The race for play off places reaches boiling point in the Premiership with two rounds to go

The race for play off places reaches boiling point in the Premiership with two rounds to go

A league season is often described as a marathon rather than a race and the 2019/20 season is no different. 

The lockdown stalled a number of teams' momentum while other returned from lockdown with a breath of fresh air and used it to string together a number of strong performances. 

Before lockdown, London Irish looked to be a having a solid season and sat in 9th place behind Bath. However, a winless run since the resumption of the competition has seen them fall down a place while the opposite has happened to Bath who resumed the season in 8th place and have since catapulted themselves into 2nd place - although they have played a game more than the rest of the top five.

Northampton showed signs of collapse pre-lockdown but few would have thought that Chris Boyd's side would win just one of their seven Premiership games since the restart. Saints resumed the season with a chance of making the playoffs with Boyd now conceding that his side has run their race.

In contrast to Saints and London Irish, the likes of Bath and Wasps have gone from outside shots of making the playoffs, to title contenders. Exeter Chiefs look well on their way to winning the Premiership but the likes of Wasps and Bath could well cause an upset. 

Lee Blackett's Wasps have thrilled with some fantastic attacking rugby, much like the side did when they reached the final during the 2016/17 season. Wasps have suffered just one defeat since the return of the Premiership with that defeat coming at the hands of Sale Sharks, who currently trail Wasps by two points on the table.

Again the differing styles in the Premiership is displayed in how Bath have gone about their business. Like Wasps, Bath have lost just one game since the return of the league with Stuart Hooper's men dominating up front with a few flashes of flair. Their loss came at the hands of Wasps with the two sides now separated by four points on the Premiership.

Bath and Wasps have been arguably the form sides over the past month, with the exception of Exeter, they are certainly not guaranteed playoff spots with Pat Lam's Bristol and Steve Diamond's Sale still well and truly in the running.

One could argue the tough run of fixtures has impacted the two clubs' run to the playoffs with Bristol falling to Exeter, Sale and Wasps while Sale also suffered a defeat to Exeter and Bath. Exeter, Bristol, Saracens and Leicester are all still in with a shot of European success and will be out to secure a final spot this coming weekend before turning their attentions back to the Premiership for the final two rounds of the regular season.

Having secured a fantastic come from behind victory over Gloucester, Bath will have plenty of time to prepare for their final regular-season match against Saracens on 4 October while Exeter have secured a home semi-final as they are 12 points clear of second-placed Wasps.

Wasps' late surge could see them seal a home semi-final. Lee Blackett's men face Harlequins at the Stoop in their penultimate game of the regular season before taking on Exeter, who may well field a second-string side after their exploits in Europe. 

Steve Diamond's side has a somewhat favourable run into the playoffs and could also make a play for second place with a visit to Franklin's Gardens to face the luckless Saints before hosting Worcester Warriors - who have won just two games since the restart.

Finally, the last side with a shot at a playoff spot is Pat Lam's Bears who will host Leicester Tigers and London Irish after their Challenge Cup quarter-final against the Bordeaux. Yet another favourable pair of fixtures for the 5th placed side which makes the final two rounds of the regular season even more enticing. 

Just six points separate 2nd placed Bath and 5th placed Bristol in the current Premiership table and with Exeter the only side having secured a place in the playoffs, their is plenty to play for in the final two rounds with a place in the knockouts likely to be decided by a side's ability to grab a bonus point. 

After a long and testing marathon, the final playoff spots will come down to a foot race and whoever has the most left in tank will secure a place. 

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