Aviva Premiership: Champions Exeter can edge to Bath victory

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter
Exeter boss Rob Baxter faces a trip to Bath in this weekend's league clash
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Simon Mail previews the latest Premiership action which includes champions Exeter's trip to Bath and Saracens v Harlequins...

"Exeter have won 12 of their 17 league matches this season and have beaten Bath in their last two meetings. The Chiefs claimed a 17-11 away win last season and can be fancied to repeat the feat again."

Champions Exeter can grind out away win

Bath v Exeter
Friday, 19:45 GMT
Live on BT Sport 1

Bath were due to face Exeter last weekend in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final but the game was postponed due to snow. That clash will have to wait for another day but the teams lock horns at the Rec this weekend in the Premiership. The hosts are battling to secure a place in the top four with the side currently seventh but only five points off fourth spot. Todd Blackadder's side will be reliant on strong home form if they are to extend their season although this match looks a difficult challenge for them.

Exeter have won their last two Premiership matches with their most recent victory coming in a 24-12 home success over Saracens. The Chiefs extended their lead at the top of the table to seven points with five games remaining. The champions are well on course to defend their title and Rob Baxter has urged his side to put their foot down during the Premiership run-in.

Exeter have won 12 of their 17 league matches this season and have beaten Bath in their last two meetings. The Chiefs claimed a 17-11 away win last season and can be fancied to repeat the feat again. The handicap margin is two points with the visitors marginal favourites and underlines this is likely to be a tight encounter. But Exeter are backed to edge to another win, by up to 12 points, which will consolidate top spot.

Sarries should claim comfortable victory

Saracens v Harlequins
Saturday, 15:00 GMT
Live on BT Sport 1

Saracens take their latest match to a new ground with the London Stadium becoming their seventh different home venue in the competition. The Men in Black will play in front of a sold out crowd of 57,000 as they bid to put the pressure on the top two. Third-placed Sarries have slipped down after losing their last two matches against Leicester and Exeter. But Mark McCall's side should be boosted by the return of their internationals, such as Owen Farrell, from the Six Nations which makes them a much stronger proposition.

Harlequins have struggled for consistency throughout the season and are well off the pace in ninth position. Quins managed to halt their four-match losing run in the Premiership after claiming a 20-5 home win over Bath in their last game. Harlequins have struggled badly on the road though and have lost their last eight matches in all competitions stretching back to November.

Saracens are overwhelming favourites for this match and the title challengers should deliver a win in East London. The handicap mark is set at 15 points and with the hosts close to full strength are fancied to cover this. Sarries won by 21 points against Harlequins in last year's home game and look capable of landing another comfortable victory to keep in touch with the top two.

Falcons to keep in hunt for top-four finish

Newcastle v Northampton
Saturday, 17:30 GMT
Live on BT Sport 1

This is a special weekend for Newcastle with the Falcons taking their game to St James' Park. Dean Richards' side have been the surprise package of the season with the team currently fourth in the table and genuine contenders for a semi-final spot. With 22 points from their last six matches, Newcastle are the form team in the competition and have not lost a home game since November.

It has been a dismal campaign for Northampton and the side have won just two of their last 12 Premiership games. The Saints find themselves tenth in the table and the end of the season cannot come soon enough for the team. Northampton have lost their last six away league games and have been unable to improve significantly since coach Alan Gaffney's arrival after Jim Mallinder's departure.

It is difficult to bet against Newcastle considering their current form and a strong recent record against their opponents. The Falcons, who could be inspired by playing at the football ground, have won their last four matches against Northampton and the hosts have a great opportunity to extend this run with another victory. Newcastle look capable of covering a 12-point handicap, against a side they defeated by 15 points at Kingston Park last season, so a convincing home win is predicted.

Improving Tigers can trouble Wasps

Leicester v Wasps
Sunday, 15:00 GMT
Live on BT Sport 1

After a poor run during the middle of the season, Leicester appear to be coming to the boil after finding some form. The Tigers should come into this clash with momentum on their side after winning their last three matches. This includes a significant win at Saracens which undoubtedly boosted their confidence. The victories have lifted them up to fifth in the table and few would bet against Leicester finishing up in their usual top-four position.

Wasps are in a more comfortable position with Dai Young's side up into second place in the Premiership. Unbeaten in four league games, last season's finalists look on course to reach Twickenham once again this year. Wasps have only lost once in their last 11 league matches and have been extremely hard to beat with their last away defeat in the competition coming at Saracens in October.

Leicester have struggled recently against Wasps but this could be the right time for them to end their losing run against them and take a step closer to the top four. The Tigers are typically strong finishers at the business end of the campaign and come into this match off a convincing 34-5 win at Worcester. This looks like a match which will be closely contested and there could be value in backing Leicester to claim a narrow win by no more than 12 points.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

2017/18 Rugby P/L

Staked: 116pts
Returned: 102.0pts
P/L: -14.0pts

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