Who Will Blink?
There are some interesting match ups this week as we move into round 9.
Whilst the top 6 sides seem to be the ones that will contest the places for the play-offs this could all easily change if they slip up in games against the teams everyone expects them to win comfortably. We saw this last week when the Saints duly won, but failed to pick up a bonus point at home to Newcastle Falcons. No one can afford an off day – it’s too tight for the top places.
Having said that I don’t expect any stumbles from 4 of that top 6 this weekend. The most intriguing game, however, will be between Bath (currently third) who host fifth placed Exeter Chiefs at the Rec.
The Chiefs were unlucky at home to Saracens last Saturday and were unfortunate not to get a draw – the TMO denying them at the death with a suspect call. For their part Bath took Wasps apart and recorded a strong away win that eased them up to third in the table.
Home advantage will be good enough for them to continue their strong run.
Elsewhere the Tigers should have enough to win on the road on Friday evening at Kingsholm – where Gloucester have been so disappointing. Tigers have not shown their usual dominance this season but they are overdue to give a good performance and Gloucester are likely to be on the receiving end.
Dai Young will be desperate for Wasps to rebound from the drubbing by Bath but is unlikely to be happy when the final whistle goes at the Madejski. James O’Connor and Marlon Yarde are looking good and despite the likely return of Christian Wade for Wasps they should be celebrating a win for London Irish as well as the 200th appearance for Topsy Ojo. Home advantage again being the key.
Saracens will be close to full strength and will overcome the Sale Sharks who are notoriously poor away from home. Danny Cipriani and Mark Cueto have been on good form but will not be able to turn the tide against a Saracens team who look like they will continue to head the table for near future (at least).
Worcester haven’t won a game this season in the Premiership and have only 2 bonus points to show for their efforts. There will be no change come Saturday night with the impressive Saints leaving Sixways with at least 4 points to remain second in the table. The Saints will still be without George North (away in Cardiff) and will be fined for releasing him outside the agreed window – but that won’t matter to them as long as they get the win.
Finally Harlequins travel to the Falcons where they should come away with the points – but Dean Richards’ Newcastle are showing that they can scrap with anyone and are likely to push the visitors hard – maybe picking up a losing bonus point too.
To Summarise –
Tigers to win at Kingsholm
London Irish to stop Wasps bouncing back
Saracens roll on over Sale
Saints to win away against Worcester
Harlequins also to win on the road
Bath to edge out the Chiefs at the Rec
So some more brave (daft?) calls this week – and a forecast of three away wins – we will see!
Round 10 won’t be played until just before Christmas as we head back into the Heineken Cup in early December. I’ll be previewing those games next week.