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Gallagher Premiership

PREVIEW: 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership – Round 18

In this the final weekend of regular season Gallagher Premiership action, two playoff spots are still up for grabs. Which clubs will join Northampton Saints and Saracens in the semi-finals?

Tom Parton of Saracens - Gallagher Premiership

In this the final weekend of regular season Gallagher Premiership action, two playoff spots are still up for grabs. Which clubs will join Northampton Saints and Saracens in the semi-finals?

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Saturday 18 May

Saracens 1/5 | Draw 25/1 | Sale Sharks 38/10 (16:05)

Saracens (-11.5) 17/20 | Sale (+11.5) 17/20

The defending champions assured themselves of post-season footy in their 41-20 win at Bristol last week and can give themselves a chance at finishing in top spot with another bonus point victory here. With a home semi-final within touching distance, they won’t be taking the foot off the gas just yet.

Sale have been one of the most topsy-turvy clubs in England this season and it’s difficult to know what we’ll be getting out of them come Saturday. Their round 17 defeat of Tigers has placed them fourth ahead of this one, but will they be able to match the hunger and desire of a Sarries outfit eyeing that home semi? It’s unlikely.

Verdict: Sale (+11.5) 17/20

Saracens should win this, but an equally motivated Sale Sharks outfit should keep things tighter than the 11.5-point handicap suggests. 

Harlequins 39/100 | Draw 20/1 | Bristol Bears 22/10 (16:05)

Harlequins (-65) 17/20 | Bristol (+6.5) 17/20

Ranked sixth, two points off fourth, Harlequins must win here and rely on other results going their way if they are to make the semis. If they win with a bonus point and Sale or Exeter lose or draw, they will qualify, but it’s easier said than done coming up against a Bears unit out to avenge their recent defeat to Saracens.

That result saw Bristol drop out of the top four after having worked so hard to get there, and such is the competitiveness in the league that they now find themselves all the way down in seventh. They can still qualify if, among other permutations, they beat ‘Quins with a bonus point, Sale lose and Exeter draw or lose their game, but that seems a tall order.

Verdict: Bears (+6.5) 17/20

This could be a tight encounter with so much on the line. Back the Bears to stay within the six-point handicap. 

Leicester Tigers 17/10 | Draw 25/1 | Exeter Chiefs 5/10 (16:05)

Leicester (+4.5) 17/20 | Exeter (-4.5) 17/20 

Leicester’s season has been one of underachievement considering the players at their disposal, and it’s odd to think they head into the final weekend ranked eighth and a massive 12 points off fourth place. Without much to play for, they could find themselves ending their campaign on a losing note.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Exeter are two points and one place off fourth and will qualify with a bonus-point win on Saturday coupled with either Sale or Harlequins losing or drawing. Given their recent form in big wins over Gloucester and Harlequins, Rob Baxter’s men should get the job done here.

Verdict: Exeter (-4.5) 17/20

Leicester might find it difficult to get up for this one with nothing on the line. Exeter, meanwhile, will be laser-focussed and should get the better of the Tigers. 

Gloucester 1/11 | Draw 33/1 | Newcastle Falcons 13/2 (16:05)

Gloucester (-15.5) 17/20 | Newcastle (+15.5) 17/20

In the only dead rubber of the weekend, Gloucester will look to rebound from their 90-0 humiliation at the hands of Northampton last week with a big victory over winless Newcastle. The Challenge Cup finalists will doubtless have all eyes on next week’s almighty showdown with the Hollywoodbets Sharks, which could provide Falcons with the opportunity they need to earn that elusive W. They may even come close on Saturday, but even then Gloucester should hold out.

Verdict: Newcastle (+15.5) 17/20

Gloucester should put Newcastle away, but not by more than 15 points.

Bath 39/100 | Draw 20/1 | Northampton Saints 22/10

Bath (-5.5) 8/10 | Saints (+5.5) 9/10

Even if third-placed Bath lose to the leaders at the Rec they have a shot at qualifying for the knockouts, but the hosts will surely be going for all five log points on Saturday. Johann van Graan’s side know that a win, and even a draw, will secure them a spot in the semis, but with some question marks surrounding several key areas of their game, they remain vulnerable against a team that hit Gloucester for 90 a week ago.

That enormous win last week booked Saints safe passage to the knockouts, and another bonus point victory here will secure top spot. It will be interesting to see what type of side Phil Dowson names this week but those selected will likely go hell for leather in a bid to secure that No 1 position. Coming into this one in such fine form, they’ll be difficult to stop.

Verdict: Northampton (+5.5) 9/10

I think Northampton could win this, provided they put out a near full-strength side. Wait for the teamsheets to come out before having a bet. 

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