Guinness Premiership 2008

Champions! (or not)

Outsized BallIt's 5pm, and we should now have the result of the Guinness Premiership Final between Wasps and Leicester. Gloucester supporters may lament the fact that their side finished top of the premiership but bottled the big occasion of the semi final, but the playoffs are the price you pay for fixture congestion - it reduces the disparity due to players being called up to play for England. I'm writing this in the morning, before the game, and am slightly apprehensive. Last year, Wasps beat Leicester in the Heineken Cup Final, denying their captain the opportunity to retire on a high - the story may be that history repeats itself. It's a possibility - however (and here is where I write myself a hostage to fortune) - it doesn't feel like that'll happen. Wasps have had a good run to finish second in the table. We were in tenth place after the world cup (so many players were absent, we really suffered) - but then we had a run of success like nothing people had seen before.

Sting does a little danceAfter the Generation Game last week the story doesn't feel like Wasps can do anything other than upset Leicester. The mood last week was good, the players seemed relaxed - bullish, almost.

After a run like we've had to get to the top this season, we can't do anything other than win.

Can we?

My prediction (which, given that this is futureposted should be immediately checkable) is that in the first half it will be tight. Leicester may well go ahead. Wasps will come back and at half time it's anybody's game. In the second half, Wasps will pull away and get a clear margin - though it won't be until the final seconds that we can breath easily. It'll be something like 25-15 to Wasps.

I hope. If it turns out that Leicester won, I'm hoping for some 'there, there' comments by the time I get home.

Premiership Final Cockups.

Dallaglio and Shaun watch the endWasps and Leicester, having got through to the Rugby Union Guinness Premiership Final, were allocated 9000 tickets each. in a stadium of capacity 82000. Lots of tickets had already been sold. This is a shockingly low allocation for a big event (especially for a club like Leicester), but nevertheless, the clubs made their plans and began to sell tickets today.

Then, later on the same day, news comes through from English Premier Rugby.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: London Wasps have today been told that their 9,000 Guinness Premiership Final ticket allocation has been reduced by PRL to 5,438.

Excuse me? Wasps Season Ticket holders alone cover that (give or take) - what hope is there for the regular non-season ticket holder, or even the 'occasional' supporter.

... and Leicester are in an even worse position having, as they do, a larger regular attendance.

Anybody would think that the club allocation were being intentionally squeezed so that next year they sell more advance tickets. Cynical, moi?

It shouldn't be hard. At the start of the season decide the allocation. Reserve that number of seats in the different price bands of the stadium. Keep some back for the corporates etc. Sell the rest with impunity. Everybody's happy, and the organisers don't look like incompetents.

Wasps vs Bath

Dallaglio and Shaun watch the end of the gameAt the weekend I went to see Wasps play Bath in the Guinness Premiership Semi Final at Adams Park. Wasps had got to second in the table thanks to a nail biting climax to the season, with it all hanging on the last weekend.

Gloucester were first, Wasps second, Bath third and Leicester were fourth.

This doesn't settle the season, though. Due to the fixture congestion a playoff system was introduced (which helps to compensate clubs who lose many of their players to England - such as Wasps and Leicester). Gloucester played Leicester, and Wasps played Bath.

Bath came out fighting, and had dominance in terms of territory. They took an early lead, and it was 30 minutes into the game before Wasps put points on the board.

A second try just before half time was psychologically significant. In the second half, Wasps went on to win, 21-10, and are going to Twickenham.

Wasps players were really up against the wall. Danny Cipriani suffered a horrendous injury to his ankle - and he will be out of action for several months, maybe six to nine months. If you're someone who of delicate disposition, I would recommend that you not search for the photos (which are out there). Feet are not supposed to point in that direction. Tom Voyce also had a problem due a a dislocated shoulder and had a hospital visit too.

There were a few other injuries, requiring pitch side assistance.

It's really great that Wasps are through - the final should be a superb day.

The Gloucester vs. Leicester game was very tight, but Leicester just got the edge thanks to a last minute drop goal. The final will be Wasps vs. Leicester - and Gloucester once again falls short at the big occasion.

Bye, Bye Dallaglio (almost)

Yesterday, I had a long day as I travelled up to Leeds for the last game of the Guinness Premiership. Wasps were playing for the playoff slot.

Lawrence Dallaglio

This would be the last game in the regular season of the Guinness Premiership for Lawrence Dallaglio.

Last week, we were fifth in the table on 60 points. Quins were on 61, Sale on 63. Bath were on 68 and Gloucester were on 70. During the week we played our last game in hand and beat Newcastle to go into third place on 65 points. Tigers were on 59.

A win against Leeds would see us in the playoffs. Lose and we would probably be passed by Sale, Quins or Tigers. We might lost our top four place.

The playoffs at the end of the season were introduced for two reasons, firstly the premiership is affected by fixture congestion. This year was a massive example of this with the World Cup. Wasps in particular were badly affected as we supply so many players to England (we were 10th at one point in the season soon after the world cup). The playoffs provide a way of compensating for this effect. Secondly, it does provide the season with a 'grand finale'.

Leeds came out fighting. The score went to 9-0 to Leeds, then 16-7. We eventually came back and took control of the game, going ahead 16-17.

The final score was 28-45. Leeds acquitted themselves well, with a great intercept try from the halfway line. Fortunately Wasps scored six tries, with three from Tom Voyce and a try each from Raphael Ibanez, Fraser Waters and Tom Voyce. This was a bonus point win, putting Wasps on 70.

Obligingly, Gloucester beat Bath (at one point the Wasps crowd in the opposite stand at Leeds were calling 'Glaw-sterrr, Glaw-sterrr!') This meant that Bath finish the season in third place, and Wasps have a home playoff.

For fourth place, Sale lost to Irish and Tigers scored a late try against Quins - thus Tigers get fourth place.

This season really has gone to the wire, with everything to play for.

Next week: Wasps play Bath, and Gloucester play Tigers. Assuming he is on the field, Dallaglio gets (at least) one more premiership game.