5 things we learnt from round 18 of the Gallagher Premiership

Tiger Roll might have won but Leicester Tigers aren’t on a roll

I never thought I would say that when sitting at Welford Road I would feel no atmosphere, but on Saturday everything was flat. Players looked deflated before they had even walked onto the pitch. It wasn’t Leicester’s worse performance of the season but it was certainly up there. Like many, I was amazed how Manu Tuilagi didn’t get ten minutes sat on the side-lines after his retaliation following a Tigers try. The frustration from him pretty much sums up Tigers at the moment. Tom Young’s red card was a moment of pure madness and for a player of his experience he really should have known better. Tigers face Newcastle away from home on Friday night and arguably this fixture could be their most important in their history. Newcastle fighting to stay up and Tigers fighting not to go down. 

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Exeter should go on and win at Twickenham

Securing a home semi-final with four rounds still left to play is something to applaud. Not only securing the home advantage but the way in which they did it is a testament to how their season has gone. Tigers played poorly against them but take nothing away from the outstanding performance that Rob Baxter’s men displayed, putting over half a century of points on Leicester. Olly Woodburn was phenomenal on the wing and Jack Nowell, despite his ten minutes in the bin was a force to be reckoned with. Exeter play some very good rugby, but don’t always bring out the fireworks. They simply do what they are good at very well and get the basics right. Their attacking lineout from five meters out isn’t a guaranteed score but you wouldn’t bet against it, they have the confidence to execute a play that might not go their way instead of taking the easier option of three points. 

Twickenham should be theirs, the title should have a home at Sandy Park. 

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Should Saracens be scared?

Before we start, let’s not forget that although Saracens are putting in under par performances they are still managing to get a win after 80 minutes. However, we are used to seeing Saracens put in monumental performances, never putting a foot wrong but this season that just hasn’t been the case. They did suffer during the Six Nations period and I don’t think they have yet found the form that they had prior to the tournament. They have their European Semi-final coming up against Munster in a couple of weeks and although they have the home advantage the accolade of the match might get the better of them. In past seasons teams used to be scared of Saracens and we questioned whether they could ever be beaten and although they still haven’t been beaten in a while they certainly don’t look like the side that won the Premiership last May. 

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Gloucester at the Gardens

Mark Atkinson’s first half hat trick was not only impressive but one of the history books as he became the first ever Gloucester player to score a hat trick before half-time. Northampton put up more of a fight against the Cherry and Whites than I had expected and found themselves trailing 26-19 at the interval. 

Gloucester’s win reiterates how good they have been this season and how well Johan Ackermann has shaped this group of players into a top four side. With Danny Cipriani staying for a few more seasons, Gloucester are looking like a team that will regularly be competing at the top and setting their sights on top flight European rugby. I think that Gloucester will grab the second-place spot and gain a home advantage for the semi-final and if they do manage that then Kingsholm will be a brutal place to go. The home support at The Shed is something no other stadium holds. Gloucester eat, sleep breath rugby and their players and supporters fully deserve the success they have made for themselves this season. 

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The Sharks are catching up the final top four place

After Sale’s win against Harlequins at the weekend Steve Diamond said he believed that his side aren’t a top four team, however, if they keep delivering performances like they did at the weekend then the top four might come sooner than they thought. Throughout the season Sale have performed when it mattered and have delivered wins against current top four sides but have failed to deliver against underperforming teams. In a word, their season has been inconsistent however, pulling the late wins out of the bag could see them have a shot of a semi-final place, especially if Harlequins keep performing the way they did last time out. Harlequins have also had a turbulent season and seem to do the unexpected, win against sides you wouldn’t expect and then loose against teams they should win against. The battle of fourth place will be between these two, and it will all be down to who can deliver in the next four rounds. 

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