The Gallagher Premiership playoffs are here, with the first semi-final seeing Saracens welcome Northampton Saints to the StoneX on Saturday while Sunday sees the defending champion Tigers travel to the AJ Bell to tackle Sale Sharks.
Saturday 13 May
Saracens 1/4 | Draw 28/1 | Northampton Saints 3/1
Saracens (-11.5) 17/20 | Saints (+11.5) 17/20
Saracens are looking to make their second-successive Prem Grand Final when they tackle Saints at the StoneX.
Mark McCall’s men have seen and done it all before, with at least five (Farrell, Itoje, Goode, M. Vunipola, Daly) all-time great Premiership players in their squad, and another (B. Vunipola) out for the season. They know exactly what’s required in games of this magnitude and should be doubly dangerous this weekend given their European hopes went up in flames at La Rochelle last month.
Saints are a quality side with some good players, and they’ve had another memorable campaign with several standout performances. They fell to Sarries by just six-points in their regular season encounter at the StoneX in November but claimed an impressive 38-29 win at Franklin’s Gardens in the reverse fixture four weeks ago, however they will face a very different prospect come Saturday.
Saracens to clear the handicap.
Sunday 14 May
Sale Sharks 6/10 | Draw 22/1 | Leicester Tigers 14/10
Sale (-3.5) 17/20 | Tigers (+3.5) 17/20
Sale take on Leicester in what is set to be an uber physical encounter at the AJ Bell on Sunday.
They’ve got two of the most powerful packs in the competition, with South Africans aplenty on both sides. Sale have been fantastic this season, finishing in the top two for the first time since 2005-06 – coincidentally the last time they won the title. Alex Sanderson’s charges will be fired up at home and will look to former Tiger George Ford to guide them in what are expected to be wet conditions in Manchester.
Leicester’s late season surge has powered them to some huge results over the past few months. Spearheaded by Handre Pollard and Jasper Wiese, the defending champs should have what it takes to upset the apple cart at the AJ Bell and book their spot at Twickenham once more.
It could well be 10-man rugby we see from both outfits on Sunday, with the result set to be decided (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) by whichever team dominates up front and manages territory best.