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Northampton and Bath destined for Aviva Premiership final clash

| 22.05.2015

Leicester could hardly have hoped for worse news than wrecking-ball centre Manu Tuilagi’s conviction for assaulting female police officers, ahead of their Aviva Premiership playoff semi-final away to Bath.

Mike Cockerill’s men would have been shorn of the now-exiled England man either way, as Tuilagi is still out injured after missing most of the season and the Six Nations, but knowing the 24-year-old’s future in the game now hangs in the balance is another thing.

The Tigers put in a solid shift this term after a stuttering start, and only lost one of their last four on the road in the league, beating Wasps 26-21 in their final away game.

Cockerill’s crowd also gained a modicum of revenge on their old foes when beating Bath 17-8 at Welford Road in February, but nothing is ever likely to erase the memory of Mike Ford’s men’s 45-0 drubbing of Leicester at the Rec five months earlier.

Such scorelines are usually only reserved for the likes of London Welsh, and occasionally Newcastle.

Bath have barely looked back since, losing just once at headquarters all season, and at that against champions Northampton.

There’ll be no such walloping this time round, but Bath -7 looks safe enough at 10/11.

In the other semi, champions Northampton must be backed at 10/11 to overcome a four-point handicap at home to Saracens.

Saints have only lost once at home in the Aviva Premiership this term, and that was back in November against Exeter.

Coach Jim Mallinder was able to name a weakened team for his side’s last regular-season match away to Leicester, which they only narrowly lost 22-14, having already secured top spot, so the likes of Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Dylan Hartley will freshen up the pack.

Northampton have won their past three matches against Saracens, with the last two of those victories coming by more than four points.

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Iain Houten

Iain has been contributing pieces to various websites on an array of subjects, including sports, politics and art, for over four years. Despite blue being his favourite colour, the teams he supports all wear red.