Does bottom at Christmas mean Premiership relegation?

Date published: December 28 2016

Bristol occupy 12th spot in the Premiership over Christmas but history shows the bottom side at halfway in the season does not always go down. 

Apart from 2010/2011 when bad weather delayed the halfway point (11 matches) of the Premiership season beyond Christmas into February, the festive period and middle of the campaign go hand in hand.

Now in its 20th season, most teams in the Premiership have backed up the theory that bottom of the table over the first half of the season is a sign of an impending drop.

Others however have defied it, either through miraculous recoveries or by winning consistently in the second half of the season in stark contrast to when they could not buy a victory in the first 11 matches.

Bristol’s win over Worcester on Boxing Day points to another turnaround, even with a long way to go.

Season

Bottom at Christmas

Record at Christmas

How many points adrift?

Final Position

Who went down?

1997-1998

London Irish

Won 1, Lost 10

11th

Bristol

1998-1999

West Hartlepool

Won 1, Lost 12

14th

West Hartlepool

1999-2000

Bedford

Lost 11

12th

Bedford

2000-2001

Rotherham

Won 1, Lost 10: 6 points

9

12th

Rotherham

2001-2002

Wasps

Won 3, Lost 8: 15 points

4

7th

2002-2003

Newcastle

Won 3, Lost 8: 16 points

1

10th

Bristol

2003-2004

Rotherham

Lost 11: 0 points

19

12th

Rotherham

2004-2005

Northampton

Won 2, Lost 9: 14 points

3

11th

Harlequins

2005-2006

Leeds

Won 2, Lost 9: 11 points

6

12th

Leeds

2006-2007

Worcester

Won 1, Lost 10: 9 points

9

11th

Northampton

2007-2008

Leeds

Won 1, Lost 10: 6 points

5

12th

Leeds

2008-2009

Bristol

Won 1, Drawn 1, Lost 9: 9 points

3

12th

Bristol

2009-2010

Leeds

Won 2, Drawn 1, Lost 8: 13 points

3

10th

Worcester

2010-2011

Leeds

Won 1, Lost 10: 8 points

4

12th

Leeds

2011-2012

Newcastle

Won 2, Drawn 1, Lost 8: 11 points

6

12th

Newcastle

2012-2013

Sale

Won 1, Lost 10: 7 points

5

10th

London Welsh

2013-2014

Worcester

Lost 11: 3 points

10

12th

Worcester

2014-2015

London Welsh

Lost 11: 1 point

14

12th

London Welsh

2015-2016

Newcastle

Won 2, Drawn 1, Lost 8: 12 points

0

11th

London Irish

2016-2017

Bristol

Won 1, Lost 10: 8 points

2

?

?

 

Overall in eleven out of the 19 completed Premiership seasons so far, the team at the bottom come Christmas (or the halfway point of the season) has gone down.

Unsurprisingly three of those – Rotherham in 03/04, Worcester in 13/14 and London Welsh in 14/15 – were teams who had yet to win any of their first eleven games.

The most impressive turnaround is still Worcester in 2006/2007, when their relegation battle with Northampton went to the final day of the season and despite both sides winning the Warriors stayed up, by a point. They had been nine points adrift at Christmas.

What will be music to Bristol’s ears is the fact of the sevens teams to avoid the drop – there was no relegation in 2002 after Rotherham were denied promotion – six of those teams at Christmas have trailed by five points or less.

The signs of a Bristol resurgence have been there since their narrow away loss to Bath, with their form undoubtedly improved under the guidance of acting head coach Mark Tainton since he took over from Andy Robinson.

Signing Jason Woodward and Dan Tuohy has been shrewd business and the Super Rugby winning full-back offers a reliable boot and is beginning to form an impressive bond with Tom Varndell in the back three.

Varndell’s hot streak needs to continue, after his hat-trick on Boxing Day, but there are real suggestions that Bristol have begun to turn a corner.

Their trip to Sale on New Year’s Day now looks like a golden opportunity to try and move off the bottom.

by Ben Coles

All data provided by SFMS Ltd

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