Well that’s it for another lung-busting, gut-wrenching, bone-breaking Premiership Season. Almost. All barring the small matter of the play-offs. And of course the slightly self-indulgent pageant of the final. Ok, so it’s not all over, but the regular, ordinary, bog-standard season is, and this calls for something of a round-ahead. It’s a hotchpotch of a round-up and a look-ahead, for those of you who aren’t au fait with the lingo.
Such is the razzmatazz of the grand finale that it tends to eclipse all that has come before it, so a round-up of the season at this point is entirely necessary. Without it, we run the risk of failing to reflect on a season that has filled the past eight months to the brim with blood, sweat and tears, and fully deserves its five minutes in the limelight.
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For Bristol, it can’t have even seemed that long. After seven seasons languishing in the Championship, they were back in the big league; one dismissed former England coach and only three wins later, they were not. Relegated, and by quite some distance.
As is the way with elite sport, they are not the only team who will look back on this season with a healthy dose of regret. Worcester promised so much and delivered so little. Gloucester balanced the success of a Challenge Cup final with what can only be described as the failure of a ninth-placed finish. Sale too would have expected more, following their Champions Cup qualification last term.
Among the big boys too, a waft of disappointment abounds. Bath were inconsistency incarnate. The highs of the nerve-jangling comeback win at Twickenham against Leicester, the demolition of Exeter and a first win at Franklin’s Gardens in sixteen years were tempered by malaise on and off the pitch. A side who on their day can beat anybody, they will be frustrated not to be involved on 20th May. They will be distraught to be losing George Ford to The Tigers.
For Saints – a side blessed with such talent as North, Picamoles and Lawes – to miss out on qualification for Europe was unthinkable. Now it is a reality.But for four sides the season isn’t over. One of either Exeter, Wasps, Leicester or defending champions Saracens will rule English rugby come June, and as to who it will be, there is no smart money.
Saracens have the big game experience, and in Kruis, Itoje, Farrell and Vunipola have the big game players. However, whether their sizeable Lions contingent will have their minds fully on the matter at hand, or on the impending flight down under, remains to be seen.
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Wasps have been Saturday afternoon’s hot ticket all season, with the explosive, game-changing skill of Daly, Beale and player of the season Gopperth lighting many a dour, grey, Coventry day. However, Dai Young’s side is exactly that in the context of this sort of end-of-season extravaganza: young, and inexperienced.
Last season’s eye-catching run to the final aside, so are Jack Nowell’s Exeter. However, the dynamism they bring to the table can tear through any defence in world rugby on its day. Discount them at your peril.
And finally, there are Leicester. At the end of a season that has seen them lose 0-43 at home to Glasgow, lose three coaches, and generally resemble a soap opera more than a professional rugby outfit, The Tigers have made the play-offs. For the 13th consecutive time. It would be just typical for them to defy the odds and take the title back to Welford Road. Well there you have it: that was the season that was, and still sort of is. But also kind of isn’t.
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