If there is an avid sports fan out there that has a worse record of predicting sporting outcomes than I do, I’d love to meet them, but here goes.
Regardless of the outcome of our ‘winner takes all’ clash with Bath at the Stoop on Saturday, Quins’ season effectively ends this weekend.
[Please note that this is a sober reflection upon the likely outcome, and not a case of subtle ‘reverse psychology’ with me being deliberately pessimistic in the hope of getting yet another prediction wrong!]
The truth is that, in the recent past, there have been only five clubs that matter in the English rugby Premiership. Three of them are nailed-on monster clubs – Saracens, Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints – and two (Bath Rugby and Harlequins) are pretender/contenders. Let’s be clear about it: at this stage in rugby’s development, nobody yet makes money in club rugby and as for business modelling, forget it. All the above bar Quins rely upon sugar daddies with deep pockets. There’s no other explanation as to how, even despite the alleged salary cap, the monster clubs can possibly afford their large, star-studded, playing squads.
Harlequins only won the Premiership in 2011/2012 because, with so many monster clubs’ key players away on – or resting from – summer tours and autumn internationals, they somehow managed to sprint into such a lead in the regular league season that they cruised into the play-offs and had energy to spare when it came to the knock out phase.
This term we have had a bad run of injuries, plus four England stars away on international duty, and it has taken a super-charged run of late victories to give us the chance of a play-off place. Even if we were to beat Bath this Saturday, I cannot see us making the Premiership final by overcoming heavy favourites Saracens at Allianz Park. Without doubt, Saracens have been head and shoulders above everyone else this season – witness their current rare chance of a Heineken Cup and Premiership double victory.