And then there were four. The playoff semi finals. Of the twelve that started last September, full of expectation, two thirds have had their hopes dashed. Lots of supporters in the Premiership don’t have any supporting left to do. Without a team in contention, many will view the next two weekends with a mixture of envy and antipathy. Those who don’t wear the colours of Bath, Leicester, Saints and Sarries, will have to chose the team they would most like to see win. Or perhaps, more accurately, which team they dislike the least.
So what do we do? The big problem for many ‘neutrals’ is that Exeter were nudged out of this final four equation. The Chiefs are many people’s second favourite team. Honest and industrious, the Devon outfit’s ‘Cinderella story’ has earned a lot of admirers. If they’d made it into this Premiership quartet, they would have had a fair few foreign sailors jumping on their boat. But the Chiefs aren’t here. So let’s examine the argument for, or indeed against, each team. Who should you be supporting?
Northampton Saints. Eesh, I don’t think so. They’re like really good. Been good all season, top of the pile after 22 rounds. And if they win the title that’ll be two in a row. No, best not. Although, lots of Englishman in the team. Some big hitters. Like seeing Manoa do his stuff. Off to Toulon next year, a final swansong? Hartley can rub me up the wrong way mind. Oh, and then there’s that song. The really annoying one which fits their team name perfectly. “Oh when the Saints, go marching in…” Dammit, I’m singing it now! Reminds me of hymn practice in the big hall with Mrs Whatsherface. “Oh when the…” No, stop it. Yep, that’s it confirmed. I can’t have them winning it. I’ll support someone else.
But not Saracens. Jeez, anyone but Saracens. Too clinical, they’re almost robotic. Too many South Africans. What with their world brand, and the super-duper “come and stand on it afterwards” pitch and their “what’s that plaster behind his ear?”, “Oh that, we’re conducting research into concussion.” The Ivan Drago of the Premiership. Gotta love Schalk Brits though, very watchable. I like David Strettle too: a winger’s winger. And dear old Charlie Hodgson, would be nice for him. No, no, no, no, I remember now. The Wolfpack thing. No. I can’t support them. It’s like some sort of secret club. And, yes, of course, the mascot palaver. You’re either a camel or a wolf. You can’t be both. No, let’s move on. Next.
To Leicester. Um, well, the problem here is, er, they’re Leicester. How do I explain this? Um. You know, Leicester. Big and brash and usually winning. Yes, I know, they’ve fought back incredibly well this season, they were pretty much out of it, the 45-0 drubbing and all that. Shown real perseverance, even made old Cockers cry. But, it’s Leicester. You just can’t. I’m sure there’s a rule written down somewhere. It’s like BMW drivers, I’m sure they’re nice people and all that, you know, buy their round, seem interested, but deep down, beneath the warm smile, there’s a smug ‘prig’. Sooner or later he’s going to tell you that he drives a Beemer or supports the Tigers. Nope, can’t do it.
So that leaves Bath. Oh bugger. Are you sure that’s all that’s left? They’ve got too many good players, it’s not really fair. A big, hefty, ball playing pack and then all that soft shoe shuffle on the outside. Eastmond and Joseph in a centre partnership as close to rugby porn as you can get. Ah-ha, I know why it can’t be Bath: Sam Burgess. Not allowed to like him. He’s a league convert and that just doesn’t work. They still haven’t worked out if he’s a back or a forward yet; a blatant disregard for our sacred sport. And they’ve won things already this year, awards aplenty at ceremonies lately. They’ve had their moment in the sun; best leave the Premiership crown to someone else.
But there isn’t anyone else. We’re stranded, nowhere to go, stuck in neutral. Still, the rugby on show will be first class. Three potentially cracking games. A premier product to be rightly proud of; that’s going to make you smile.
Just gotta hope none of them win it.