The Aviva Premiership tables show a pretty dominant leader at the moment, with traditional powerhouse Saracens out in front with an 8-0-0 record and 36 points through those eight matches. That’s good for a six-point lead on second-place Exeter Chiefs. It also has Saracens in pretty good position to lead the Premiership outright for the third time in four years (not to mention possibly win a second consecutive playoff title).
But we’re not even halfway through the Premiership season, and the picture beyond (or I should say below) Saracens presents some interesting possibilities. More specifically, two of the three teams traditionally expected to dominate have performed at a mediocre level for the most part, which could open the door for some surprises as the season progresses.
Even professional betting markets recognise the Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints, and Saracens as the dominant clubs in the Premiership, and all three entered the 2015-16 season among the favourites. Indeed, these are the names that have come to represent the pinnacle of English club rugby, and a lot of fans have become almost numb to their success. In recent years especially, their work has been dominant.
Looking at the history of the league, the last 10 seasons have featured one of these teams in the lead at the end of the season six times. Even more impressive, the same three clubs have been responsible for seven of the past 10 playoff titles, and four of the past five. Should Saracens continue to lead the way, these numbers will only get more dramatic in displaying the superiority of the Tigers, Saints, and Saracens. But again, there’s some potential for an underdog surprise in 2016.
Second and third place are currently owned by the likes of the Exeter Chiefs and Harlequins, with 30 and 27 points, respectively. The latter is not so much of a surprise historically speaking given that the Harlequins are the only other team to finish with the lead or win the playoff in the past five seasons outside of the traditional top-three, having accomplished both feats in their outstanding 2011-2012 season. They have, however, benefitted from a fairly easy schedule through eight contests whereas the Exeter Chiefs have a few impressive victories thus far‚Äîmost notably over the Tigers and Harlequins. A recent loss by the Chiefs to the Saints may have allowed Northampton back into the conversation, but the Chiefs appear to have staying power, and don’t have to face Saracens until February 7.
It could turn out that in another few weeks we’re looking at the traditional leaders as the primary contenders. But it’s fast shaping up to be an interesting 2015-16 season, and the Chiefs and Harlequins appear poised to present real challenges to the clubs that have come to run the league.