So it's that time of year again, where I review the season and give each team their grade, as usual, I'll probably upset someone, but I'm getting used to that!!!
With @RugbyEng and @RugbySaints planning the #rugbyunited end of season awards, so that's one area that I won't venture down at this point, but I will be back with my team of the season later on this week..
As for the season review, we'll go in table order..... let's get cracking!
Let's start with this, I predicted that Saints would finish out of the top 4, but some great league form propelled last season's champs into top spot and a home semi final,in which they lost out to Saracens. Throughout the season they lost key men, but always seemed to find an adequate replacement. They will however, hope George North's concussion problems are put to bed. Controversially, the official Aviva Premiership team of the season didn't contain a single Saint despite some great performances from the likes of Myler, the Pisi brothers and the soon to depart Samu Manoa.
Grade - A
The media's favourite team, with a dominating pack and an exciting backline, were often overshadowed by the clamour surrounding Sam Burgess, but Bath are a potent force and certainly the real deal. They have had a couple of lapses, giving London Welsh a bonus point, being soundly beaten by Glasgow, but results like the destruction of Toulouse in France and a pair of maulings for the Tigers were far more commonplace. Mike Ford thinks Bath are a couple of years away from being ready for their seat at England Rugby's top table, I beg to differ, they're already there, despite losing the Playoff final.
Grade - A
We were told Tigers couldn't score tries, we were told they were poor this season, we were told their time was up, but you can never hold the Tigers down. It wasn't a vintage season by a long shot, but they did what they always seem to do and got themselves in a playoff position, unfortunately, they were blown away in a very odd match where they gave up 7 tries to Bath in just 8 visits to the Tigers 22, despite dominating large parts of the game. Is Richard Cockerill in danger, or will the humongous injury list Leicester suffered be enough to grant him one last shot?
Grade - B
A bonus point in the final game of the regular season saw Sarries not only pip Exeter Chiefs to the top 4 playoffs, but was also the start of the journey to the Premiership final and, of course, the Championship trophy. Mark McCall praised the fact that Saracens peaked at the right time, and actually became the first team to win the title from 4th place. Like Leicester, they suffered more than their fair share of injuries, but the winning mentality, and key men returning late season, carried them home.
Grade - A+
A heady mix of youth and experience saw Rob Baxter's men just miss out on the playoffs, but they will be able to look back at their season with a lot of pride. Some great low-key signings (Tomas Francis, anyone?) proved to be masterstrokes, and their biggest name signing, Thomas 'The Tank Engine' Waldrom had an outstanding season (and will be joined by fellow ex Tigers Geoff Parling and Julian Salvi at Sandy Park next season!) but the youngsters, especially Henry Slade, are surely the ones to watch emerge next season
Grade - A
A season of upheaval for the Wasps but they seemed to have the media people sold on the style of play they were producing, however, I think they'll be disappointed with a 6th place finish, no matter what the official line is from the club. They did lose the talismanic Joe Launchbury for the majority of the season, but they have a strong squad, especially in their forwards, and they won't use injury as an excuse. Nathan Hughes was one of the league's outstanding players this season, and made a formidable back row with Haskell and Johnson, but they have bolstered options with the signing of George Smith for next time round, the Wasps back row will certainly be looking to dominate again next season.
Grade - B-
There's always a team that seem to pass you by during the season, and with no disrespect at all meant to Sale, this season it was them. They had a mixed bag of results, but all season were ably led by the likes of Dan Braid and the rejuvenated Danny Cipriani. They'll be looking to kick up a gear for next season, and may certainly be one of the many teams looking to get a top 6 berth. They just need some consistency.
Grade - C
A hugely frustrating season for Quins, who started the season barely able to field a backline due to injuries, but patchy form all season long saw them drop way further down the season than they'd expect to be. Some big signings made for next season, the likes of Tim Swiel, Jamie Roberts, Adam Jones, James Horwill, shows that they WILL fight back, and will expect to be a force to be reckoned with once again next season.
Grade - D
The sevens and Challenge cup trophies will not mask a disappointing league season for the Cherry and Whites. An overhaul of the playing staff and a late flurry of change on the coaching team combined with the loss of influential players such as the now sadly retired James Simpson-Daniel and the mercurial Henry Trinder led to a slow start but shoots of recovery started to sprout after christmas but it was too little, too late in regards to the league. The performances from the somewhat unexpected sources of Matt Kvesic, Billy Meakes and Henry Purdy will cheer the shedheads going into next season
Grade - D-
I don't think Irish saw themselves finishing in 10th place, they signed a few very good forwards and brought through some exceptionally talented youngsters, but all too often, they weren't at the races and they will be unhappy with that. They've made some superb signings for the next league season and will be hoping to be catapulted back into the business end of the table.
Grade - D-
Improved as the season went on and in Sinoti Sinoti, they had one of the discoveries of the season, but they will be a little deflated at the average seasons shown by last seasons big name signings, the Tuilagi brothers. Losing Kieron Brooks to Northampton next season means a big set of boots to fill, but the Falcons have a way of unearthing stars, so you can't bet against it happening. With the strengthening of the other teams and the promotion of a very good Worcester side will mean the Falcons have to continue to improve next season, there will be no safety net to keep the buffer zone to the Championship next season!
Grade - D
The Exiles stats speak for themselves. The worst record of any top flight side ever. Points difference was -798, conceded points 1021, points scored 223. A season average score of a 46.4 to 10.1 defeat. Just one point picked up for 4 tries against Bath. My dear old Granny used to tell me if you can't think of anything nice to say, don't say anything. So.....
Grade - U.
So that's the season grades given out. I'm off to work out who's in my team of the season!!!