Simon Mail previews this weekend's Premiership semi-finals with champions Exeter hosting Newcastle and Saracens facing Wasps...
"Wasps' two semi-final defeats have both come away from home and Sarries' record at Allianz Park is very strong. Saracens have also lost just once in their last five clashes against them."
Saracens v Wasps
Live on BT Sport 1
Home advantage should give edge to Sarries
Saracens get the Premiership semi-finals underway with an intriguing tie against Wasps. The Men in Black have home advantage after finishing second in the league campaign while their opponents were six points behind them in third. Sarries are seen as strong favourites for this tie although Wasps' attacking quality suggests the result certainly should not be taken for granted.
The recent form of Saracens has been excellent with Mark McCall's side winning their last five Premiership matches stretching back to March. Their Champions Cup exit to Leinster in April appears to have refocused the team and enabled them to concentrate on peaking for their domestic challenge. After their semi-final defeat last season, Saracens are determined to reclaim the title and are well equipped to reach the final.
Wasps came agonisingly close to winning the Premiership last year, losing 23-20 after extra time to Exeter. Dai Young's side may not have matched their consistency of last season but Wasps still won 14 league games to clinch a semi-final place. Wasps have won their last three games and the departing Danny Cipriani and James Haskell will be desperate to end their time at the club with a trophy.
Saracens deserve their status as favourites although odds of 1/4 look on the short side against such dangerous opponents. Wasps' two semi-final defeats have both come away from home and Sarries' record at Allianz Park is very strong. Saracens have also lost just once in their last five clashes against them. The Men in Black will not find this easy, after a run of one-sided wins, with this match likely to be much closer. But Saracens' powerful defence could negate Wasps' backline and there looks to be value in backing the hosts to clinch a final place with a win by up to 12 points.
Exeter v Newcastle
Live on BT Sport 1
Champions should clinch comfortable win
Exeter won their first Premiership title after their dramatic win over Wasps last season and the champions look well placed to win the competition again this year. The Chiefs finished top of the league, after a dominant campaign, while their surprise opponents in the semi-final are Newcastle after their superb season.
Rob Baxter has overseen another exceptional season for the Chiefs and his side come into the semi-finals in terrific shape. Exeter have won nine successive matches including seven Premiership games. With 17 wins from 22 matches, the Chiefs finished eight points clear at the top during the regular season.
Newcastle have reached the semi-finals for the first time and secured their best finish since winning the title 20 years ago. It has been a remarkable season for Dean Richards' side and a deserved reward for their form throughout the campaign. The Falcons' 25-23 victory at Leicester last month clinched their top-four spot which was a huge improvement on last year's eighth place.
Exeter are overwhelming favourites to reach the final with Newcastle deemed [7.2] underdogs. There is little evidence to suggest otherwise and the Chiefs are strongly fancied to overcome the Falcons and return to Twickenham. Newcastle have lost on all ten trips to Sandy Park and Exeter are in ruthless form. The visitors may prove dogged opponents early on but the champions' attacking ability should wear them down. Exeter have covered a seven-point second-half handicap in their last four games and are fancied to make their class tell as the match progresses.
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2017/18 Rugby P/L