It is that time of the week again when 'Orrible Punt sits in the Planet Rugby hot-seat to give his calls. Today, the Aviva Premiership gets assessed.
Remember you can contact Russ with all your comments and questions on Twitter - @rpetty80.
The last 3 meetings between these sides have seen less than 30 total points scored but due to Worcester's new attacking intent this season, that trend should end. The Warriors average 23 points per match from the opening 6 rounds compared to 14 from the same period last year. They also go into this fixture after a couple of big victories in Europe, having scored a combined 175-8. It took them 13 league games to score that many points last season. Worcester may have won just once in 10 games but that would look a lot better had it not been for late penalties against Bath and Gloucester. Their last league match saw them record their highest win since 2007/8 (72 games ago) and they have won the last 2 at home to Sale and 4/7 games overall there. The Sharks have lost their last 7 league games and their away record is grim, with 9 wins from 47 attempts at an average of 17-28 and 3/14 by 18-27. They've leaked over 30 points on their 3 trips this season and 13 of their 17 allowed tries have occurred away. I am keen on the 2nd half handicap of -3 as Worcester have scored 10/12 tries in the last 20 minutes (Sale haven't scored in this period yet), and Sale have conceded 12/17 tries in the 2nd half and been outscored by at least 12 points after the break in away games. I am also on Worcester -3 and for them to score over 1.5 tries at 1.73.
Bath are the only Premiership team to have beaten Exeter in every league meeting. Despite being newcomers to the top flight, it's the Chiefs who are more settled of the two sides with Bath currently in a period of transition, adjusting to new coaches and establishing a new identity. Putting together a string of results has been a problem for a number of seasons and there is a big contrast in how the teams approach games - Bath have carried for the least metres (1731) and made 417 runs, opposed to Exeter's 602 runs for 2310m. I have taken Bath to win by 1-12 points for this game at odds of 2.6. One factor for Exeter could be goal-kicking with 8 conversions and 8 penalties missed already. Sin-bin punters will be pleased to see Wayne Barnes in charge - he has shown 23 cards in his last 14 league games and 7 in 3 this season. He has also shown 5 cards in the last 2 games officiating Bath. Look out for a big price for more than 1 card to be shown at the Recreation Ground.
The saying 'familiarity breeds contempt' was proved true when these sides met 5 times in 2009/10, with the decider seeing a late Schalk Brits try seal a Saracens away semi-final win. The rivalry has been inflamed along the way by the Soana Tonga'uiha on-off move, Chris Ashton's exit and who can forget the complaints that Sarries left the changing room door open so that Saints could hear their victory song. Since that aforementioned semi-final win, Sarries have won 19/25 away games and have beaten Northampton in 23/36 games, significantly in 12 of the last 15. Even at fortress Franklin's Gardens, they have won 5/8 games. There is that 30-8 defeat last season to consider but Northampton are yet to put in an 80 minute performance and I think those away day specialists Saracens at 2.25 or with +2 handicap are definitely worth a go. Given the previous needle, it is another game where sin-bin betting needs attention. There have been 21 cards shown in Saints' previous 14 homes with only 2/14 games going card-less (1 of those was against Saracens, but it was reffed by Dave Pearson who tended to keep cards in his pocket). There have been 6 cards shown in Saracens' last 3 away games and 5 shown in the last 4 meetings between these sides at this venue. There were also 5 shown in the Anglo-Welsh cup semi-final in 2010. Andrew Small has shown 4 cards in 4 games refereeing Saracens and the return of penalty magnet GJ Van Velze ramps up the chances of a booking in this mouth-watering game.
Gloucester have a formidable home record with 184 wins from 250 games at a rate of 25-17 so the 2.55 for them to win on their own turf initially looks too big. Recently that's dropped to 8/14 wins by 24-20, though they have won the last 2 games there. Having lost 7 consecutive league matches, the current sequence of 4 wins and a draw is a big improvement. Coaches often talk about performance over results but I wonder if the opposite is currently true for Gloucester. They haven't lost since round 1, but also haven't really clicked yet, and the visit of an in-form Tigers team represents a step up. Losing their captain Jim Hamilton is a blow for this game, whereas Leicester can welcome back the experienced Geordan Murphy and Louis Deacon. Gloucester have won 13/22 home games against Leicester by an average score of 21-17. It's tended to be a low-scoring affair with 11/22 matches going under 40 points, including the last 4. Tigers have the advantage in recent clashes, winning 7/10 games by 24-16. I don't like to oppose Gloucester at home too often, but they have been outscored after the break in 6/8 games against the Tigers, by an average of 7 points. The second-half handicap of Leicester -1 may therefore appeal. The first-half to be highest scoring is also worth a look as 8/9 of Gloucester's home games have seen this land.
There is an interesting trend when they meet. The majority of games at the Stoop (12/17) have seen over 45 total points whereas matches on the Exiles' patch have been low scoring with only 1/14 having more than 43 points. Irish have won just 2 games and are averaging 33 points conceded per match. But they have won their last 2 at home and are scoring an average of 33 there, (they've also scored 112 in 2 ACC games). Quins have won 4/6 games this season by an average score of 31-21 and their games have seen an average of 52 points. Quins have already missed 89 tackles and Irish 76, and with both teams already beating 75 defenders it should be entertaining. Quins are without their first-choice midfield, fly-half and both hookers so on that basis the 1.62 for an away win isn't great, especially after Saints were recently thumped at the Madejski. Quins have led at half-time in 5/6 games but 4/9 games between these teams have seen a draw at the break. That is available at 13.0 with the bookies. Irish have conceded 12/18 tries in the last 20 minutes, which is a period that Quins have scored 6/20 tries, so I'll have Quins -2 on the second-half handicap.
Wasps won 4/5 games at home and it's fair to say that they don't do average games there. Looking at the last 13, 8 have seen less than 40 total points and 4 have gone over 50. There are a few indications that this might be one of those high-scoring games. Every London Welsh game has seen at least 43 points and they are conceding an average of 30 per match. After a couple of early heavy defeats against last year's top 2 sides they look more settled and have scored an average of 25 points in their last 4. The Exiles have scored 7/10 tries in the first-half and Wasps 8 of their 13 tries after the break which may point to taking the visitors +7 on the half-time handicap. However it's also the case that they have only scored 2 tries away (in 2 games), while Wasps have scored 10/13 at home. The alternative handicap prices with Sky Bet will be interesting for this game as I think they may give the away team a generous amount of points at odds of about 1.5. I still think the 2.0 for London Welsh to be relegated is decent, as both Irish and Sale are improving and with a small squad they are only a few injuries away from trouble. I'm also concerned that without inside centre Hudson Tonga'uiha, London Welsh may lack some 'go-forward' in the backline.