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Grading each Gallagher Premiership team’s season

After 18 fantastic rounds, the regular Gallagher Premiership season is over, and now just four teams remain in the hunt for glory!

Northampton Saints, Bath Rugby, Sale Sharks and Saracens have all secured their play-off spots, however this season will go down as one of the most competitive in Premiership history.

From Northampton’s 90-0 thrashing of Gloucester, Bristol’s 85-14 thumping of Newcastle, Sale’s remarkable recovery to book a semi-final and the regeneration of Exeter Chiefs, this season has had it all!

With the play-off race so competitive, a team’s league standings might not fully represent their season, and so with that in mind here is our end of term report on each Gallagher Premiership team.

Grading each Gallagher Premiership team’s season

Northampton Saints: A

Credit: IMAGO

The table-toppers have had a terrific season, and fully deserve their spot at the summit. Phil Dowson’s men have played their typical attacking style, however have really fixed up their defence this season and this has taken them to new heights. Players like Ollie Sleightholme, Fin Smith, Tommy Freeman and Sam Graham have also come on leaps and bounds this season to become some of the best players in the Gallagher Premiership. They will likely be favourites to lift the title in June.

Bath Rugby: A

Credit: IMAGO

A marked improvement on the past few seasons from Bath. Johann van Graan has really galvanised his side this season, and it’s taken them to new heights. Bath have become incredibly hard to beat too, and have really improved around the breakdown and in the tight too. New recruits Finn Russell and Thomas du Toit have been instrumental to their success, and players like Ben Spencer, Beno Obano and Sam Underhill have also recaptured their best form too.

Sale Sharks: B+

Credit: IMAGO

The best way to summarise Sale’s season is probably ‘brilliant start, terrible middle, great end’. The Sharks were top of the table at Christmas, then a run of four straight Premiership defeats threatened to derail their season; however, Alex Sanderson’s side rallied in the final stages to secure another top four finish. The backs against the wall mentality really brought the best out of the Sharks too, in particular against a Saracens side chasing a home semi-final. They also rejuvenated their attack at the end of the season too, which saw players like George Ford and Rob du Preez shine. The defensive efforts of Sam Dugdale also deserve a mention.

Saracens: B

Credit: IMAGO

A strange season for Saracens, however they still find themselves in the top four. A slow start looked to have condemned them to a year without the play-offs, however Mark McCall’s side returned to their brilliant best in the latter stages of the season. They also proved they could win in different ways too, rather than just their standard suffocation tactic. The likes of Tom Willis, Tom Parton and Roti Segun really grew into the season too.

Bristol Bears: B

Credit: IMAGO

Bristol looked down and out before the break, but a return to the ‘Bears way’ brought them right back into the play-off race. Pat Lam’s side went on a brilliant run of six wins in a row either side of the break, and in that time played some of the best rugby of the season too. Whilst they narrowly missed out on the play-offs, they will still take pride from this season and it could really boost them going into next year too. Players like Gabriel Ibitoye, Harry Thacker and Benhard Janse van Rensburg also showed they can be considered as some of the best in the league too.

Harlequins: B

Credit: IMAGO

The resident entertainers put their supporters through the mill this season. A shift in mentality towards the back end of the campaign again proved why they can be the best attacking side in the Premiership, however it was their defence that ultimately cost them; as heavy defeats to Exeter and Bristol in the final two games cost them a top four finish. In the Premiership alone, they might feel slightly disappointed. One thing Quins have done this season is prove their strength in depth, with the likes of Chandler Cunningham-South, Fin Baxter and Oscar Beard emerging as key men in the team.

Exeter Chiefs: B+

Credit: IMAGO

It might seem odd giving seventh placed Exeter a higher grade than fifth placed Bristol and sixth placed Harlequins, but the Chiefs new-look group probably caught everyone by surprise this season. Powered by the likes of Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Rusi Tuima, Ross Vintcent and Greg Fisilau, the Chiefs punched well above their weight in the Premiership and were fully in the hunt for the play-offs until the end of the season. They also channelled more of the traditional Exeter style of play too, but blended it well with some new tricks too. They will only improve from here.

Leicester Tigers: C

Credit: IMAGO

A tough year for the Tigers. For a squad with the quality they have, eighth place can be seen as a failure on many levels. They got off to a poor start, and despite rallying in the middle part of the season fell away again at the end. Discipline proved to be a real issue for Dan McKellar’s side this season, with red cards costing them against Northampton and Bristol in the latter part of the season. Furthermore, they often found themselves on the wrong end of tight games, which is something they will need to fix for next season given the strength of teams around them. Things could get even worse for them too, as Gloucester could steal their Champions Cup place next year if they win the Challenge Cup final.

Gloucester: D+

Credit: IMAGO

A rotten year for George Skivington’s side in the league. The Cherry and Whites’ Premiership season was over before it even got going after a run of six straight league defeats, and things didn’t really improve from there. With the threat of relegation gone though, Gloucester did get the chance to blood some youngsters in, and the likes of Seb Blake and Josh Hathaway have quickly become regulars in the team, but that is probably one of the only positives they can take out of their Premiership campaign.

Newcastle Falcons: D

Credit: IMAGO

Newcastle finish bottom of the table for the second season in a row, but this season might be one of the darkest in their history. It was always going to be a tough season for the Falcons, but they have really regressed from last year too. The introduction of Steve Diamond did make them more competitive in the latter part of the season, but the heavy defeats to Bristol and Gloucester tarnished the progress they had made. They will need a big pre-season and some decent recruitment if they want to avoid a third season at the foot of the table.

Premiership semi-finals

Friday 31st May

Northampton Saints vs Saracens

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens

Kick-off: 7:45pm

Saturday 1st June 

Bath Rugby vs Sale Sharks

Venue: The Rec

Kick-off: 3:30pm