The Premier 15s Semi-Finals: A Battle of Champions and Underdogs
As the English domestic rugby union season reaches its climax, four teams are gearing up for the highly anticipated Premier 15s semi-finals. This weekend will see two exciting clashes that promise to keep fans on the edge of their seats.
The Fancied Side vs The Nearest Neighbour
In one corner, we have Gloucester-Hartpury – the runaway league winners who will be hosting nearest neighbours Bristol Bears at Kingsholm on Saturday. On paper, Gloucester is undoubtedly the most fancied side to make it through to the finals after winning an impressive 16 out of their 18 games this season.
Gloucester’s defeat last week against second-placed Exeter with top spot already secured may have put a dent in their confidence but they remain strong contenders for victory. Notably, they crushed Bristol by a whopping scoreline of 36-5 when these two sides met previously in November at home ground Kingsholm.
Bristol knows well what it feels like to suffer heartbreak at this stage after conceding a try three minutes from full-time and losing by just four points (28-24) during last year’s semifinal clash against Exeter. Despite finishing off behind Gloucester in regular rankings with seventeen fewer points than them overall, Dave Ward remains optimistic about his team’s chances:
“I’m happy to take the underdog tag heading in out of the four teams,” he told. “The way we’ve been playing we can beat anyone on our day, all we need is two days to do it and we can go and win this league.”
Bristol share their training facilities with their men’s side which has helped them prepare as they have received some extra expertise from senior players including Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler who are currently getting prepped for World Cup camp.
A Repeat of Last Year’s Final: Saracens vs Exeter Chiefs
On Sunday, rugby enthusiasts will witness a repeat of last year’s finals when reigning champions Saracens travel to Sandy Park to take on Exeter Chiefs. This semifinal at Sandy Park seems tough to call – both sides have won their home games against one another, and neither has ever won at the home ground of their opponents.
Saracens may be considered an away team based on having three fewer bonus points than Exeter but they remain a formidable force that cannot be written off so easily. The winning spirit that saw them emerge triumphant last year remains alive:
“We’re looking forward to it,” said head coach Alex Austerberry ahead of the game. “We know what a quality outfit Exeter are… [but] if we play with energy, accuracy and intensity then I think there’ll be no stopping us.”
The Inspiring Forces Behind Gloucester-Hartpury
Gearing up for Saturday’s semi-finals clash against Bristol Bears, Gloucester-Hartpury boasts an inspiring pep talk given by adventurer Jamie McDonald – first man ever run Canada coast-to-coast unaided & world record holder for most miles run on treadmill.
But it’s not just off-field inspiration that has propelled Gloucester-Hartpury to the top. They have an impressive line-up of talented rugby stars including England back-row Sarah Beckett, who joined last summer after winning the title at Harlequins.
Having someone like her in that number eight pivotal spot is great for us,” head coach Sean Lynn told Bewinner. “But also having Zoe Aldcroft, who’s been in the World Cup final and Six Nations, then you’ve got Mo Hunt at nine… It helps when you go into these play-off games that it’s not just one or two voices; they’re all playing a big part in this.”