Previewing 2019 Gallagher Premiership Playoffs: Semi-Finals

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After a long and grueling season, 22 rounds to be exact, it all now comes down to these final two weeks to determine who is the champion of English rugby as four teams have the chance to win the coveted trophy. The four teams are the Exeter Chiefs, Saracens, Gloucester, and Northampton and each of them have a excellent chance at winning the whole thing. With that being said, let’s take a look at each team.

Exeter Chiefs

The Chiefs finished the season on top of the table, but they will be looking to avenge last year’s loss in the Final. This team was very good in 2018-19 as they are very good offense (scoring the most tries in the Premiership) and lock down defense (allowing only 51 tries, second lowest in the league). They boast such talents as Alex Cuthbert, Santiago Cordero, Ollie Devoto, Henry Slade, Sam Simmonds, and Luke Cowan-Dickie. They blew away the competition this season with 86 points, eight points clear of second place Saracens, but they have lost two of their last four matches and that could be of concern. With a week off, the question will be is can they get back into form.

Saracens

The Saracens finished in second place this season, but they are the defending champions and look to keep their title this season. There are a lot of talented players on this roster such as Jamie George, Titi Lamositele, Mako and Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Schalk Burger, Will Skelton, Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt, Sean Maitland, David Strettle, Alex Goode, and Liam Williams as there are good reasons why they could very well defend their championship with a bunch of players like them on the squad. The Saracens had the biggest point differential in the Premiership with 204 as their offense was phenomenal (77 tries scored), but their defense was the best as they allowed a league low tries with 44.

Gloucester

Gloucester surprisingly had a good season as they finished third in the table with 68 points, having finished seventh the season before, and have a very good chance and making a run to the championship. The team has some good talent here with the likes of Ruan Dreyer, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Danny Cipriani, Owen Williams, Billy Twelvetrees, Matt Banahan, and Charlie Sharples. With the likes of Johann Ackermann running the club, the future looks bright, but with a chance to win a championship this season, they will be trying very hard to win this time around. However, they haven’t blown the competition away as they seem to have a very balanced team having scored 75 tries, but have allowed 60. They are an interesting team now, but the future is bright for them.

Northampton Saints

It came down to the wire as six squads fought to the bitter end for the final spot in the playoffs, but the Northampton Saints came out of it and clinched the fourth seed. That being said, there is some really good talent on the squad with such players as Dylan Hartley, Ben Franks, Jamie Haskell, Tom Wood, Dan Biggar, and Taqele Naiyaravoro. The head coach Chris Boyd has been a revelation as he brought his coaching success to the club over the offseason, which he even helped the squad win Premiership Rugby Club over the Saracens on March 17. Not quite like Gloucester, there is a similar style of play as they scored 69 tries and allowed only 62. The hope to even winning the championship would be incredible.

Matchups

Exeter Chiefs vs Northampton Saints

The two teams split the season series 1-1, but the two faced off in the final week of the season with Exeter winning.

Predictions:

James Rowe: Exeter. It seems like their form is back and they know what to expect from Northampton, but the collection of talent for the Chiefs is overwhelming compared to Saints.

Saracens vs Gloucester

The two teams split the season series 1-1 with two having last played on February 22 (Gloucester victory).

Predictions:

James Rowe: Saracens. The European Champions Cup winners will look to add more accolades to an already successful campaign, but the first point of business will be defeating Gloucester who has played them close in the two matches this season. Gloucester is a very promising team that has a bright future, but the Saracens has an excellent collection of talent that might even be the best in the entire league.

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