There are only four rounds to go before the end of one of the most arduous competitions in recent memory. Everything points towards an exciting finale to the Aviva Premiership season. Teams are battered, bruised and craving a summer of break yet must stay fully focused on the seasons goals and objectives in 2017/18.
Let’s take a look at how the teams are projected to finish this most interesting of Aviva Premiership seasons. Last Word on Rugby also consider the remaining fixtures, and who is best placed to take advantage of the run-in.
Home advantage required for exciting Finale to the Premiership
The top two finishers in the league gain that all important home tie in the post-season semi-finals. More often than not, home sides progress through to the final at Twickenham as well. That advantage is underlined by the league leaders, Exeter Chiefs (see main photo).
League leaders Exeter are currently eight points ahead of Saracens, who are in second place. The Chiefs are a further two points in front of Wasps, who sit in third. A home semi-final is nailed-down on for the Devonians; particularly in their current form. That is not to say that they cannot be overtaken for first, so the other home semi-final spot is open.
Saracens are currently holding that position with a slender two point advantage over Wasps, and just three points above Newcastle. All three teams are separated by one [4-point] victory. A final week showdown is certainly on the cards, in another exciting finale to the Aviva Premiership.
The fixture list below indicates how the final standings should play out.
Saracens appear to have the easiest run-in of the top four contenders. They start by travelling to Northampton, a side in disarray, and follow that with a home tie against Bath. The west-country outfit are out of the running in 8th spot and won’t fancy a trip to Allianz Park. Their final fixtures are against relegation-in-waiting London Irish before a final day showdown with Gloucester.
Of note: last season, Saracens decided to rest key players in their final league matches to prioritise European rugby. Unsurprisingly, that decision backfired for head coach Mark McCall. Now that the North London club have been eliminated from the Champions Cup, they won’t be making the same mistake again!
Wasps have a tricky away tie at Sale to contend with followed by two winnable home fixtures against Worcester and Northampton – both have little to play for. Their final fixture is a mouthwatering away trip to fellow top four chasing Newcastle. This match could decide much of the final standings.
The Tyne-siders have been one of the stand-out performers of this season. They finish the season with winnable matches away to Worcester followed by a home tie against Sale Sharks.
However, their final fixtures are away to Leicester and home to Wasps. Newcastle’s season is all on the line in those two tough matches. Two wins against their nearest rivals will secure a place in the post-season.
The ‘great race’ for Fourth Place in Aviva Premiership
Newcastle occupy the coveted 4th spot on 54 points but have a rather bizarre points difference tally of minus 27. Both Leicester and Gloucester will be looking at Newcastle and thinking that they can supplant the North-East based side before the end of the season should they slip-up.
Both Leicester and Gloucester are on 51 points and again only one victory behind in the standings. Sale Sharks in 7th place can probably be discounted as they are now 6 points behind Newcastle and possibly too far behind in the standings.
The Tigers face Bath in one of the Premiership’s most historic of fixtures in a huge match at Twickenham. There is no love lost between these two sides and will be no walkover. They follow that game, with a home fixture against lowly Northampton before that eagerly awaited contest against Newcastle.
A final round away fixture to Sale Sharks won’t be easy but they may have more to play for than the North-West outfit.
This season’s most up-and-down team award is certainly going to the west-country side. World beaters one weekend, relegation candidates the next. You never know what you’re going to get with Johan Ackermann’s side. Although, in saying that they are Challenge Cup semi-finalists….and deserve plaudits for that.
To finish, Gloucester face the best side in the league at the Chiefs fortress of Sandy Park. Glaws follow that by hosting Harlequins. Another ‘west country derby’ against Bath awaits, before a final day showdown with Saracens.
The fixture list certainly doesn’t favour the Cherry and Whites. But, in a season where they can perform at the top level when they want to, it is not beyond a Gloucester to finish strongly in an exciting finale to the Aviva Premiership season.
Considering those fixtures, it is impossible to be absolutely sure who will finish in fourth. the only guarantee is that it will be Riveting!!
An Irish Goodbye…but, for how long?
Defeat to Gloucester after leading by 17 points has left the Reading-based outfit 10 points behind Worcester, languishing at the bottom of the table.
The Exiles have played some good rugby throughout the season but have fallen away at key times in the season. Last weeks’ revelations that the Premiership may be ring fenced within two years means that there is still hope. If the Premiership clubs decide to pull up the ladder, there is a chance that Irish will take the final spot and remain in the league for at least five seasons. Fans will be watching these developments with great interest.
Aviva Premiership 2017/18 final four rounds
The only truth is that this has been an exciting an truly intriguing season so far.
With four games to go, the final standings are still very much undecided. It all makes for a brilliant finish to one of the best club competitions in sport and will be a truly exciting finale to the Aviva Premiership season.
“Main photo credit”
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