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Posted by: Monkey1_ed
Date: 31/12/2017 12:50
No matter what your views on the effects of promotion & relegation, the fight to avoid relegation could be interesting this season.

Irish are currently adrift with only 9 points, and I really don't know what to take from yesterday's game. First half they looked vulnerable but we had to work hard to score three tries. Second half they nilled us & scored 6 points, and seemed to have plenty of power & determination, but there is the question of this being because we played awful tactics, or did they manage to successfully spoil our game? Either way, they are still recovering from a season in the much slower & less-stimulating Championship, and now that they are getting used to Premiership rugby again I would expect them to improve steadily as the season trundles on, but whether this will be quick enough to save them is impossible to guess.

Next on the ladder is Worcester with 19 points. They took a bonus point against Saracens yesterday, an indication that they can score points against the best. All the indications from an outside perspective give a very poor feel about the club; the club is up for sale, almost certainly under-funded, doesn't seem particularly well run, and Gary Gold is being replaced by an inside candidate. That is not reflected on the pitch however, and my touchy-feely view, my gut instinct which is what I trust more than mere statistics, is that things are starting to click at Sixways and they look a lot brighter as a team. For no reason whatsoever, I think they might do quite well in the second half of the season, and I hope they do because they need a break.

Just as my instincts say Irish will gradually improve over the remaining games, I think Saints are in a downward spiral, and with 22 points I don't think it will be long before Worcester overtake them unless something truly dramatic happens. They are in the worst kind of self-destruction, painfully similar to our relegation season when Alan Tait struggled to motivate a squad that was almost at war with itself. Mallinder has gone, but the rumblings from Northampton have been getting loud since last season, and it surely runs deeper than one man. They were taken apart by Harlequins, not exactly what you would call one of the in-form teams at the moment. 31-0 at half time yesterday says it all, and although they came back in the second half, that was probably down to Quins backing off the pace rather than Saints coming alive, and Quins still managed to match them pretty much point for point to retain their lead.

My guess on what will happen is that Worcester are safe and will tot up points at least as well as they have during the first half of the season. They certainly don't look like a club in a relegation fight, but don't ask me why I think that because I can't explain. I see it as being a contest between Irish & Saints. Will Irish get up to speed quickly enough to take enough points to pass Saints on 22, or will Saints manage to hang on enough to put Irish down? We are certainly still a long way off hearing the fat lady sing.

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