It is time for part two of Last Word on Rugby’s status update of the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership rugby season. If you missed it, part one covered the top half of the table.
Now it is time to look at the bottom six sides. This means analyzing the increasingly intriguing, and always fascinating ‘relegation battle’.
As of Round 11 standings, we will also be assessing which sides could make a ‘bolt up the table’ in the second half of the season
Sale Sharks – A Slow Start but, Climbing Steadily
At the start of the Premiership Rugby season, things looked bleak for Steve Diamond’s men. They won just one of their first five games and sat bottom of the table in October. Much of this was down to absences enforced by injury, suspension and international duties.
However, the past few weeks have been much more positive for the Sharks. Since the return of the likes of Ashton, de Klerk, and O’Connor, Sale have gone unbeaten in four games and have climbed up to 7th in the table. Things may be looking up for Steve Diamond’s men but there is still a long way to go, if they are to continue to climb the table.
Wasps – Trouble at the Ricoh?
To begin with Wasps look set to comfortable in the top four this season. Although, as time has gone on, they have slipped down the table. Reports of unrest at the Coventry based side have also begun to emerge with the likes of Elliot Daly rumoured to be on his way out. This coupled with an ever-growing injury list has made things difficult for Dai Young.
However, all is not lost for Wasps.
Rumours surrounding unrest and departures should not be overstated, as they can often spiral out of control. When they get back up to full strength they are going to be a real threat to contend with.
The reality is, they simply have too much talent not to be challenging at the upper end of the Premiership if they can get their players fit and firing.
Leicester Tigers – A Roar, or a Whimper in 2019
It has been a rollercoaster of a season for Leicester Tigers. The departure of coach Matt O’Connor after one week was a real low point. After that Geordan Murphy looked like he begun to turn things around with big wins against Northampton and Sale. However, their defensive frailties have been on show all season making it a real struggle to build any sort of momentum.
Leicester is still one of the biggest clubs in the country and have some amazing talent available to them. Yet their talented group of individuals seems to be performing below their worth as a collective. Perhaps the confirmation that Murphy is the permanent boss will bring more stability and consistency. Despite this, it could be a long old Premiership season for Tigers if they do not turn things around soon.
Bristol Bears – Sensational in patches, Weak in others
At their best Pat Lam’s men have been almost unplayable at times. They almost had Exeter beat and scared Premiership champions Saracens for 60 minutes. However, when things have not worked they have come seriously unstuck and been on the wrong side of some hidings.
💬 "We’re growing our game and we know there is more to come from us, but it underlines that there are lots of areas that we need to continue to work hard to improve."
— Bristol Bears (@BristolBears) January 4, 2019
This all being said they currently sit six points above relegation which must be seen as a success. Overall, survival is the goal for Bristol and they are on track for that. Though the worry must be, that if they get on a bad run of results, they could slip down the table very quickly.
Worcester Warriors – in the Dog Fight til the end
Although the Warriors have definitely improved since last season, so has the overall standard of the league. Having said this Worcester probably expected to be in the relegation fight and they are still in with a real chance of staying up. However, they probably have the weakest overall squad in the Premiership and the worry will be that this may be the difference at the end of the season.
They have had a number of close games against big sides this year such as Wasps and Saracens. If a few results had gone the other way they could have seen themselves in the top half. Overall it’s going to be a real fight for Worcester but they might just have enough to stay up.
Newcastle – the Fall of the Falcons
No one thought Newcastle were going to be as successful as they were last season. Equally no one probably thought they were going to be bottom come to the halfway point of the season. Like many sides, they have been plagued with injuries but this current run of form must really worry Dean Richards.
Overall they have put in some excellent performances, especially in Europe. They also have more than enough quality in the squad. However at some point losing does become a habit and it cannot be long before the Falcons players’ confidence takes a serious hit.
Premiership Rugby relegation zone
In closing, each season the relegation zone is a battle up until the very end. Like in the EPL, sides can overtake one another, with wins – and bonus points are essential.
It is likely that some will stride out of the zone, fully confident of their status. Others will be consumed by it, fans will call for heads and battle lines will be drawn. As rugby fans, LWOR will follow the action; not hoping for any teams demise, but passionate (like the players are) that good effort, is rewarded.
Enjoy the next 11 rounds of action, as teams from both the top, and the bottom of the table, look to play for a place in the high stakes world, of English Premiership Rugby.
This status report is up to date before Round 12, so does not include of the Friday, January 4 results.
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