Simon Mail previews the Premiership semi-finals where champions Leicester Tigers can maintain their exceptional run against Northampton Saints...
"Leicester find themselves in the rare position of having to win away from home to reach the final but their Premiership semi-final record is perfect with eight victories at the last-four stage."
Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers
Friday May 16, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 1
Champions Leicester Tigers travel to fierce rivals Northampton Saints in a repeat of last season's Premiership final. This time the two sides are fighting it out for a place at Twickenham and the Saints have earned home advantage after finishing second in the table. Northampton warmed up for the clash by thrashing Wasps 74-13 in a ten-try rout last weekend.
Jim Mallinder's side appear to have rediscovered their form from the first half of the season which took them to the top of the league. The Saints had a slight wobble during March but they have put this well behind them and are unbeaten in four games. The question remains whether Northampton can win on the big stage after serene progress to the semi-finals.
Leicester find themselves in the rare position of having to win away from home to reach the final but their Premiership semi-final record is perfect with eight victories at the last-four stage. Richard Cockerill's side, who finished four points behind the Saints, have an innate ability to grind out results at this critical time of the season and their players must take great confidence from this record.
The Saints are the odds on favourites for this clash but Leicester have enjoyed a stranglehold over them during a nine-match unbeaten run. Last season's final saw the Tigers clinch a 37-17 victory and the most recent meeting two months ago resulted in a 22-16 win for the visitors at Franklin's Gardens. Leicester's exceptional record against the Saints, coupled with their brilliant semi-final history, makes them worth backing to clinch a final place. It could also be worth taking the visitors to be winning at half-time and full-time which has paid off in three of the last four clashes.
Back Leicester Tigers to win at 2.588/5
Back Leicester/Leicester in the Half-Time/Full Time market at 2.727/4
Saracens v Harlequins
Saturday May 17, 14:00
Live on BT Sport 1
Saracens are closing in on the double as Mark McCall's side have the Heineken Cup final against Toulon next week to look forward to in Cardiff. But the Men in Black have to focus on domestic business first and will take nothing for granted after losing at the semi-final stage over the last two seasons.
Sarries cruised to top spot in the league this season with a record total of 87 points after 19 wins from 22 games. It is very difficult to pick holes in Saracens after a superbly consistent campaign which saw them dramatically improve their attack. Allied to their typical defensive strength, Sarries have now got the complete package and are clear favourites for the title.
Harlequins are a dangerous proposition though as the West London club have found their best form at the right time. Conor O'Shea's side have real momentum after a superb end to the league season helped them snatch a top-four spot. Quins won their last five games, including last weekend's decider against Bath, to leapfrog them into the semi-finals.
Saracens have dominated recent clashes between the sides with Quins winning just one of the last ten meetings. Harlequins' last league defeat came against Sarries at Wembley in March but there is no doubt the visitors have improved significantly since then. No-one should under-estimate Quins and this has the makings of a tight showdown but Sarries, refreshed from resting players at Leicester last weekend, are backed to reach a first Premiership final since winning their only title in 2011. However Harlequins could also be a decent bet with a handicap advantage at Allianz Park.
Back Saracens to win by under 12.5 points at 2.35/4
Back Harlequins +8 in the Sportsbook at 2.01/1
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