Guinness Premiership Previews and Predictions: Round 19
Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors
Bottom of the pile Worcester travel up to Stockport for a good old relegation dogfight on Friday.
Last weekend Sale were ‘greenwashed’ 38-0 by a classy London Irish, which was only the second time the Sharks failed to register a point in a Premiership game.
But 10th place Sale did win their last home league game when they beat Wasps 19-8 on 19 March.
Worcester have won on their last three visits to Edgeley Park, but their only league victory since September was 13-0 over Newcastle at Sixways on 26 February. The Warriors are the only club without an away victory in the Guinness Premiership this season.
My prediction: It’s a tough one to call. Both teams are struggling as their league positions show. However I think Worcester’s experience of battling relegation will give them the edge. Worcester to win by 4.
Leeds Carnegie v Northampton Saints
Leeds were on a roll after bagging three consecutive league wins before Gloucester spoilt their party with a 19-0 whitewash on Saturday. However Carnegie are still gunning for a third successive Guinness Premiership win at Headingley Carnegie, something they have not achieved since the 2005/06 season.
Northampton are having the season of all seasons. They are unbeaten at home and their only league loss since the end of October was 13-6 at Harlequins on 20 February.
The last five league meetings between the two sides have all been won by the home team on the day, but the Saints have not won on Leeds turf since 2 May 2004. Well, when I say turf I mean sand, as the Headingley pitch looks more like a beach at the moment. We will have to wait and see if this will help stop the Saints’ glittering array of backs from tripping the light fandango over the try line.
My prediction: If Leeds can play in a similar way to the way that Wasps took on the Saints last Sunday – by winning up front and stifling their running game - then they have a chance. I still think Northampton will have too much, but Carnegie could sneak a losing bonus point. Northampton to win by 6.
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons
For Newcastle, this is match number two in a week’s hat trick of games.
A Jimmy Gopperth inspired Falcons pulled off a shock 25-13 home win over Gloucester on Wednesday to consolidate ninth place in the table.
Harlequins and Newcastle have already met twice this season at Kingston Park. The first was a 17-all draw in the Premiership on 25 September, then Quins won 19-8 in the LV= Cup on 15 November.
The London side is unbeaten in their last five league games at the Twickenham Stoop, and Newcastle have lost on their last seven trips there.
My prediction: After their win on Wednesday I think Newcastle might grab a losing bonus point. Harlequins to win by 5.
Leicester Tigers v Bath Rugby
The Tigers are hunting down a top two finish to grab a home semi-final thanks to their unbeaten run of 29 matches at Welford Road. This record stretches back to when Wasps turned them over way back on 26 September 2008.
Leicester haven’t lost in their last five games against Bath, whilst the men in Blue’s only previous Premiership victory at Welford Road was 13-12 on 29 November 2003.
However, Bath are the best team in the Guinness Premiership on current form and have won 30 of the last 35 possible points. Bath are also the best away side in the competition with 25 league points gained on their travels this campaign.
But the Tigers have lost only one of their last eight games in the league which was the 19-3 defeat at Northampton on 27 February.
My prediction: This is a tough one to call. Bath have all the form but Welford Road is like a fortress. I’m going to be controversial and tip the nod to the visitors. Bath to win by 3.
Gloucester Rugby v Saracens
Saracens won 19-16 when the two teams met at Vicarage Road in round four and are seeking a first Premiership double over Gloucester since season 2004/05.
Gloucester made the long trip to Newcastle on Wednesday and came away with nothing from the 25-13 defeat. After this, the cherry and whites have little time to pick themselves up before facing third place Sarries on Saturday.
Saracens’ four game losing streak in all competitions ended on Sunday with their 58-15 demolition of Newcastle at home. But Sarries have not won a league game on the road since their trip to Bath at the end of October.
Gloucester, however, are unbeaten in their last six Guinness Premiership matches at Kingsholm since Wasps won there on 24 October.
My prediction: Sarries are still stuttering and Gloucester’s form is patchy. Gloucester to win by 8.
London Wasps v London Irish
This London derby is a massive game with both clubs pushing for a place in the playoffs.
Irish and Wasps have already met twice this season at Madejski Stadium, with the Exiles winning the first 28-16 in the league on 27 September, and Wasps winning the other, 24-20 in the LV= Cup on 8 November.
Last weekend, Wasps ran Northampton close and looked much more switched on than during their recent defeats at Sale and Leeds. Wasps’ last win in the league was the 24-19 home win over Gloucester on 7 March.
London Irish have lost just one of their last four matches: 19-35 at Leicester on 6 March, but they have not won away from home in the league since their trip to Bath on 28 November.
My prediction: Wasps are showing signs of progress but I think Irish will be too good on this occasion. London Irish to win by 9.