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Gallagher Premiership

PREVIEW: Gallagher Premiership playoff race continues to heat up

We are well into the Gallagher Premiership run-in with only seven rounds remaining before the tournament reaches its semi-final stage.

Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

There were a couple upset results this past weekend which have really shaken the battle for the play-off places up with Northampton's win over Sale and Leicester win over Saracens seeing the victors move right into the semi-finals mix.

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Are we in for another weekend full of upsets or will the big guns return to form? Darry Worthington runs the rule over each of this weekend’s fixtures, below.

Friday 24 February

Bath 17/20 | Draw 18/1 | Bristol 1/1

It’s far from a glamour tie first up as cellar-dwellers Bath play host to a Bristol side that sits just three log points above them in ninth-place. 

The two sides experienced contrasting fortunes in Round 17 with Bath suffering a 10-25 home defeat to an in-form London Irish side, while the Bears claimed just their fourth win of the campaign as they registered a 30-12 win over their fellow strugglers, the Newcastle Falcons. 

When the two sides met earlier in the season we were treated to an absolute thriller with the Bears running out 31-29 victors at Ashton Gate. Here’s hoping we get a similar contest this Friday. 

The hosts will be without talismanic centre Jonathon Joseph who is away with the England squad. His absence will significantly weaken the side. So much so, that I reckon Bristol will claim the win at the ‘Rec. 

Saturday 25 February

Saracens 17/100 | Draw 25/1 | Newcastle 42/10

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

We head to North London for our next fixture which will see log-leaders Saracens take on the Newcastle Falcons. The hosts are without a number of international stars, who are absent due to Round 3 of the 6 Nations. 

Both teams head into this one off the back of poor results with Saracens suffering only their second defeat of the season as they went down 24-18 away to the Leicester Tigers, while the Falcons went down 30-12 away to Bristol. 

While Saracens are unlikely to run up as big a score as they would have had their internationals been able to play this week, I still reckon they will take this one at a canter as Newcastle struggle on the road. Sarries on the plus.

Northampton 64/100 | Draw 20/1 | Gloucester 27/20

Northampton (-3.5) 17/20 | Gloucester (+3.5) 17/20

Over to Franklin’s Gardens now where the third-placed Northampton Saints will take on fourth-placed Gloucester. This is a pivotal game for both of these sides as they are separated by just one log in the battle to claim a semi-final berth. 

Northampton head into this one off a really solid win as they beat second-placed Sale 38-34 this past weekend. The victory was made all the more impressive as the Saints came back from being 7-27 with 45 minutes having passed to scoring a 78th minute try to win the fixture. 

Gloucester also managed a narrow win as they beat Harlequins 28-26 in yet another Premiership thriller. Like their opponents for Saturday, Gloucester also had to come from behind to grab the points as they trailed by five points with 10-minutes left in the game. 

I reckon we’re in for an absolute cracker at the Gardens. I can see the hosts edging a high-scoring thriller by no more than three points.

London Irish 61/100 | Draw 20/1 | Leicester 14/10

Irish (-3.5) 17/20 | Leicester (+3.5) 17/20

Our penultimate game of the weekend pits fifth-placed London Irish up against eighth-placed Leicester. The sides are only separated by a solitary point on the ladder and this game is yet another fixture that will have a heavy influence on the make-up of the semi-final contestants. 

Irish registered a really solid result last weekend as they beat Bath 10-25 at the ‘Rec. This was their fourth domestic victory on the trot and has really strengthened their semi-finals aspirations. 

Leicester also head into this one off the back of a solid victory as they handed Saracens only their second loss of the season beating the lo-leaders by six pints. Adominant first half display set Leicester up and despite not scoring a point in the second half, they still managed to hold on for the win. 

Tigers are in great form and I can see them edging closer to a semi-final with a win here. They should clear the handicap.

Sunday 26 February

Exeter 15/20 | Draw 20/1 | Sale 23/20

Exeter (-2.5) 17/20 | Sale (+2.5) 17/20

Next up we’ve got an absolute belter of a fixture with Exeter and Sale Sharks at Sandy Park. The hosts currently lie sixth on the table but have a game in hand and are only six points adrift of Sale who lie in second place. 

The chiefs enjoyed a bye week with their last Premiership game being their Round 16 clash against Gloucester, which they won 24-17. Sale had a round to forget last week as they went down 38-34 to Northampton. They seemingly had the game in the bag until a red-card turned the fixture on its head. 

I fancy the Chiefs here. They seem to be hitting their straps at just the right time while Sale have dropped off in recent weeks. They should clear the handicap at Sandy Park.
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