It seems the new Magners League Play-Off innovation is grabbing the imagination of everyone involved in the game – players, coaches, fans and even the media.
The highly respected Scottish rugby writer Kevin Ferrie gave the readers of the Glasgow Herald his view on the “Twists, turns, intrigue, drama and spectacle” involved in the run-in to the end of the regular Magners League season:
“The run-in is everything those who spent years calling for the introduction of Play-Offs hoped for,” he wrote after another dramatic weekend with table-topping Leinster coming from behind to keep their home record intact against the Ospreys, the Dragons overpowering Edinburgh and Munster winning in Connacht.
“What a difference three years makes when looking back to the day the Ospreys lifted the trophy in front of less than 2000 largely dejected spectators, their winger Nikki Walker’s joy tempered by having to commiserate with former Borders team-mates who were losing their jobs.
“This development – catching up with the southern hemisphere, England and France – may have been overdue but, in this ninth season of Celtic competition, the structure now fits the quality of the teams taking part, with no meaningless games.”
Scotland are hoping to squeeze both Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh into the Play-off positions, although the Ospreys will be flying the Welsh flag and hoping to join the mix. They travel to Munster this weekend for a game that could see one of them drop back fatally in the race for a top four finish.
No wonder then that Ferrie was so pleased with the weekend just past…and looking forward so eagerly to the final two rounds of matches.
“We have just had a weekend in which the Ospreys’ prospects of reaching the play-offs were dented as Leinster boosted their bid to secure home advantage in the play-offs early; Cardiff Blues killed off the Scarlets’ Heineken Cup hopes; a sub-strength Munster demonstrated the double European champions’ strength in depth in Connacht; the Dragons revived their play-off hopes at the expense of an Edinburgh team that still just about has its chances in its own hands; and Glasgow Warriors reclaimed control of their own fate,” he added.
“Five matches played in front of average gates of more than 8000 without Munster, the best-supported side, having been at home.”