Simon Mail previews the penultimate round of Premiership action where he thinks Bath can beat Northampton Saints and close in on a semi-final spot...
"Bath have won their last four games in all competitions as they close in on a first semi-final for four years."
Bath v Northampton Saints
Friday May 2, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 1
Bath and Northampton Saints meet in a warm-up clash ahead of their European Challenge Cup final in Wales later in the month. But this match has plenty of significance itself with the hosts needing a win to strengthen their chances of a top-four finish. Bath have won their last four games in all competitions as they close in on a first semi-final for four years.
Northampton Saints appear to have come through a sticky patch recently with back-to-back wins but Jim Mallinder's side have been beaten in their last two away league games. The Saints know that another win will ensure they finish in the top two and secure a home semi-final as they bid to reach the final for the second year in a row.
Recent clashes favour the visitors with Northampton winning the last five Premiership encounters between the sides. But all bar the previous one at Franklin's Gardens have been against a different proposition to the team they will face this weekend. Bath have improved dramatically over the last year and head coach Mike Ford insists his side can take extra belief from their European semi-final win over Wasps last week. The hosts need the win more and are fancied to edge to the points in front of their home fans. It also looks worth backing Bath with a small handicap against them.
Back Bath to win by under 12.5 points at 2.77/4
Back Bath -2 in the Sportsbook at 2.0521/20
Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers
Saturday May 3, 15:15
Live on BT Sport 1
Sale Sharks could still reach the play-offs but it will require a monumental effort from them with two wins essential to have any chance. It has still been an encouraging season for Steve Diamond's side and they clinched the biggest Premiership win of the campaign in their last match when they thrashed Exeter 55-12 at Sandy Park.
Defending champions Leicester Tigers are currently fourth in the table so still have work to do to ensure they are in the semi-final shakeup. Richard Cockerill's team saw their seven-match Premiership winning run end with defeat at Harlequins in their last league match. With a game against Sarries on the final weekend, the Tigers will want to try and seal their top-four place before taking on the Heineken Cup finalists.
Leicester tend to reserve their best form for this stage of the season and the Tigers have been pretty consistent lately. The Midlanders can also boast an excellent record against Sale with victories in the last eight meetings between the sides dating back to 2009. It is hard to bet against the Tigers but three of the last four clashes have been settled by 12 points or less. Take the visitors to grind out another victory over the Sharks.
Back Leicester Tigers to win by under 12.5 points at 2.68/5
Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins
Sunday May 4, 14:00
Live on BT Sport 1
Exeter Chiefs will be looking for a big response after being hammered at home to Sale Sharks in their last game. It was uncharacteristic of Rob Baxter's side who have been renowned for being competitive opponents. But their form has tailed off since winning the LV= Cup as they have lost three of their last four matches.
Harlequins have left it late as they attempt to snatch a place in the Premiership semi-finals. Conor O'Shea's side need a minimum of six points from their last two matches and even this might not be enough if other results go against them. Quins have at least hit form in the league with three successive wins including an excellent victory at home to Leicester.
This match should really come down to motivation and it is the away side that still have so much to play for. Harlequins will not give up their fight for the top-four while Exeter look as if they are already thinking about their summer break. Quins won 22-6 in the last meeting in December and the Londoners are fancied to complete the double, with a tight victory, and keep their outside semi-final bid alive.
Back Harlequins to win by under 12.5 points at 2.89/5
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