TOP OF THE TABLE – Last week we looked at teams struggling to stay up and avoid Relegation. This week, we’ll look at teams fighting to get promoted to The Land of Milk & Honey, aka England’s Aviva Premiership and France’s Top 14.
First, a quick refresher on Relegation: Relegation is the demotion of the entire club for performing poorly. For the Americans out there – specifically baseball the fans – imagine the New York Yankees finishing last and thus, being dropped to Triple A and replaced by that league’s best team, the Buffalo Bisons. Adding insult to injury, Buffalo is the farm team for the New York Mets, the cross-town rivals of the Yanks. Aside from the devastating financial impact on jobs, merchandising, etc., imagine what it would be like for Yankee fans now having to watch their team play in a minor league park, against minor league teams. Suffice to say, Relegation affects the city, the fans, the workers, the merchants and, well… the money…
But to the victors, go the spoils… As teams are Relegated, others are Promoted. Like the circle of life, every time a a pro team loses its mojo, another gets a chance a the big time. And to get this chance, the fight is as brutal – or even more so – than the fight against Relegation. In England there are 4 teams fighting for one sole spot. In France, one of two spots is clinched, leaving 5 teams fighting for the remaining spot.
The English system is so incredibly convoluted, I will do my best to simplify it.
There are 12 teams in the English Championship as they call it. At the end of the regular season, the top 8 are put into a two-pool playoff system (3 pools if you count the bottom four being in a playoff to avoid relegation from the championship). Essentially 1-4 host 4-8 in a Strongest vs. Weakest format. From here, the top two teams from each pool make the semi-final. This leads to a final 2 and a team being called champion, regardless of the regular season record. This system adds excitement, more games, puts bums in seats and, of course, makes money.
The winner wins the opportunity to apply for Promotion. Promotion is not guaranteed, as all sorts of off-the-field specs must be met, like under-soil heating, stadium capacity and numbers of urinals. You may laugh but this has happened more than once since the Premiership started. Anyway, the four teams left fight for Promotion are: Bristol, Cornish Pirates, Bedford and London Welsh. As Bristol were easily the regular season champs, they are the bookies bet to win the Championship and be Promoted.
Meanwhile in France,
Grenoble have already clinched promotion to the Top 14. You see in France they keep it rather simple, win the league or come 2 in the regular season and you will be promoted. It appears Pyk O’Kapfer’s country have got it right for once. The second and final spot will go down to the final match day. There are 2 games left and 5 teams – La Rochelle, US Dax, Section Paloise, US Carcassonne and Stade Montois – separated by a mere 6 points. There will be a 4 team play-off for the second and final spot.
With this, many teams and my proven inability to usually put good money on a bad pick, I am gonna let it play-out.
Following up on last week’s article on Relegation – this tackle by Tom Varndell of the London Wasps against Sam Vesty of Bath stopped the Wasps from losing by more than 7 points and earned them a losing bonus point. It also means that for Newcastle to stay up, they must not only beat the Wasps by 24 pts in the season’s finale, but they must score 4 tries and get the try-scoring bonus point. So, because Sam Vesty was guilty of showboating before the try and got tackled, Newcastle has little chance of avoiding Relegation. The Fat Lady hasn’t started singing yet for Newcastle, but she has begun her do-re-mi’s.
Thanks for reading. We look forward to your comments and until next time remember… Stay low and keep pumping those legs.