The Premiership play-off stage is set, featuring two big clashes representing the best of English rugby.
In the first encounter on Saturday afternoon, log-leaders Bristol Bears will await the challenge of Harlequins at Ashton Gate.
Quins will be up against it as Bristol have proved themselves to be a formidable force this season, having won 16 of their 22 fixtures.
Quins have had an impressive season thus far – a marked improvement on 2019-20 where they finished the tournament in sixth spot with just 10 victories from 22 outings. This season, they’ve managed 13 wins so far from 22 fixtures as the semis take shape.
This will be the third occasion this season that the teams cross swords, the first occurred in Round 4 at the Twickenham Stoop where Bristol came, saw and conquered.
The return clash saw Quins travel to Ashton Gate with revenge on their minds and put up a valiant fight which almost saw them through to victory, however, their hearts were broken by Bristol who managed to steal the game as the clock ticked in the red.
Quins will go into the fixture on the back of a good victory after they thrashed Newcastle Falcons 54-26 at The Stoop.
Bristol had their game against London Irish called off after the latter reported a presence of Covid-19 in their camp. Pat Lam’s charges will thus be well-rested when they take the field, though a good scrap last weekend could have done well to keep them alert and focussed going into the semis.
If Bristol stay true to form, they should see off Quins and head into the final after a good season. Bristol will have the weight of expectation on their shoulders, however – a weight that, if combined with a bit of pressure on the field, could translate into panic. It will be important for Pat Lam’s men to stamp their authority on the game from the first whistle if they don’t want a difficult afternoon. Quins have proven that they have a forward pack that can mix it up with the best in the business while, with young Marcus Smith at the helm of their backline, they have the creativity to necessary to spring all sorts of surprises.