Premiership play-off race permutations: What each team needs in the final round

Jared Wright
Harlequins playmaker Marcus Smith and Bath's Finn Russell with the Premiership trophy in the centre.

What each club needs from the final round of the Premiership.

The final round of the Premiership is upon us as clubs make one final bid to seal their place in the semi-finals.

Ahead of the last weekend of the regular season, we run through the permutations with play-off places and Investec Champions Cup qualification still up for grabs.

How the Premiership Rugby table works

During the regular season, points are awarded as follows:

– 4 points will be awarded for a win
– 2 points will be awarded for a draw
– 1 point will be awarded to a team that loses a match by 7 points or less
– 1 point will be awarded to a team scoring 4 tries or more in a match

If two teams are equal on league points, the first deciding factor in who the higher-ranked club is the side with the higher number of wins.

If the teams are still not separated, the next ranking factor is on the basis of match points differential.

Should this still not decide the higher-ranking club, then the team having scored more match points “for” shall be placed higher.

If the above does not establish the higher-ranked side, then the club in the higher position shall be the team that has achieved the higher aggregate match points scored by it in the same season against the other club.

Finally, if this still does not establish the positions, then the club who has won the most matches, excluding its first Premiership league match of the season, then its second Premiership league match and so on, until it can be established which the higher-placed club is.

So, who needs what in Round 18 of the Premiership?

Northampton Saints

Phil Dowson’s charges head into the final weekend of the Premiership needing just two points to finish the regular season on top of the table.

Northampton Saints have already secured a home semi-final and head to the Rec to tackle Bath knowing that a try and losing bonus point will see them finish top of the league table.

It’s been a memorable season for Northampton, who have won 12 of their 17 matches so far in the Premiership, putting them in the position of a guaranteed top-two finish at least.

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Defending champions Saracens head into the final round of the regular season having secured a play-off spot after a bonus point win over Bristol Bears last weekend.

Mark McCall’s side now have the opportunity to clinch a home play-off match as they clash with Sale Sharks at the StoneX Stadium on Saturday.

Sarries will claim a home semi-final with a win over Sale but a stalemate could be enough if Bath fail to beat Northampton in their final game of the regular season.

The Londoners could top the table after the regular season if Northampton Saints lose to Bath and Saracens claim a bonus-point victory.

A defeat could still see Saracens finish in the top two provided they are within three match points of Sale, and Bath do not win.

Bath Rugby

It’s been a remarkable turnaround this season for Bath who head into the final round of action needing just a single league point to clinch a play-off berth. However, they host table-toppers Northampton Saints in the final regular season match.

Johann van Graan’s side can earn a home play-off match if they beat Northampton and Saracens lose to Sale Sharks.

A defeat without a bonus point could result in Bath missing the semi-finals entirely if that is paired with a bonus point Exeter Chiefs or Harlequins win as well as a Sale Sharks win over Sarries.

Sale Sharks

Alex Sanderson returns to StoneX stadium this weekend knowing that a win over his former employers will clinch a play-off spot.

In fact, if Sale beat Saracens without conceding a bonus point, they can claim a home semi-final with a second-place finish but they will need Bath to lose without picking up two bonus points. Top spot is beyond their reach.

A defeat without any bonus points could result in Sale missing out on the play-offs altogether if Exeter Chiefs, Harlequins or Bristol Bears win.

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Harlequins, Exeter Chiefs and Bristol Bears

Premiership entertainers Harlequins and Bristol Bears face off at the Twickenham Stoop both needing a win to claim a play-off spot.

However, a win will not be enough for either side as they will hope that Sale Sharks lose at Saracens and Exeter Chiefs do not win at Leicester.

If Exeter and Quins both claim wins of the same kind on Saturday, the former will be the higher-ranked side, having won more matches this season. In the rare case that Harlequins and Bristol finish on the same number of league points, then the Bears will be the high-ranked team, too.

As for Rob Baxter’s charges, a bonus point win over Leicester Tigers will take them to 55 points, enough to make the play-offs if Bath fail to claim any league points at home against Northampton Saints or Sale Sharks fall to a defeat against Saracens.

The above-mentioned trio are out of the running for a home semi-final and all the aforementioned clubs have secured Champions Cup rugby for next season.

Champions Cup qualification and finishing position

The remaining three Premiership clubs’ final round of action offers nothing but pride to play for, with the bottom three locked in.

Newcastle Falcons prop up the table in 10th spot and will go the entire season winless if they are unsuccessful against ninth-placed Gloucester.

Meanwhile, Sale Sharks ended Leicester Tigers’ play-off hopes as they will finish in eighth place regardless of the result against Exeter Chiefs.

The Tigers’ Investec Champions Cup qualification for next season is now out of their hands entirely as it relies completely on the result of the Challenge Cup final.

If Gloucester beat the Sharks in the Challenge Cup final, then the Cherry and Whites will claim the eighth and final qualification spot. In the event that the Sharks defeat Gloucester, then Leicester Tigers will qualify for the Investec Champions Cup next season.

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