At the halfway point of this season’s Aviva Premiership, we predict the rest of the season for the league’s bottom six clubs.
12. Bristol Rugby
Bristol looked as if they were going to replicate London Welsh’s winless 2014/15 campaign as they shipped 70 points at Wasps before losing 39-0 at home to Saracens and getting hammered by Exeter in front of their own fans too, but the sacking of Andy Robinson and introduction of Mark Tainton saw them win their first two games in all competitions and run Leicester close, before they beat Worcester with 14 men in their Boxing Day thriller.
They will see opportunities to win games before the return fixture then as they travel to Sale next up and face Harlequins at Ashton Gate in February. It may well come down to the last day of the season, where they face Newcastle at home, but their return to form suggests they will nick enough wins to survive.
11. Worcester Warriors
After taking nine points from their opening four games, Worcester began to distance themselves from a relegation scrap, but seven games later they have managed to add just one point out of a possible 35, and having just lost to previously winless Bristol (who only had 14 men for 70 minutes), things are looking bleak.
With Bristol having plenty of momentum and a strong squad with an improved coaching setup, I can’t see the Warriors accumulating enough points to hold them off. The Premiership’s yo-yo team are heading down again.
10. Sale Sharks
Inconsistency is the main word that comes to mind when looking at Sale, and more often than not they are on the wrong end of defeats in games that you think they should be winning. An example of this is going from beating Quins comfortably at the AJ Bell before being outplayed by Gloucester, also at home.
On a seven-game losing run, they face an in-form Bristol side at the worst possible time – lose that and they could be dragged into the relegation battle. However, I back Steve Diamond to solve their current woes out as he does season on season, and they will win enough home games to get the job done and stay up comfortably.
9. Newcastle Falcons
It’s been a pretty good season for Newcastle, who have beaten every team in the bottom seven bar Worcester and are virtually there already in their goal of survival.
Whilst they have not had the quality to take on the better sides, they should pick up three of four more wins in the second half of the season and could even challenge for the Champions Cup.
8. Gloucester Rugby
I can’t help but feel that in spite of having a decent squad, Gloucester still don’t seem to be going anywhere. Throwing away big leads against Leicester and Exeter has contributed to them being where they are, and I think they will need a miracle to finish any higher than eighth, given how many internationals they will lose.
7. Northampton Saints
Despite it being what many describe as a terrible season for the Saints, they lie in 7th just three points off a place in the top six. However, it cannot be denied that they are not playing well at all.
Despite having a lot of the ball, they are really struggling to create and take their chances and conceding far too many easy points. I think they’ll get close, but will narrowly miss out. But it could be all to play for as they face Harlequins on the final day.
Nick Powell, Pundit Arena