round 20 action kicks off on Friday night at Kingston Park where 12th placed Falcons take on Saints who are currently lying in 6th place and vying for the fourth semi-final spot.
Newcastle Falcons head into this on the back of two defeats and having only won once at home this season which was on the 3rd March, to fellow strugglers Worcester Warriors.
Three wins on the bounce boosted their survival hopes after an awful start to the season but it may have been too little too late. Their two recent losses including the last one to fellow struggles, Leicester Tigers, may have condemned them to relegation,
Northampton Saints’ win at the death’ against Harlequins in the last round saw them move to within striking distance of fourth place and a converted semi-final place. After negotiating the Falcons the Saints will host eleventh placed Warriors in Round 21 so are probably sensing that a semi-final is theirs for the taking, but first things first they must win at Newcastle
Having won their last two away games, Saints will be looking for a third consecutive away victory for the first time since 2014 which may propel them up to fourth in the table or at least to apply pressure on the incumbent.
Strangely enough, Newcastle have won all of their last six meetings against Northampton in Premiership Rugby, which oddly ended a run of eleven straight wins in the matches by the Saints
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Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby, Friday 26th April, Kick-off @ 7.45 pmMore Friday night can be found at the AJ Stadium as 8th placed Sharks host 7th placed bath with both sides looking to land a knockout blow to each others semi-final aspiration.
The Sale fans will be wondering which team will turn up as since the turn of the year they have been very jackal and hyde with excellent wins over Wasps and Saracens while suffering heavy defeats to those teams at the bottom of the tables.
Sale Sharks last four Gallagher Premiership matches have all been won by the home team giving them 3 consecutive home wins in all competitions, the last time they mad it four was back in January 2018
This is the start of three games against their semi-final place competitors with one more at home giving them a longshot of taking fourth spot and a likely semi-final against the Exeter Chiefs.
Bath Rugby will be kicking themselves after throwing away a 17 nil first-half lead against Gloucester in round 19 where a win would have improved their chances of a top-four finish.
What is worrying for Bath fans is that they not won away from home in the Premiership since round 10, way back in December. A win at the AJ Stadium will put them in good stead before they entertain Wasps at home before travelling to struggling Leicester where they hope they can claim that converted fourth place.
The last three games between these two clubs have honours even with one win apiece plus a draw – a rare event this season with only two recorded draws with both involving Bath Rugby Bath’s only previous win in Premiership Rugby at the AJ Bell Stadium came in round one of the 2014/15 season.
Premiership head to head sees Bath holding the edge with 23 wins over the Sharks 19, however, this comes with a lesser try count as they trail 78 to the Sharks 84
Leicester Tigers v Bristol Bears, Saturday 27th April, Kick-off @ 3 pm
Tenth take on ninth at Welford Road where a win for the hosts will almost certainly mean a continued Premiership status for next season, while a win for the visitors will boost their slim outside chance of making the semi-finals.
Leicester fans will be wanting the season to end after believing they were in for a coveted top place only to have a disastrous new year seeing them slip into the battle for Premiership survival
The Tigers suffered three big defeats before gaining a massive win over old boy Dean Richards Newcastle Falcons side in round 19 giving themselves some breathing space in the battle for survival.
The Bristol Bears have taken some big scalps this season including the reigning Champions, Saracens, 31-21 at Ashton Gate last time out. The win left Pam Lam’s troops nine points to make up over three games to take the fourth semi-final spot, which would be an astonishing feat in their first season back in the Premiership.
Head to head the Tigers have mauled the Bears with sixteen wins to six amassing 76 tries compared to the Bears 37. However, in the reverse fixture back in December, it was the Bears that came out on top with a scathing 41 – 10 win.
Remaining fixtures from round 20 of the Gallagher Premiership 2018/2019
Saturday 27th April
- Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins – Kick-off @ 2 pm
- Wasps v Saracens – Kick-off @ 4.30 pm
Sunday 28th April, Kick-off @ 3 pm
- Worcester Warriors v Gloucester Rugby