- LV= semi-final set for West Country derby
- 2010 Champions host Premiership pacesetters Northampton
Photo: Getty Images
With the top two Premiership sides going head-to-head on Saturday (March 8) and a passionate West Country derby to look forward to the following day, the LV= Cup semi-final weekend promises to be a memorable one in the rugby calendar.
First up is the match between 2010 champions and Premiership pacesetters Northampton and Saracens, who are only two points behind the Saints in the league table. Saints are bidding for a hat-trick of home victories over Mark McCall’s side having beaten them twice already this season at Franklin’s Gardens in league and cup.
Ben Foden scored a couple of tries and Samu Manoa turned in a man-of-the-match display as Saints thrashed Saracens 41-20 when the sides met in the Premiership back in October. And three months later, Manoa was again to the fore in the LV= Cup pool fixture between the two, the USA Eagles international’s second try, 10 minutes from time, sealing a 20-16 victory.
Saints will be hungry to win the whole thing – Moody
Saracens, meanwhile, are through to their fourth Anglo-Welsh semi-final, having previously reached this stage in 2008, 2010, 2013. They have never made it through to the final, though. In blind-side flanker Matt Hankin and jet-heeled back, Ben Ransom, Saracens boast two of the nine LV= Cup Breakthrough Player nominees.
LV= Cup Ambassador Lewis Moody believes the home side will be eager to secure a place in the final, saying: “I think Saints in particular will be hungry to win the whole thing. Last year they lost a Twickenham final, they've got to the final in Europe, and I think it's a massive game for them to show Jim Mallinder and Dorian West they can go on to win a trophy.
“They will be desperate to right those wrongs and if they don't want to be considered the nearly boys, this is the type of game they need to do it in.”
Photo: Getty Images
In the other semi-final, Exeter Chiefs have an added incentive to make it through to the final of the LV= Cup as the game on Sunday, March 16 is to be played at their impressive Sandy Park home ground. But they will need to end a 10-game winless run against Bath since they were promoted to the Premiership in 2010 in Sunday’s semi-final if they are to progress any further. Bath have not won a trophy since lifting the Amlin Challenge Cup in 2008.
A 42-3 victory over Worcester at Sixways in Round 4 combined with Sale’s slip-up at Ospreys sent Exeter through to the semi-finals. Bath produced a clean sweep of pool wins – including a 37-15 victory against the Chiefs at the Rec in Round 2 – to make the last four for the third year in a row. A fortnight later, Bath beat the Chiefs 21-15 in the Premiership in a game that was every bit as tight as the scoreline suggests.
“It's the clash of the weekend” said Moody. “I may be slightly biased of course as an ex-player and I still have mates down there as well, but playing the way they are doing at home in particular I'll back them by 15 points, 25-10.
“My money is certainly on Bath but there's added incentive there for Exeter, with the final being at Sandy Park that would be a massive advantage for them to take it all the way,” added Moody.
“The trouble for the Chiefs is their recent record against them and I am not sure if they can break it at the Rec.”
Bath and Exeter have one LV= Cup Breakthrough nominee apiece in Ollie Devoto and Luke Cowan-Dickie. Voting is open until midnight on Sunday 9, with the winner announced in the week leading up to the LV= Cup Final. Vote now at www.lv.com/rugby.
Be part of the rugby family at the LV= Cup final, Sandy Park, Exeter on March 16. Click here to purchase tickets.