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Gallagher Premiership: The state of play as we enter final three games

The race for the Gallagher Premiership play-offs is getting more and more hectic each week, as teams clamour to reach the top four. 

This is one of the tightest Premiership seasons in recent years, and now only 10 points separate second-placed Bath Rugby and eighth-placed Leicester Tigers. If that wasn’t tight enough, Bath, Saracens, Bristol and Sale all boast the exact same record of 9 wins and 6 losses, and Harlequins, Exeter and Leicester also have identical records with 8 wins and 7 losses. The closeness of the Premiership this season means teams will be trying everything they can to secure bonus points too, which will only make for more exciting rugby.

But how do each team sit as we approach the final three games? Here is the current state of play heading into the final chapters of the regular season.

Gallagher Premiership: The state of play as we enter final three games

Table toppers Northampton Saints-Credit: IMAGO

N.B Key:

(H)=Home

(A)=Away

(W)=Win

(L)=Loss

Northampton Saints

Credit: IMAGO

Phil Dowson’s side are steamrolling their way to a home semi-final. The Saints are on a fantastic run of eight wins from their last nine Premiership matches, which has helped them skyrocket up the table, but the way their playing is what is generating title talk. They are playing such a fantastic brand of attacking, fast-paced rugby which is helping them put some huge scores on other teams.

One area they have dramatically improved this season though is their defence. Last season, they had the second-worst defence in the Premiership, however they now have the sixth best in the competition. This new foundation is really allowing their attack to flourish, and boosting their overall game.

Final three fixtures: Harlequins (A) (W), Gloucester (H) (W), Bath (A) (L)

The Saints face a tough run-in, especially the away games against Harlequins and Bath, but should be pushing for at least two wins. These will be beneficial though in getting them battle ready for the play-offs though.

Bath Rugby

Credit: IMAGO

Johann van Graan has completely turned Bath’s fortunes around this year, and they now find themselves firmly in the hunt for a home semi-final. Spearheaded by Finn Russell and Ollie Lawrence, they are playing some proper exciting rugby, but they have now also become incredibly hard to beat. They got off to a scintillating start, but despite hitting a rocky patch just before the break, they still sit second in the table, and the win last time out against Exeter will boost their confidence.

Final three fixtures: Saracens (H) (L), Newcastle Falcons (A) (W), Northampton Saints (H) (W)

Bath face their toughest challenge next weekend as they take on third place Saracens, however the away game against Newcastle will either give them a chance to pump their tyres up or rest some players ahead of their final home game against Northampton. They will likely get two wins.

Saracens

Credit: IMAGO

Defending champions Saracens haven’t been at their typical best this season, but that probably says more about how good they were in the past. They still find themselves in the top four, and despite their big defeat to Northampton Saints they still have three wins from their last four in the Premiership. Their defence has been brought into question this campaign, but they appear to be trying a new attacking style of play, which has seen them rip apart Harlequins, Exeter and Gloucester in recent fixtures.

Final three fixtures: Bath (A) (W), Bristol Bears (A) (L), Sale Sharks (H) (L)

Saracens arguably have the toughest run-in of all. Bath will be a tough one, and a loss at the Rec will really dent their chances at getting a home semi-final, but they then take on in-form Bristol Bears. Their game against Sale will be a gruelling encounter, but they will want to do everything they can to get a home semi on the last day.

Bristol Bears

Credit: IMAGO

Bristol have come good at the perfect time. The Bears got off to a fairly sluggish start, but a huge win over Bath just before the break seemingly lit a fire under their bellies, and they’ve only improved from there. They have returned to their all-court attack, which has really brought the best out of their backline. They have started to tear teams apart in attack, but this is balanced well with solid defence too. Could they sneak their way to Twickenham?

Final three fixtures: Leicester Tigers (A) (W), Saracens (H) (W), Harlequins (A) (W)

The form Bristol are in should fill Bristol with confidence ahead of the final three games, which could help them secure three good wins; however they still face one of the harder run-ins of any side.

Harlequins 

Credit: IMAGO

Quins have had a turbulent season to say the least, but they are still in the mix for the play-offs. They are the Premiership’s resident entertainers, but have really found consistency hard to come by at points this season. They still hold an ability to score from anywhere on the pitch and with the 8, 9, 10, 12 axis they have at their disposal they will continue to be a threat going forwards in the Gallagher Premiership.

Final three fixtures: Northampton Saints (H) (L), Exeter Chiefs (A) (L), Bristol Bears (H) (L)

Harlequins know what to do in attack, but they have become leaky at the back. They boast a fantastic ability to score more than other teams, but that becomes an unsustainable method in these pressure situations. Three loses could be on the cards.

Sale Sharks

Credit: IMAGO

Sale have had a weird year. They started the season brilliantly, however their attacking woes were brought under the spotlight. At one point this season they were top of the Gallagher Premiership with a negative points difference, and they found tries incredibly hard to come by. They also went on a terrible run of four straight losses either side of the break. They have quickly snapped out of that though, with two impressive wins over Exeter and Harlequins, and more importantly found a way to score in 7’s rather than 3’s.

Final three fixtures: Newcastle Falcons (A) (W), Leicester Tigers (H) (L), Saracens (A) (W)

They face a fairly easy run-in on paper, but the game against Leicester Tigers could be something of a banana skin for them and it could derail them before a tough visit to the StoneX.

Exeter Chiefs

Credit: IMAGO

Exeter 2.0 came into this season with absolutely no pressure, however this has seemingly helped their new-look squad to flourish. The likes of Manny Feyi-Waboso, Greg Fisilau, Rusi Tuima and Lewis Pearson have all established themselves as quality Premiership players this season, and balance that with the likes of Dafydd Jenkins, Ethan Roots and Christ Tshiunza they are once again building a special team. They led the Gallagher Premiership at one point this season, but seem to be running out of steam at the crucial moment, which could be down to their squad’s inexperience in these pressure situations.

Final three fixtures: Gloucester (A) (W), Harlequins (H) (W), Leicester Tigers (A) (L)

A trip to Gloucester and their final home game against Harlequins should give them two comfortable victories, however Exeter haven’t had the best of time at Welford Road in recent years, and could find it a tricky place to go on the final day of the season.

Leicester Tigers 

Credit: IMAGO

Leicester Tigers have really struggled for consistency this season. They are capable of some fantastic displays, but they can follow that up with a big loss the week after. Since the restart, Dan McKellar’s side have only won one of their last three matches, with the win coming in a 100-minute nail biter against Newcastle. They still boast an impressive defensive record, but their attack has faltered this season. They have the fourth lowest points scored this season, and this could ultimately cost them a spot in the play-offs.

Final three fixtures: Bristol Bears (A) (L), Sale Sharks (A) (W), Exeter Chiefs (H) (W)

The Tigers face a rocky run-in, but the top four is probably out of reach for them. Bristol will be a tough challenge for them, but games against Sale Sharks and Exeter could help them end the season on a positive note.

Gallagher Premiership run-in predictions in full

Northampton Saints: 2 wins (Harlequins, Gloucester), 1 loss (Bath)

Bath Rugby: 2 wins (Newcastle, Northampton Saints), 1 loss (Saracens)

Saracens: 2 wins (Bath, Sale Sharks), 1 loss (Bristol Bears)

Bristol Bears: 3 wins (Leicester Tigers, Saracens, Harlequins), 0 losses

Harlequins: 0 wins, 3 losses (Northampton Saints, Exeter Chiefs, Bristol Bears)

Sale Sharks: 2 wins (Newcastle, Saracens), 1 loss (Leicester Tigers)

Exeter Chiefs: 2 wins (Gloucester, Harlequins), 1 loss (Leicester Tigers)

Leicester Tigers: 2 wins (Sale Sharks, Exeter Chiefs) 1 loss (Bristol Bears)