With London Irish scoring seven tries, it was a comprehensive victory albeit an odd one. With the overall try tally at eight, I seem to recall most of them coming from interceptions. From a Leeds perspective, we made more unwelcome interruptions than Kanye West at an award ceremony. By the end of the game our boys were so good at predicting what Leeds were going to do next, one had to wonder if they were using ‘The Force’. Maybe we’re the world’s first Jedi Knight rugby team? Despite never touching his throat, Nick Kennedy seemed to magically choke Andy Gomarsall at one point; the boy is clearly a little bit Darth Vader.
Making predictions and pronouncements in general is of course a mug’s game; I’ve never met a bookie short of a few quid. Luckily, as anyone who was there for my moment of madness at half-time in the Gloucester game will attest (I told Stavros Flatley that if we won the league I’d perform with them next year), my credentials as a mug are well proven. With that in mind, here are my predictions for the season:
First off, here is the bad news. Unless what we saw today was Leeds’s worst performance of the season, you would have to fear for their survival. They are a great club and I wish them all the best, but goodwill isn’t going to translate into points and the Guinness Premiership is a brutal environment. Mind you, if Harlequins continue the way they’ve started, there may be hope for the Yorkshire side yet. Assuming Quins do get their ducks in a row, Leeds will be watching the results of Worcester and Newcastle with interest.
The top four is an altogether trickier kettle of fish. Today’s visitors look a good bet; after last year’s big dip it looks like normal service may be resumed. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this game is a dry run for a Premiership semi-final in the not too distant future. Leicester will of course be sniffing about, assuming that at some point they manage to catch up with Tom Varndell in the try scoring stakes.
I now need to consult the crystal ball. Saracens may be three from three but a couple of those were pretty fortunate results and for the good of the game I do hope a negative gameplan won’t lead to a top four finish, all due respect to the good doctor. Meanwhile a certain prodigal son of ours has started well over at Northampton. With a lot of people predicting big things for the club this season, much will hinge on how they cope away from home. Bath have started slowly and Sale are rebuilding but either could hit form, while Quins might yet turn the Annus Horribilis around. What will happen with Gloucester is anyone’s guess and a bookie’s worse nightmare. Still my gut instincts say that Northampton will be in the top four, Leicester will make the re-match in the final and Big Bob will get his mitts on some silverware. Biased? Moi?
Taking a step back, I’ve just named 9 teams out of 12 that can legitimate top 4 ambitions. Whatever happens this year, after all the kerfuffle in the off-season, rugby is in rude health.
I firmly believe London Irish’s attendances will be up this season which is a credit to the fine rugby our boys have produced and will hopefully continue to produce, and the great job our support is doing to spread the gospel. We now need to take the next step and prove that attractive rugby can not just win fans but win trophies too. This team needs silverware and something to show for the hard work of the last few years. I can’t help feeling that rugby might need London Irish to go the whole way too. As our ex-Director of Rugby used to say, which his successors echo in word or deed, it’s good over evil – style matters. The game doesn’t need to see kick and chase, tackle and wait rugby to win through, there must be a better way. May the force be with us.
I’ve avoided making any predictions for the Heineken Cup as I realise my article has to be of interest to Wasps fans too.
C’mon you Irish!