Thursday, 15 April 2010

Guinness Premiership Previews and Predictions: Round 20

London Irish v Leeds Carnegie

London Irish have won their last five games against Leeds since the semi-final of the 2004/05 Powergen Cup. The Exiles' only defeat in their last five Premiership clashes at Madejski Stadium was the 35-22 defeat by Bath on St Valentine's Day. The Reading based side have their eyes firmly on a Premiership play off place and are battling with a resurgent Wasps for fourth spot.

Leeds have slipped to three successive losses in the league but have won three times on the road in the competition this season: at Wasps, Newcastle and Sale. Carnegie will be looking to bounce back after Quins wiped the floor with them last weekend and pick up some points to lift them away from Worcester.

Leeds' last win at the Madejski Stadium was 16-12 in October 2004.

My prediction: Irish will have too much for relegation battlers Leeds. London Irish to win by 14.

Newcastle Falcons v Leicester Tigers

Steve Bates' Newcastle welcome Leicester this weekend, and top spot Tigers are firm favourites for the win. Leicester's only loss in their last nine Guinness Premiership games was 19-3 at Northampton on 27 February.

The last eight matches between the Tigers and Falcons have all been won by the home side on the day. I can't see the result of this game being any different.

Newcastle have notched up just one win in their last ten matches in all competitions. This was the 25-13 home league victory over Gloucester on 31 March.

My prediction: Leicester to maul the Falcons into submission by 20 points.

Bath Rugby v Sale

These teams have met twice this season with Bath winning both times.  The West Country boys won 25-12 in the Premiership and 40-7 in the LV= Cup at The Rec.

Bath's loss at Leicester in round 19 ended their seven game winning run in the Guinness Premiership butt Steve Meehan's men have won their last three league games at home.
Sale have lost two of their last three games and have won just one league game on the road since January 2009.  That came in the shape of the 24-17 win at Leeds on 22 November. The Sharks have won only once at The Rec since 1998, which was way back in January 2006.  History and form tells us there can only be one winner, and that isn't the men from South Manchester.

My prediction: Bath to win by 10.

Northampton Saints v Gloucester Rugby

Northampton have won their last three clashes with Gloucester, including the-24 win in the LV= Cup final at Worcester on 21 March.
The Saints' only defeat in their last eleven games in the Guinness Premiership was 6-13 at Harlequins on 20 February.

Jim Mallinder's high flying team will hope to bounce back from last weekend's Heineken Cup exit on home soil, where they are unbeaten this season. 

No doubt Gloucester will be looking to avenge their cup final defeat by the Saints but their away form is poor.  They have only won one of their last 15 Premiership away games, which was against strugglers Leeds on 4 October.

My prediction: Northampton to do the Premiership double over the cherry and whites and win by 7.

Worcester Warriors v London Wasps

This is a crucial clash for both sides: Worcester need a win to keep their Premiership rugby dreams alive for next season, and Wasps are beadily eyeing a fourth place finish.

Wasps won 23-3 when the two clubs met in round three and will be gunning for their first league double over Worcester.
The Warriors have won just one of their last 15 matches in the Guinness Premiership since September which explains why they are at the foot of the table.

London Wasps' last eight matches in all competitions have all been won by the home side on the day, whilst their most recent win away from home in the Guinness Premiership came against rivals Harlequins on 27th December at Twickenham.

My prediction: Wasps might have left it late to start their charge on the title, but they're looking classy.  They will have too much for Worcester on a hardening pitch.  Wasps to win by 16.

Saracens v Harlequins

Saracens return to Wembley for the fourth time this season, having already grabbed three narrow wins at the home of English football.  In their previous visits, Sarries beat Northampton 19-16 and Worcester 25-20 in the league and embarrassed South Africa to the tune of 24-23.  The men from Watford sank Sale 30-19 at Edgeley Park last Friday, after the action packed 29-28 loss to Gloucester the week before.
Harlequins last eight games in the Guinness Premiership have all been won by the home side on the day.  Last weekend they demolished Leeds 46-11, and their most recent away league win was 30-27 at Leeds Carnegie on 4 December
The Fez heads met Quins at the Stoop in round three and won 22-9.

My prediction:  Both teams have been scoring tries for fun.  I think Saracens' experience of playing at Wembley will give them the edge.  Saracens to win by 8.

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