Saracens to Vent their anger against Leicester
Saracens' coach Brendan Venter has been banned from attending Saturday's Guinness Premiership Grand Final at Twickenham against Leicester.
His absence though should have a galvanizing effect on Saracens as they bid to win their first Premiership title (6/4), in contrast the match will be Leicester's sixth consecutive Grand Final appearance, such is their dominance of the English game.
Their empire is something that this week in the build up to the game Venter has spoke about as the South African admitted his admiration for their set up and the success they have achieved.
In recent weeks though Saracens have had great success against the odds as they won on the final day of the regular season at Leicester and then followed that up with a win in the semi-finals against Northampton at the fortress that is Franklin's Gardens.
For the final Sarries are boosted by the return of England captain Steve Borthwick. The lock has been out since March and his return is perfectly timed for the showpiece final.
However, Borthwick will not resume as captain as Ernst Joubert will retain the captaincy.
Key to Saracens' chances are them not being dragged into a dogged match as that is what Leicester specialise in - tight matches with forwards at the heart of the game and relying on penalties to accumulate points.
In addition to not getting dragged in to the Tigers' type of game, Saracens will have to keep Ben Youngs quiet as well as keeping their discipline and not conceding too many penalties.
Youngs is a livewire at the back of scrum who can make things happen. He has had an outstanding season for the Tigers which resulted in an England call-up.
Another player that Saracens will need to keep their eye on is Lewis Moody. The final will be flanker's last appearance for the Tigers before his summer switch to Bath.
In opposition to Moody will be Andy Saull. The Saracens man is a rising star of the English game and he will hope to use the final as a platform to show Martin Johnson what he is missing after he overlooked him for England's summer tour of Australia and New Zealand.
During the first half of the season Saracens did not play free flowing rugby as they constantly played kick and chase tactics.
On the other hand in the second half of the season their play has been a breath of fresh air as they have played a much more expansive game.
Despite this greater attacking intent they are still solid defensively and consequently the final pits the two best defences in the Premiership up against each other.
It is for this reason that I will be backing the under in the total points market. It is evens about there being fewer than 37 scored at Twickenham. Last year's final saw the Tigers narrowly win 10-9 and I expect this year's match to be low scoring as well.
As a result no tries to be scored could be worth a bet at 16/1. Leicester did not score one in their semi-final victory against Bath and it will be of little surprise if they did not cross the line at HQ as well. Instead they will be relying on Toby Flood to score their points with his boot.
Leicester are the 8/15 favourites to win the match in 80 minutes and 1/2 to lift the trophy but it is worth noting that in the nine years since the play-offs were introduced only three sides that topped the table went on to win the Grand Final.
The Tigers deservedly topped the regular season table, as they did last season, but unlike last term I believe that a galvanized Saracens outfit will be the ones celebrating at Twickenham.
Especially when you consider Sarries' success at Welford Road on the final day of the regular season as well as the fact that Leicester have only won one of their last five appearances in finals in all competitions.