Will Saints make the play-offs? The Premiership top-four race predicted
It’s fair to say the race for the top four is now officially on.
The gap to fourth-placed Harlequins has been narrowing for a number of weeks, with Paul Gustard’s side having lost their past four league matches.The most recent of those defeats came to Saints at the Stoop last weekend as Chris Boyd’s men snatched a deserved 20-19 success thanks to Alex Mitchell’s late try and James Grayson’s ice-cool conversion.Now the gap between sixth-placed Saints and Quins, in the final play-off place, is just four points.And Wasps are even closer to the Twickenham team after their stunning win at table-topping Exeter Chiefs last Sunday.Bath and Sale Sharks can also consider themselves well in the mix with three regular-season matches to go.So who has each team got left to face and just who will be booking their place in the play-offs come May 18?Harlequins (fourth, 50 points, remaining games: Exeter (a), Leicester (h), Wasps (a))Quins have had a daunting run-in for some time now, and they’ve paid the price by suffering defeats to Gloucester, Saracens, Sale and Saints. Things certainly don’t get any easier for the side from the Stoop as they face a trip to league leaders Exeter next before facing a Leicester side buoyed by a crucial win at Newcastle last time out and a Wasps team who are currently their closest rivals for a top-four place. You would expect them to lose the two away matches and potentially pick up a narrow win against Leicester at the Stoop. Predicted points total: 54Wasps (fifth, 47 points, remaining games: Saracens (h), Bath (a), Harlequins (h))Wasps are revitalised after winning against Worcester and Exeter in recent weeks and they will fancy their chances against a Saracens team who have struggled on the road of late and who must play Munster in a bruising Champions Cup semi-final at the Ricoh Arena this weekend. After that, Wasps will travel to an unpredictable Bath outfit before welcoming a Quins team who they really should have enough to beat.Predicted points total: 54Saints (sixth, 46 points, remaining games: Newcastle (a), Worcester (h), Exeter (a))If there has been anything predictable about Saints this season it is that they will be unpredictable. They have won some games you wouldn’t have expected them to, and they have lost others that looked a lot easier, against the likes of Newcastle and Bristol. If they can win at Newcastle on Friday night, they can make the top four, with even that trip to Exeter looking less worrying at the moment. Predicted points total: 55Bath (seventh, 45 points, remaining games: Sale (a), Wasps (h), Leicester (a))Bath have been so difficult to read this season and they threw away a huge chance to secure a statement win at Gloucester last weekend. What they will do against Sale, Wasps and Leicester is anyone’s guess, but they probably need three wins to make the top four and that looks unlikely, with Sale a particularly tough place to visit.Predicted points total: 51Sale (eighth, 44 points, remaining games: Bath (h), Bristol (a), Gloucester (h))Sale have had a favourable set of fixtures in recent weeks but they haven’t been able to convert opportunities and their away form has left a lot to be desired. You would fancy them to win at home to Bath and Gloucester but Bristol showed they can do the business against Saracens last time out and the top four is likely to be out of reach for the Sharks this time round.Predicted points total: 53 pointsOverall verdict: Saints have enough quality and character to finish in fourth and it could well be between them and Wasps to see who books what is likely to be a trip to Exeter Chiefs in the play-off semi-finals..