Aviva Premiership: Leicester can edge crucial top-four battle against Newcastle

Leicester back Matt Toomua
Leicester back Matt Toomua could play a key role in their game against Newcastle
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Simon Mail previews the penultimate weekend of the Premiership regular season and thinks Leicester can defeat Newcastle in a pivotal clash...

"There is so much at stake in this match, especially for Leicester, with the Tigers desperately needing to win. The hosts have a history of delivering at the business end of the regular season and Leicester should be trusted to secure the result they crave."

Leicester v Newcastle
Friday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 1

The opening game of this weekend is a crucial clash featuring two sides in contention for a top-four finish. Leicester find themselves below Newcastle in the table with only two matches remaining. The Tigers had been in superb form with five successive victories but slipped up in their surprise 27-21 home defeat to struggling Northampton. It has left them in fifth and with little margin for error.

Newcastle took full advantage of this with their 35-30 home win over Sale pushing them up to fourth. Dean Richards' side have undoubtedly exceeded expectations with few predicting the side would be inside the top four with two games remaining. Newcastle were beaten 33-12 at Gloucester in the European Challenge Cup semi-final last weekend.

There is so much at stake in this match, especially for Leicester, with the Tigers desperately needing to win. The hosts have a history of delivering at the business end of the regular season and Leicester should be trusted to secure the result they crave. The Tigers cannot afford to lose and have only been beaten once by Newcastle since 2009. Back Leicester to cover a six-point handicap to keep their top-four bid alive.

Gloucester v Bath
Saturday, 15:00
Live on BT Sport 2

Gloucester still have outside hopes of ending the season in the top four although two wins will be required to have a chance of sneaking past Leicester or Newcastle. The Cherry and Whites are through to the European Challenge Cup final, after last week's win over the Falcons, which secured Champions Cup rugby next season. Gloucester have won four of their last five games in all competitions with their only defeat coming against Premiership champions Exeter.

Bath are in freefall after a miserable run during the back end of this season and the side were thrashed 41-6 at Saracens in their last match. It was their fourth successive league defeat which has dropped them down to eighth in the table. Once again, Bath's early season promise has failed to last the course with Todd Blackadder's side struggling badly during recent months.

Perhaps a trip to Kingsholm will be just the answer to lift Bath with the team winning on their last five visits to their rivals. But Gloucester are full of confidence, after their domestic and European run, so the hosts should be able to defeat their opponents. The hosts are fancied to cover a nine-point handicap against a Bath side which has been beaten by more than ten points in three of their last four games.

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

Wasps are third in the Premiership but last season's finalists have still not secured their place in this year's semi-finals. Dai Young's side should finish in the top four but there is still work to be done after losing two of their last three games. Wasps defeated Worcester 30-15 in their last match to put themselves in pole position for third spot.

The less said about Northampton's season the better. The Saints have been dire for almost the entire campaign although they did pull off a shock win at Leicester in their last game. Northampton are still down in tenth position, after losing 13 times in the league, which is a terrible return for the 2014 Premiership champions.

This looks a mismatch and it is difficult to see Wasps slipping up this weekend. Northampton have lost on all four previous visits to the Ricoh Arena and have never arrived in such poor form. The Saints have conceded 585 points this season, which is the worst in the competition, so Wasps have every chance of running up a big victory and covering a 17-point handicap.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

2017/18 Rugby P/L

Staked: 132pts
Returned: 121.5pts
P/L: -10.5pts

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