Round 3 was the weekend of comebacks, some successful, others falling agonisingly short.
At the Ricoh Arena on Sunday afternoon Wasps looked home and hosed against Cardiff after building up a 42-17 lead three minutes into the second half. But the Blues showed that they mean business with a spectacular final half-hour that saw them run in 28 unanswered points, including an 80th-minute try from Miles Normandale that sealed a 45-42 win for the region.
With Saints and Sale both losing, Cardiff now have semi-final qualification in their own hands. They still need to get something from their final pool match against Leicester to make certain, however, and with the Tigers also requiring a point themselves there is plenty to play for at the Arms Park on Saturday afternoon.
Leicester’s experience told against a Saints outfit that included 17 players who had come through the Franklin’s Gardens Academy system in a 17-8 win at Welford Road in front of a capacity crowd. But the Tigers were stretched at the end of both halves and the visitors were unlucky to head home with nothing to show for their efforts.
Saints now need a win over Wasps at Franklin’s Gardens and Leicester to do them a favour in Cardiff to progress to the knockouts. Wasps, on the other hand, also need a win, and Cardiff to win at the Arms Park if Dai Young’s men are to make the LV= Cup knockout stages.
Sale’s loss at Newcastle knocked the Sharks out of contention, and while the Scarlets beat London Irish at Parc y Scarlets both of those teams will be playing in dead rubbers this coming weekend.
Pool 1 is also going down to the wire, with Saracens, Gloucester and Bath all separated by just three points.
Saracens still have qualification in their own hands after a narrow 20-15 comeback win over a valiant London Welsh in Oxford, full back Ben Spencer landing two late penalties to give Mark McCall’s men the points.
Saracens host Exeter on Saturday, and if they slip up the west country pair of Gloucester and Bath will be ready to capitalise, having beaten Ospreys and Harlequins respectively.
The Cherry and Whites had to withstand a second half fightback from the Ospreys to give Kingsholm a 32-25 bonus point win to cheer, while a 78th-minute penalty from Rory Jennings saw Bath steal the points in a 23-21 win at the Twickenham Stoop.
Pool 4 is the only group to be settled already, Exeter having to stave off their own Welsh fightback, Newport-Gwent Dragons earning themselves two points courtesy of four tries and a losing bonus point at Rodney Parade. However while the Chiefs’ 37-32 win has the hosts qualified for the knockouts there is still the small matter of a home semi-final to play for, something which is far from assured.
Saints’ match against Wasps is still therefore important in deciding the fate of both teams, so snap up the last few hundred tickets at www.tinyurl.com/SAI-WAS-LV1415
The LV= Cup is the first piece of silverware to be handed out in this, the biggest ever year of rugby in England. Franklin’s Gardens will host the LV= Cup final on Sunday, March 22nd, and with tickets available from just £10 it promises to be a great day out for all the family, whoever you support! Head to www.tinyurl.com/LVFinal2015 to book online 24/7, using [email protected] to save the admin fees and beat the match day queues!