What to look out for in the Premiership Rugby Cup semi-finals
All eyes will be on cup action this weekend as Worcester Warriors and Northampton Saints host semi-finals to decide who wins a place in the inaugural Premiership Rugby Cup final.
Both home sides are looking to distract themselves from their mixed form in the league, with the domestic cup competition providing some relief as they find themselves in the congested mid-table in Gallagher Premiership Rugby.
Saracens will be optimistic travelling to Sixways as they look to reach their second final in four editions of the domestic cup, formerly the Anglo-Welsh Cup, but must be on their guard against high-scoring Worcester on Friday night (7.45pm kick-off).
Saturday lunchtime will see Northampton face Newcastle Falcons (12.15pm kick-off), who are currently at the foot of the Gallagher Premiership.
A cup-final place could be the turning point for the club in the north east, who have not reached a final since they were defeated 34-7 by Gloucester Rugby in 2011.
Worcester third time lucky?
Saracens and Worcester have recent cup history, having been drawn together in Pool 2 earlier this season.
In a ten-try classic with nine different scorers at Allianz Park, the home side triumphed 34-22 on November 11.
The hosts had trailed 12-10 at half-time but the second-half onslaught proved crucial for both sides as they each claimed a bonus point from the tie.
Pool 2 ended with 16 points each after the four pool matches, with Worcester finishing top by virtue of their points difference – earning them a home semi-final.
📹 IN FOCUS w/ @DommMorris 🔓
🔨 Destructive defence
🧪 Strong team chemistry
🆚 @WorcesterWarriors ⚔️
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) February 7, 2019
Saracens’ draw at Sale in Round 2 means this Friday’s rematch will be in front of a raucous Worcester crowd, unlike when they met in the league on December 29 when Saracens won by eight points.
The Sixways faithful will be hoping for another entertaining battle, but with a different winner as they seek a first top-tier cup final in their history.
Newcastle have second home in Northampton
Newcastle may have only won three fixtures in the Premiership this season, but they have reasons to be cheerful heading into their semi-final at lunchtime on Saturday.
Firstly, the cup has proved a welcome distraction for Dean Richards’ side with three straight wins backing up a hard-fought draw at home to last season’s cup winners Exeter Chiefs.
Against the odds, they finished above the Chiefs thanks to their superior points difference and have been rewarded with a trip to Franklin’s Gardens.
— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) February 7, 2019
While it may not sound the greatest of prizes considering Northampton’s last home game ended in a 31-28 victory over Gallagher Premiership leaders Exeter, Mark Wilson’s 86th minute try in December sealed a last-gasp away victory for Newcastle against their semi-final opponents.
This never-say-die mentality will be crucial as they aim for a first final since they played Gloucester in the 2011 at Franklin’s Gardens.