Preview: Premiership semifinals

Fri, 10 May 2013 06:59
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This is Saracens fourth successive Premiership semifinal and their fifth overall, however they have lost their last three semifinal encounters in all competitions.

This is Saracens fourth successive Premiership semifinal and their fifth overall, however they have lost their last three semifinal encounters in all competitions.
 
Allianz Park becomes the ninth different venue to host a Premiership semifinal, whilst Sarries have won all six previous contests they have played at their new home venue.
 
Northampton Saints have played in five previous Premiership semifinal matches, but unfortunately ever reached the final.
 
The Saints' four game winning run away from home in the Premiership ended in their 19-22 reversal to Harlequins at the Stoop in round 22.
 
Saracens have won their last three contests against the Saints, whilst Northampton's most recent victory on Saracens soil was way back on 15th February 2004 at Vicarage Road.
 
The two clubs have met four times before in semi-final encounters in all tournaments, all of which were played at Franklin's Gardens, with honours even at two wins apiece. Their only previous clash in a Premiership semi-final came in 2010 with Saracens victorious 21-19.
 
We look at the Premiership semifinal action!
 
Saturday, May 11
 
Leicester Tigers v Harlequins
(Welford Road - Kick-off: 16.00; 16.00 GMT)
 
Leicester Tigers have won their last twelve semifinal matches in all competitions since Wasps beat them, 22-17, at the Millennium Stadium in the last four of the Anglo-Welsh Cup in March 2006.

This is the Tigers fourth successive home Premiership semifinal, whilst they have not been defeated at Welford Road in a semi-final fixture since Gloucester were the visitors in the now defunct Cheltenham & Gloucester Cup in March 1998.

Tigers are bidding to reach a ninth successive Premiership final whilst their last four games in all tournaments have all been won by the home side on the day. Harlequins are the defending Premiership Rugby champions and finished off the regular season with three successive wins against Bath, Worcester and Northampton.

This is Quins third appearance in the Premiership semifinals, losing out at home to London Irish in 2009 and beating Northampton 25-23 at the Twickenham Stoop at this stage last year. Harlequins have won their last three fixtures against the Tigers including last season’s final at Twickenham, in addition Quins have triumphed on their last two visits to Welford Road, denying the Tigers even a losing bonus point on each occasion.

The two clubs have met in seven previous semifinal encounters in all competitions with Leicester having the slight edge by four wins to three.
 
The teams:
 
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Niall Morris, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Graham Kitchener, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Logovi'i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Fraser Balmain, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 George Ford, 23 Matt Smith.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown 14 Tom Williams, 13 George Lowe, 12 Tom Casson, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter (captain), 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ross Chisholm.

Referee: Greg Garner
Assistant referees: Stuart Terheege, Gordon Goodliffe
TMO: Geoffrey Warren
 
Sunday, May 12
 
Saracens v Northampton Saints

(Allianz Park - Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
 
Travelling to the home of table topping Saracens is challenging enough, but the Saints also face the prospect of a first competitive fixture on artificial 4G turf in the club's history at Allianz Park for Sunday's Premiership semifinal.

With help from Tresham College, however, Jim Mallinder's men are getting the best possible preparation for the task.
 
With no 4G surface within reasonable distance of Northampton, the Saints have instead moved to borrow a 3G pitch at the Kettering-based college, one those who played at Allianz Park for the Wanderers commented was an almost exact replica of Sarries' space age surface.
 
That said, the biggest challenge for the Saints in their fourth straight semifinal will be right in their faces in black and red, a Saracens side that finished three points clear at the summit of the Premiership to extend their own playoff qualification run to four - winning 17 of their 22 games in the process.
 
That number includes a 'home' and away double over the Saints, though as some 19,000 who were at stadiumMK will recall it was just the width of a bar that denied Saints revenge for a lacklustre 16-6 defeat at the Gardens in October.
 
Saints haven't won at Saracens' various home venues since 2004 and with the 2011 champions unbeaten at Allianz Park after six games, the task facing the men in black, green and gold (or blue in Sunday's case!) becomes an even tougher one on paper.
 
While they might be heading into the clash as underdogs though, they certainly won't be settling for second best and will be hopeful of ending another impressive home run in 2012/13 to add to scalps taken at Gloucester, Bath, Sale, Exeter, Worcester, Wasps and of course, Ulster. They'll also recall memories of a fine 30-8 win over the European Cup semifinalists in last season's clash at the Gardens - with many from both sides likely to be on show this weekend.
 
The teams:
 
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 John Smit, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 George Kruis, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Chris Wyles.

Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 James Wilson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Phil Dowson, 20 GJ Van Velze, 21 Martin Roberts, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Tom May.

Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Paul Dix, Peter Huckle
TMO: John Burtenshaw

Premiership Final: The two-legged Championship final is then played on 23rd and 29th May.

In the event of a draw:

In the Premiership Rugby semi-finals and final, if scores are level after 40 minutes each waythere shall be an immediate period of extra time between the teams of 10 minutes each way. If the scores are still tied after extra time then the winner will be the team which has scored the most tries in the game (including extra time). If scores are still equal then there will be a place kick competition to determine the winner.

Place Kicking Competition:
A coin toss will determine at which end the competition will be at and another coin toss will determine which team goes first or second. Each team will nominate three kickers on the pitch at the end of extra time, designated kicker one, kicker two and kicker three.
Each kicker will take two kicks apiece in the following order:
- Kicker 1 from each team will take a kick from in front of the posts on the 22m line.
- Kicker 2 from each team will take a kick 15m in from the right touch line on the 22m line.
- Kicker 3 from each team will take a kick 15m in from the left touch line on the 22m line.
- Kicker 1 from each team will take a kick from in front of the posts on the 40m line.
- Kicker 2 from each team will take a kick 15m in from the right touch line on the 40m line.
- Kicker 3 from each team will take a kick 15m in from the left touch line on the 40m line.
If still tied there will be a 'sudden death competition' from in front of the posts on the 40m line.

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Team P W D L Pts
Saracens 21 16 1 4 75
Exeter Chiefs 21 14 0 7 69
Wasps 21 14 0 7 67
Leicester Tigers 21 14 0 7 64
Sale Sharks 21 10 2 9 54
Harlequins 21 10 1 10 55
Northampton Saints 21 11 0 10 56
Gloucester 21 10 1 10 49
Bath 21 8 0 13 43
Worcester Warriors 21 7 0 14 35
Newcastle Falcons 21 5 1 15 26
London Irish 21 4 0 17 20