Quins vs Leicester
Quins won away at Sale last weekend, effectively eliminating the Sharks from the top 4 race. Conor O’Shea’s side are 5th on the table and have home games against the teams in 3rd and 4th and away to 7th remaining.
Here is a look at how many match points each side picked up from the equivalent of their remaining fixtures last season (with London Welsh results used for Newcastle). As can be seen, if the teams did perform the same as last year then the top 4 would remain the same as it is now. There are reasons to think there will be differences in the points collected this time though.
Saracens are still in the Heineken Cup and given they are 10 points clear of 2nd place in the league, may well opt to rotate players once they have secured a home semi-final and focus on Europe.
Leicester picked up 6 points from Sale, Quins away and Saracens at home last season. Based on their current form, would expect more from those fixtures this time.
Northampton’s slight slump may end up helping Quins, in that a few weeks ago Saints were on track for securing a home semi-final early and may have rested players in the final games… but now they will likely travel to Bath in round 21 needing a win.
Saints and Bath both picked up 5 points from their home games against London Irish and Worcester respectively last season. If that were to happen again and Quins lost against Leicester without picking up any match points, then Bath would only need 1 point from their remaining 2 games to guarantee a top 4 spot.
Quins lost their opening home games against Saracens and Northampton, but have since won the following 7 matches at the Stoop by an average score of 21-12.
They’ve won 5 of the last 7 league games against the Tigers by an average score of 25-23 which is a huge improvement on their previous form in the fixture – just 2 wins in 29 games going back to 1997/8. In the 2 losses against Leicester (away semi-final last year, home in 2011/12), Quins were outscored 2nd half by 13 points. All 7 of their league defeats this season have also seen them outscored after the break.
While Quins have won 3 of their previous 4 trips to Welford Road, it is just the 1 win at the Stoop from 9 league games against Leicester. They have led at halftime in 7 of the last 10 games with this opponent and outscored them 2nd half in 5/10.
Tigers have won 7 games in a row by an average score of 27-16 and there is perhaps a similarity with how they finished the 2011/12 season (8 straight wins by an average score of 36-17). Unlike the November meeting between the teams, Leicester have Tuilagi and Goneva in the side now. Here is their combined contribution in the 5 league matches they have started together
Wasps (h) – 3 tries, 179m, 5 clean breaks, 12 defenders beaten
Northampton (a)- 0 tries, 64m, 1 clean break, 3 defenders beaten
Exeter (h) – 2 tries / 2 assists, 157m, 6 clean breaks, 10 defenders beaten
Newcastle (a) – 2 tries, 87m, 1 clean break, 9 defenders beaten
Newcastle (h) – 1 assist, 131m, 2 clean breaks, 11 defenders beaten
The visitors have selected Flood at 10, which will mean a first start since mid-February. It might be that Williams needs a rest or that they have decided to take the hosts on and want Flood to take it right to the line. That may point to a game like the 33-43 match in April 2012. They also have Allen back which always improves their performance.
Quins have continuity in their squad selection and won’t deviate from their usual style. In the Prem semi-final last year, they were stung just before half-time by a Leicester try which was scored from them a Quins turnover in their own half. That led to accusations of them playing ‘too much’, but on the other hand they have beaten Tigers and other teams in that way.
Tim Wigglesworth was the referee for the earlier meeting between these teams and although he penalised Quins 16 times, it was Leicester that received the only yellow card. He has given 17 cards this season, with 7 coming in the West Country derby last weekend.
He has handed out 7 cards in the last 10 Quins games (with them winning 6/10 matches) and 10 cards in the last 13 Leicester games (they’ve won 9/13 of those matches and 5/10 cards were in 1 match against Bath).
The away team has won 10/14 games with Wigglesworth in charge this season, though it is worth noting only 3 of those matches saw a team winning away at a team now higher than them on the table. While there may be a focus on the cards he gave out last week, of more interest to these teams should be his keenness to penalise any infringements in the lineout. There is scope for leaving a jumper a bit longer than necessary in the air and looking to ‘buy’ a penalty from him. There were a few of those penalties in the round 1 game between Quins and Wasps, so will be interesting to see if Robson goes down that route.
Quins to lead at halftime is 2.1 and Quins HT / Leicester FT is 8.0. It doesn’t look the easiest game to call but think the visitors may look for advantages in Ayerza vs Sinckler at the scrum and possibly Tuilagi and Goneva running at Smith and Lindsay-Hague. Will back Leicester 1-10 margin at 3.0
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 13 Tim Molenaar, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Luke Wallace, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Tom Guest, 20 Maurie Fa’asavalu, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ross Chisholm.
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Ed Slater (c), 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 David Mele, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Niall Morris.
Bath vs Worcester
Bath have won 14/17 games against Worcester by an average score of 25-16 and 8/8 matches at home by 29-15. The last 4 home wins have seen similar scores of 32-9, 36-17, 37-13 and 37-19.
Having won 12 consecutive home games before round 16, Bath are now looking to avoid 3 straight home defeats for the first time since 2010/11. They will be in good spirits after winning the battle of Kingsholm last weekend and regardless of how Quins have got on the night before, will be looking for a bonus point win.
Worcester’s win at Newcastle in round 18 is their only victory in 24 league matches and their first on the road since round 12 of 2011/12 season. Against Exeter they were 3-21 down after 25 minutes which was a similar start to their home game against Sale in round 15 and they have been guilty of starting games at home slowly and leaving themselves too much to do.
However on the road, the problem seems to be the 2nd half. Worcester have been outscored 2nd half in 8 of their 9 away games and by an average of 10 points. In contrast to their home form, they have been starting ok when away and bar the trips to Exeter and Leicester have been in the match at the break. Around the hour mark they tended to slip away – Quins scored 10 points between 55-69 minutes, Northampton 14 points 54-68 mins, London Irish 10 points 55-61 minutes, Gloucester 6 points (in a low scoring game) from 60-65 mins etc.
Bath have only led twice at halftime in their last 7 games, but have outscored teams 2nd half in 6 of those matches and in the last 6 games against Worcester. They have won the previous 5 games against the bottom 3 sides by at least 15 points this season and last season won at home against the bottom 3 by at least 15 points too.
Will have a look at Bath -8 on 2nd half handicap
The home side has won 8/11 games with Matt Carley in charge. He has given 14 cards, with at least 1 in 8/11 games. Bath have won twice at home with him as referee this season (against Exeter, Wasps). Worcester have not been officiated him by this season, but in his Premiership debut last year he gave 5 cards in London Welsh vs Worcester.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Anthony Watson 13 Matt Banahan 12 Kyle Eastmond 11 Horacio Agulla 10 George Ford 9 Micky Young 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Carl Fearns, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Paul James, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Gavin Henson, 23 Jonathan Joseph.
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Josh Drauniniu, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Andy Symons, 11 David Lemi, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Jonathan Thomas (c), 7 Sam Betty, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 James Percival, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Ofa Fainga’anuku.
Replacements: 16 Ed Shervington, 17 Paul Andrew, 18 Rob O’Donnell, 19 Semisi Taulava, 20 Richard de Carpentier, 21 Paul Hodgson, 22 Paul Warwick, 23 Ravai Fatiaki.
Exeter vs Sale
Exeter have lost 9 of their previous 12 games, with the 3 wins coming against the bottom 3 sides. If their results against the top 5 are ignored, they have won 8/10 games this season by an average score of 25-15 and 4/5 at home by 23-10. They haven’t conceded a 1st half try at home against bottom half of the table sides yet.
Chiefs have won 6/7 matches with Sale by an average score of 28-17 and 3/3 games at home by 35-12.
Sale have lost a home Amlin Cup QF against Northampton and a crucial league match with Quins in recent weeks. They are 8 points off 4th spot and 11 points clear of Exeter in 7th so a finish of 6th looks likely.
They have led at halftime in 14/19 matches, but after scoring an early try last weekend then didn’t score until the 78th minute. In round 7, Exeter led by 9 points at the break and Sale had 3 players sin binned before halftime.
The Sharks have won their last 4 away games, however over the last couple of years they have struggled against sides like Quins and Exeter that can play at a fast pace. They have lost 10/11 games against those 2 sides, trailing at halftime in 10/11 games and being outscored 2nd half in 8/11. While Sale’s pack and defence is much improved this season, as Dave Seymour stated about the Quins game – “they played at a high tempo and we couldn’t handle that”. Exeter are capable of doing similar and will be on the -3 handicap.
Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Ben White, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (capt), 3 Alex Brown, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Hoani Tui, 19 James Phillips, 20 James Scaysbrook, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Luke Arscott.
Sale: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Sammy Tuitupou, 11 Charlie Ingall, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Viliami Fahiki, 7 David Seymour (c), 6 James Gaskell, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Jonathan Mills, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Andrei Ostikov, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mark Jennings.
Wasps vs Gloucester
The recent changes to the European rugby competitions mean that a 7th place finish in the Premiership now provides an opportunity to qualify for the European Cup. This season there will be a play-off against the side that finishes 7th in the Top 14.
Exeter are currently 7th and on 40 points while Wasps are on 39 and Gloucester 37 which adds some extra motivation for this Twickenham clash.
Gloucester have only beaten Wasps twice away from Kingsholm in 25 attempts – a 17-25 win in 2007/8 and 9-10 in 2010/11. They lost 36-24 a few weeks ago in an Amlin QF at Wycombe and afterwards coach Nigel Davies described the performance as “totally unacceptable”.
14/19 Gloucester matches this season have been decided by 1-7 point margins and it is 14/19 matches for Wasps. It is also true that 7 of the last 8 league games between the teams have seen that margin.
Wasps have won 6/8 games against the bottom half of the table, by an average score of 22-19 while for Gloucester it is 5/7 by 22-21.
Wasps to win by 1-12 points is 2.75
There has only been 1 card in the last 6 matches between the teams, however the choice of referee for this match may change that trend. Wayne Barnes has given 28 cards in his 14 matches, with 1 card in 13/14 games and 2 or more in 10/14. In the 3 matches he has officiated Gloucester this season, he has given them 4 yellows / 1 red and they conceded 18,20 and 14 penalties.Going back further back, he handed out 2 yellows and 23 penalties against them in 2012/13 when they travelled to Quins. On that basis would be interested in a Gloucester card, with the warning that after the Bath game last week would think discipline has been mentioned a fair bit in training this week.
Wasps: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Will Helu, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Bell (c), 11 Tom Varndell, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 James Haskell, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Tom Palmer, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Joe Carlisle, 23 Charlie Hayter
Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Jonny May, 12 Mike Tindall, 11 Martyn Thomas, 10 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 James Hudson, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Shaun Knight, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Nick Wood
Replacements: 16 Dan George, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Yann Thomas, 19 Lua Lokotui, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Bill Meakes
Northampton vs London Irish
Saints have lost 3 consecutive matches but they did the same last season and still reached the final. In both cases the losing runs involved back to back losses against Saracens and Leicester. They’ve already secured more competition points than they did in the past 3 seasons but won’t want to go into the post-season short on confidence and momentum.
They’ve won 6 of the last 7 home games against London Irish (and 9/12 at all venues) so on paper it looks a good opportunity to get back on track. Saints did lose to this opposition 17-39 last season in an effort that Jim Mallinder called “embarrassing” and lacking in intensity and accuracy. That should prevent any complacency this weekend.
London Irish scored 40 points in the 1st half against Newcastle last week and 22 points 1st half at Saracens in round 13 shows they are capable of making good starts. They’ve scored 203 of their 323 points before halftime this season. Looking at their away games, they’ve only scored 35 points combined in the 2nd half.
Saints have won 10 of the last 12 home games, with losses both coming against Leicester. The 10 wins were by at least 14 points and an average score of 35-13. They outscored teams 2nd half by an average of 13 points. In this fixture last season, they outscored London Irish by 21 points after the break.
The hosts are -9 on 2nd half handicap.
There has been a card shown in 16/19 Northampton games and 14/19 London Irish games (10 of last 12). However there has only been 1 card in the last 9 games between the teams. JP Doyle has handed out 5 cards in the 2 Saints matches he has reffed this season and 2 in the single London Irish match. Would be looking to back an away card if available.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 George Pisi, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tom Wood (c), 6 Phil Dowson, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Alex Waller
Replacements: 16 Matt Williams, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Calum Clark, 20 GJ Van Velze, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Will Hooley, 23 James Wilson
London Irish: 15 Alex Lewington, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Shane Geraghty (c), 9 Tomás O’Leary, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Gerard Ellis, 6 Blair Cowan, 5 Nic Rouse, 4 Kieran Low, 3 Leo Halavatau, 2 Mike Mayhew, 1 Matt Parr
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 Johnny Harris, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Jebb Sinclair, 21 Tom Homer, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Darren Allinson
Newcastle vs Saracens
Newcastle have lost 13 straight games and shipped 40 points in the 1st half against London Irish last week. Dean Richards understandably wasn’t happy and discussed the lack of composure and intensity in the post-game interviews.
They’ve lost 8/9 home matches by an average score of 12-22, suffering 20+ defeats there against Bath, Quins and Leicester. Falcons have also lost the previous 7 matches with Saracens by an average score of 9-28 and haven’t scored more than 9 points against them in the last 4 games.
The hosts have scored 105 points in their last 6 games compared to 107 in the 13 matches before, so the scoring has improved. They have conceded 40 points in 3 of the last 4 games though and leaked 40 when they went to Saracens in round 7.
In March, Dean Richards told a fans forum – “I don’t think we get very much out of the referees at all. The appointment of the referees is quite startling in some respects”. His complaint was that there are some referees that may favour the home side, but Newcastle never get them and instead have the ones ‘who are straight down the line’. This will be the 5th Newcastle home game for Andrew Small this season. The Falcons have lost the previous 4 games, however they were also against Gloucester, Quins, Sale and Northampton.
The visitors have made plenty of changes and if compared to the team that took on Ulster a few weeks ago, only Goode and Wigglesworth remain. While there will be a focus on the Heineken Cup game next week, it does also provide an opportunity for players coming back from injury or who doesn’t usually start to get some game time and Wigglesworth will captain the side for the first time.
Am going to avoid this match – don’t want to trust Newcastle at the moment with any points, while its difficult to assess Saracens given all the changes.
Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Richard Mayhew, 5 Scott Macleod, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Grant Shiells
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Phil Godman, 23 Danny Barnes
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Tim Streather, 12 Chris Wyles, 11 Jack Wilson, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Nick Fenton-Wells, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Eoin Sheriff, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Jamie George, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Hayden Smith, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Ben Ransom.