Round 17 kicks off at Ashton Gate this evening with a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash between Bristol Bears and Exeter Chiefs.
London Irish vs Harlequins:
The first of Saturday’s games sees London Irish hosting Harlequins at the Brentford Community Stadium. Irish will be smarting after a 44-26 loss in Round 16 to Northampton Saints which puts the former in 6th position on the log, five points behind the latter.
Quins are enjoying a strong season thus far and have managed to post a total of 50 log points which earns them fourth place, though they are very nearly neck-&neck with third-placed Sale Sharks. Quins will take the pitch with their tails up after a dominant display against Worcester Warriors last weekend which saw them run out 50-26 victors.
Gloucester vs Newcastle Falcons:
Newcastle Falcons will swoop into Kingsholm and attempt to make amends for their 34-17 defeat in Round 16 to Bristol Bears. It is likely that their opponents this time around – the struggling Gloucester – will offer significantly less resistance than Bristol, which will fuel the Falcons’ hope of posting another victory. Newcastle currently find themselves in 10th spot, just four points ahead of the Cherry & Whites.
With just 4 victories from 16 outings, it has been a distinctly disappointing season for Gloucester. In the last round, they fell to Sale Sharks 25-22 at the AJ Bell in a game the visitors could have won after an impressive second half performance. Should George Skivington’s men manage to replicate their form in the second stanza of last round’s game, they may be in with a shout.
Newcastle, who started the competition so promisingly, have slipped off the pace and into the lower echelons of the table. They have shown, however, that they are a team of great character and will hopefully put on a good show this round.
Leicester Tigers vs Northampton Saints:
The fourth spectacle of Round 17 takes place at Welford Road as Leicester Tigers host the high-flying Northampton Saints.
Saints have been in prolific point-scorering form of late, putting Worcester to the sword 62-14 in Round 15 before downing London Irish 44-26 last weekend. Leicester are chugging along somewhat erratically with 7 wins from 16 outings, which is good enough for 8th spot on the log.
Saints are knocking on the door of the top 4 and trail Quins by just 4 points. If luck goes their way this round, they could be elevated into that prestigious echelon and, thus, their fans can expect a determined effort which Leicester will have to weather.
Worcester Warriors vs Sale Sharks:
Bottom-of-the table Worcester Warriors will be looking to salvage some pride as the competition draws to a close when they take on the formidable Sale Sharks at Sixways in the penultimate game of the round.
A terrible season for Worcester has seen them post only one win from 16 outings, leaving them in a place from which there is nowhere to go but up. As touched on above, Quins put 50 points on them last weekend, thereby exposing many areas in the Worcester set-up which could do with much improvement.
Sale have enjoyed three victories on the trot lately but were fortunate to come away with the win in Round 16 where they faced a Gloucester outfit that kicked into a new gear in the second half. However, it is unlikely that Alex Sanderson’s charges will take any chances in this one as they currently hold an important but fragile position at number 4 on the log.
Wasps vs Bath:
The round concludes at the Ricoh Arena where Wasps and Bath will get busy attempting to orchestrate each other’s demise.
Wasps would have been licking their wounds this week after they found themselves on the receiving end of a dominant display by Exeter (43-13).
Bath were fortunate at The Rec. the last time they turned out as they snuck past Leicester 21-20, earning them some valuable winning momentum going into this round.
Wasps have not met their usual standards this season and find themselves still languishing in ninth spot on the log while their rivals this weekend have done enough for 7th.
Bath will have to have their wits about them in this one, as it seems just a matter of time before Wasps finally excavate some of the rich form they enjoyed last year.