Season set for thrilling climax
April 16, 2012
Exeter stand on the brink of the playoffs - an incredible achievement with Chris Budgen embodying everything they stand for © Getty Images
With Easter been and gone, all eggs eaten and all waist lines expanded, spare a thought for the Premiership players who could not indulge like us in all things chocolate. Oh no, they have quite a lot to fight for over next few weeks and rounded bellies and sugar highs will not be welcome in the preparation for end of term battles!
However, I have kept a couple of sugary sweets in reserve for I predict we are going to need all the energy we can get to cope with the end-of-season excitement.
No team's position is safe anywhere in this league. Everyone is chasing everyone and no club have managed to consolidate their place…whether that be at the summit, mid table or bottom.
Back in February I was convinced that Harlequins and Saracens had done enough to secure a home semi. I am now not quite as emphatic in my belief.
Leicester and Northampton are in hot pursuit of a top two finish. Although they are, for me, the form sides in this league at the moment, they have some tricky fixtures remaining, first having to face each other yesterday. Saints have a trip to Sandy Park next week, so Jim Mallinder's men could yet have a job trying to consolidate a top four position. Tigers face Harlequins at The Stoop next week, another massive challenge.
A home play-off might be Richard Cockerill and Jim Mallinder's ambition but their place in the top four is by no means secure.
Exeter have been a revelation since they've arrived in the top flight - like a little chick hatching from a big Premiership egg (sorry going with the Easter theme!) They have taken the league by storm, they have already done enough to secure Heineken Cup rugby at Sandy Park next term and they are in serious danger of upsetting the hierarchy of English rugby by forcing their way into the play-offs. What a story that would be!
Mid table is as congested with pride and Euro places up for grabs. Very little separates sixth and ninth. But with Sale Sharks falling off the pace, Bath Rugby tripping up royally at home against Northampton I feel that Gloucester will snatch that last Heineken Cup place…..just.
And at the bottom? Well Wasps have endured a wretched season both on and off the field, crippled by injury and the off-field drama that continues! I desperately hope that they find a buyer - for rugby would indeed be worse off without a club that for years encapsulated everything that was good about the English game.
There is a slight chance that a new buyer could be buying a Championship side though! The black and ambers are not quite out of the woods yet.
Yes, they have a four point cushion over Newcastle and yes, Newcastle have a very tough run-in but nothing in this league has been straight forward this term so I am not ruling anything out and relegation could still effectively come down to a dogfight between the two clubs at High Wycombe on the last day of the regular season.
This article first appeared in the Rugby Paper on April 15, visit www.therugbypaper.co.uk
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Sarra Elgan is an ESPN roving reporter
He teed up Obolensky's try, fought in Burma and played cricket for Warwickshire - we Rewind to look at the story of Peter Cranmer
With the World Cup just a year away, Tom Hamilton picks out five matches to ensure you have tickets for
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup