As expected, the likes of Saracens, Exeter Chiefs, London Wasps and Leicester Tigers are being tipped to be the clubs battling it out later in the 2017/18 campaign to be crowned as English Premiership champions, with many others not given much chance of toppling English rugby’s elite this season.
One team has surprised many during the early stage of the season, with Newcastle Falcons managing to keep pace with the likes of Saracens and Exeter, with just a couple of points separating the clubs following the opening months of the campaign.
Newcastle, the Premiership’s most northern team, are not considered to be amongst the fashionable clubs in the division, with football and Newcastle United, continuing to steal the heart of those in the north east. However, Dave Walder’s side are impressing and their attendance is continuing to rise in the early months of the season.
— Chris Lishman (@chrislishman1) September 29, 2017
The Falcons are without a Premiership trophy since the 1997/98 season, and since then have suffered relegation from the top-flight in 2012, which highlights the impressive and resurgent impact they are having on English rugby at this current time.
Walder’s side are not well fancied to end their long wait for a Premiership title despite their magnificent start to the season, with the rugby betting markets offering odds of 66/1 for Newcastle to win English Rugby Union’s main silverware at the end of the campaign.
Saracens and Exeter are the competition’s most fancied sides to be battling for the Premiership title at the end of the season, and rightly so, having dominated the competition over the last season years. The duo have both started the current campaign magnificently, and have both set the pace at the top of the table during the early stages, recording convincing victories over Newcastle in the process.
Saracens picked up a convincing victory over Newcastle, beating their rivals 29-7 in early September. Walder’s side also suffered a defeat, albeit much narrower, against reigning champions, Exeter, with Rob Baxter’s side winning 34-24 when Newcastle made the long journey south.
If Newcastle are to spring a surprise and compete for European rugby and even a place in the top-four, they need to start picking up victories over the teams they will be competing with. However, those defeats against Saracens and Exeter should not overshadow what Newcastle are doing this year, with their tally of 20 points from six games almost half of the points they won in last season’s eighth-placed finish (49).
Another area where Newcastle look set to benefit later in the season is when international rugby takes centre stage, with not one of Walder’s squad selected by Eddie Jones for England’s training camp ahead of the Autumn internationals. Many of their rivals will be weakened considerably by players leaving for England duty, which could hand Newcastle an advantage later this autumn.
If Newcastle can keep up their early season form and somehow manage to hold onto a place in the Premiership’s top four, it will undoubtedly be one of the year’s outstanding achievements. Silverware might not be a realistic target for Walder’s side this year, but their start to the season indicates that they are ready to offer a sterner test than they have done previously.