5 things we learnt from round 22 of the Gallagher Premiership

It all came down to the final kick of the game

A Harlequins penalty at 79 minutes. Wasps 27, Harlequins 25. If the penalty goes over, then Harlequins land a top four spot. However, it wasn’t to be for Paul Gustard’s men who have had a turbulent season and only a few months ago looked certain of a top four finish. Northampton on the other hand, have only become big contenders in the last couple of months and despite their loss at Exeter today, they will return back to Sandy Park to take on the top of the table giants as they claimed their first premiership semi-final since 2015. Every season we talk about how it has been the closest it has ever been but taking into consideration everything that has happened, it really has. The relegation battle has had one of Europe’s top sides in Leicester fight it out for survival; not only this, but now we only have one premiership club in the North in Sale Sharks.  Then if you turn the table around, Exeter and Saracens, as expected have dominated the top of the table all season, whilst third and fourth place has changed hands throughout the rounds. This season only reiterates how good the level of rugby is in England and how lucky we are to have witnessed 22 rounds of it. 

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Was top six too ambitious for Bristol?

Upon their return to the premiership, Head Coach Pat Lam made an extremely strong statement in backing his side to make it into the top six and claim top flight European rugby for next season. They ended the season on ninth place however, their ambitions weren’t under looked as they have had an impressive first season jumping up and down the leader board. Pat Lam is arguably the best coach in the premiership and has been shortlisted as coach of the season. He is a coach that nurtures players and pushes them to get the best out of themselves not only on the pitch but off it as well. Bristol have endless possibilities with the key players they have retained and the names that they have signed. Top six, if all goes to plan will definitely be an easier road than it was this time around next season. 

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Worcester need to push for more next season

In the last month, we have seen more momentum and persistence from Worcester than we have all season; they have really put in the performances when it mattered to avoid relegation, so it begs the question, if they can do this now then why not do it all the time? Next season they need to focus on more than just survival, trying to aim for top six or at least top eight, because they are a side that could be capable of that if they put in consistently good performances. Not only this, but if there is a cup competition next season then push to get some silverware, it doesn’t matter where the silverware comes from as long as your performances are worthy of it – which Worcester’s can be. They have the loyal fans; their home record is good in a stadium that compete with the big boys and if they make some good signings over the summer following their departures they really can be a competitive side in the competition. 

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Fairy-tale farewell for Simpson and Daly

Two players that have given so much to the club that has given its all to them. Looking through lists of Wasps legends and servants to the club these two are up there with the best of them. Between them, they have over 400 caps for the black and gold and today their goodbye was as flawless as their Wasps careers have been. Joe Simpson’s first try was textbook Simpson, finding the space and going for it. His second, was a beautiful offload from Elliot Daly to send the man of the match over the white wash one last time. Simpson joins former Wasp Danny Cipriani at Gloucester where the half-back partnership will be tearing teams apart like the old days, whilst Daly finds himself at European champions, Saracens where his international team mates look to push him further into his England career. Their departure to Wasps will leave a gap that will take a while to fill to the excellence that they produced.

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Tigers must rebuild to stand any chance of being English rugby giants once again 

Leicester’s departing players list is vast and some very notable players are leaving the Midlands club after their worse performance in premiership history. Ben Youngs spoke earlier in the season about the effect that losing Matt O’Connor had on the team, even after Geordan Murphy took over coaching responsibilities and that the players aren’t happy with the way that they have been performing throughout the season. Nevertheless, Tigers need to recruit behind the scenes as well as on the pitch for them to stand any chance of re-finding any of their old form. They have already signed some strong players for next season but no matter how many world-class players you have, your coaching set up needs to be good enough so that they can perform. The loss of academy coach Anthony Allen is huge for Tigers; he was doing wonders with the academy team in trying to rebuild what has been a small selection of players.  

As long as Leicester stop holding onto the past and put in better foundations for the future, then they will be back to the old winning ways but something very drastic will have to happen during the off-season period for the once domestic and European champions to avoid relegation this time next year. 

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