After the longest regular season known to mankind we are finally at the playoffs. Finally clarity on the Sale – Wuss match. Think it was inevitable but now official. PRL have hardly covered themselves in glory here. The SARU which used to be the epitome of bad governance has been surpassed.
At this pont in the table obviously positions 5 to 8 are fixed. I’m going to extend this to the playoffs which I think was the original intention. So Final winner first, loser 2nd. the 2 semi final losers will be 3rd and 4th dependent on their positions before the playoffs. I’ll come up with something for next season and do a post on that after the final.
As promised a summary of the clubs and how they’ve done this season. From last to first. All obviously my thought so probably as much wrong as right.
Sarries – Not going to go into the salary cap shenanigans its been done to death. Unknown as to where they would have finished without it as they may have done squads differently but if my aunt had balls etc… . From what I’ve seen of the youngsters there and the international players they are retaining they should come straight back up. However who knows if there will even be a championship next season. Its a mess and without playing how do you equitably promote them? Not sure Pirates Ealing etc (and of course Nottingham Mr Wu.) are happy to just concede. Sounds like a lawyers paradise or hell to everyone else. There progress and matches in Europe shows what the squad can do and salary cap or no salary cap they’ve built something pretty good there.
Tigers – Even back in SA in the amateur days I’d heard of Leicester. How the mighty have fallen. Watching them recently they really don’t deserve to be any higher than they are and they can thank the salary cap manager they are not being relegated. Personally and this is without any first hand knowledge I think the failure is at management probably board level. Their squad while not brilliant is not that bad but their is no real team there just a collection of individuals. It might actually have better to have been relegated just to give themm the sort of shock required for real serious change. English rugby without a decent tigers isn’t quite the same. Mind you I’d have said that about Richmond at one point.
LI – On the few times I’ve watched them I’ve not been overly impressed. Still looks like a club with a decent academy that produces a few decent youngsters that then get snaffled by bigger clubs and a bunch of journey men that can do a job but aren’t going to set the world alight. Not sure if a new ground will help them and I can’t see them attracting a large audience. Will be among the strugglers next season as well I think.
Wuss – very similar to LI. Nothing special a decent side that may have an occasional good day with a few promising players but nothing on the whole exciting. They might need a new coach to spark something. Probably not relegation candidates but mid table mediocrity is probably as good as they can hope for.
Saints – With the change in coach at first it looked promising but has become less so. Trying to do too much fancy stuff without the basics. Some excellent players (Lawes etc) but also some real dross (whoever the large PI wing is). I’ve been to Franklin gardens and I think they are one of the teams that miss home support the most but not really good enough this season. If they can get a few more nasty forwards and actually play in the right areas perhaps they could challenge. Without that they’ll be stuck in a similar position next year.
Glaws – Regardless of change in coaches and personnel they always seem to be the most consistent team at being inconsistent. The shine seems to have worn off Cips and I’m not sure they have a way of playing. Some brilliant players but can’t seem to put it together. Unless something dramatic changes they will be perennial underachievers and it will always be next year that will be glaws year.
Quins- Would have hoped for a little bit more from Gustard although some signs of the fight are starting to show. Another team that is shockingly inconsistent. Still think a few forwards required. In Smith they have a potential superstar but he needs more from those around him and he’s not getting it yet. They could actually challenge next year and for the sake of Deany (after all this is the Tom and Deany cup) I hope they do but remain unconvinced.
Sale – I’m going to ignore the last game fiasco and blame PRL. On results and trajectory they probably should have made top 4. Definite improvements and now a squad that can seriously challenge and I’d expect them to be up there or there abouts next season. Bit too much reliance on SA imports but no club is squeaky clean on the using foreigners front. At least with Dimes you’l get some interesting quotes. Its good to see Northern rugby getting a bit of a boost.
Barf – Once oc the biggest turnarounds from where they were last season. Used to be one of the powerhouses of rugby in England and getting back there. In previous times known more for the backs than the forwards but have decided on getting a bit more forward orientated and playing off 9. Generally working for them. Still not the finished article and probably need a season or 2 to get there but on the right trajectory. Definite contenders for next year. Think there journey this season will end at Sandy Park but something to build on.
Bris – From 9th to 2nd is quite something. They are the new money bags of the premiership. Pat lam has done a brilliant job of knitting it all together and actually seems to be getting value for money from most of the big signings. The addition of a few players from sarries didn’t hurt. They definitely have a style and if you let them play it expect to be torn apart when it comes off. It does have some risks but they seem to believe and results back that up. Decidedly one of the contenders for next season. Here I’m more hoping rather than expecting that there journey will end at the Ricoh as a wasps fan can’t yet be confident.
Wasps- Another team that have completely changed there fortunes mid season. As much as I liked Dai and will be forever grateful for what he did with the club the influence of the new coach has been startling. I know we got lucky with the squads we faced after the covid break but some decent rugby has been played and the defence seems to have actually turned into a proper defence. Some decent yougsters brought through as well. Hoping for a good result on the weekend but not expecting too much. They have already done better than I dared hope.
Chiefs – Easily the best team and probably more importantly squad in the premiership. A definite identity and those that think its all pick and go from 5 yards out aren’t noticing how they got to 5 yards out. With a prolonged campaign in Europe and short odds favourites to win the premiership the problem for Ex now is just keeping to the standards that they have set. The youngsters coming through aren’t there yet but there’s a nucleus that can be drip fed into the team. Probably the team where everyone knows what they are doing the most. And with Baxter obviously a canny operator will be favourites next season too.
So good luck to all for those playing this weekend. Hope we get some crackers to watch. The cup still looks to be between mani and Monty.