I am seemingly in a niche minority among rugby fans as i am far from partisan or monogamous with one single club and i tend to go through phases of supporting clubs that i enjoy watching as an impartial neutral whether it be due to their cast of characters or exciting brand of rugby. Some may call this glory hunting, however my allegiances are not based on success or wins as the teams in this list aren’t all Premiership winners. Having said this, when a team is playing entertaining, attacking rugby this tends to correlate with success in the league table. What can be seen in this list is unexpected eruptions of form in which mid table teams became title challengers apparently overnight rather than extended periods of domination (Saracens and Exeter) which become boring with time.
Northampton Saints 2013-2014
The title winning Northampton team more closely resembled a Barbarians team than a Premiership team (a common theme in this list). The physicality of Lawes, Wood and Dickinson was compounded by the freakish Samu Manoa and this was balanced by a clinical back line including Kahn Fotuali’i, Luther Burrell, George North, George and Ken Pisi, Ben Foden and most importantly, the criminally underrated Stephen Myler. After losing the previous years final Saints played attractive rugby all season and finished 2nd with the 2nd most points scored. They would have been worthy of this list purely for the iconic last minute Tom Wood try in the semi final-cum-derby vs Tigers but went one better and beat Saracens in the final with an Alex Waller try under the posts in extra time in one of the most outrageous finals to date. The combination of Manoa, North and Pisi squared created weekly highlights and i enjoyed every game of it.
What do you get when you combine the breath-taking breakout season of a young George Ford, a prime Jonathan Joseph, and a destructive Sam Burgess in his first (and only) Union season? Well add in Leroy Houston and a young Anthony Watson and you get an attacking juggernaut providing weekly highlights. Rokoduguni and Banahan ran the flanks, Louw was the breakdown threat and Stringer brought it all together. This Bath team was a crecendo of players in their prime as Joseph, Louw, Houston, Eastmond and Rokodguni arguably never played as well as they did this year and the team seemed to regularly put up to 30 points on opposition. They finished 2nd just one point behind Saints, battered Tigers in the semi and then sadly lost in the final to a resurgent Sarries team.
Leicester Tigers 2015-2016
The end of the Tigers playoff dynasty, this Tigers team was inconsistent but when they turned up they were both unstoppable and unbelievable to watch. Behind a stereotypically powerful Tigers pack was a collection of some of my favourite backs ever in Ben Youngs, Manu Tuilagi, Vereniki Goneva, Peter Betham, the highlight machine Telusa Veainu and a perfect microcosm for this team, the unpredictable Freddie Burns who could be average one week and prime Dan Carter the next. The team exited the Premiership playoffs in the semis but partook in one of my favourite games ever in a 41-13 dismantling of Stade Francais in the Champions Cup quarter final featuring a Tuilagi score inside 90 seconds, a Goneva double, a Veainu beauty and a Freddie Burns intercept that he ran in from 50 metres.
Probably my favourite of the lot, this Wasps team had no intention to be as successful as they were, they were a collection of the most exciting players on the planet who went out every week looking to run the ball from every part of the pitch and put up 50 points, regardless of the opposition. Unlike other teams on this list, Wasps weren’t balanced, they were all speed and creativity. Cipriani thrived in his relaxed, unrestricted role and along with Wallaby Kurtley Beale, Kiwi Jimmy Gopperth, and future World Cup wining Springbok Willie Le Roux, consistently served tries on platters to the pace of Wade, Bassett and Daly. It seemed like every time i watched Wasps highlights in this period either Thomas Young, Dan Robson or Daly would run in a try from 70+ metres out. The team finished top of the Premiership with 89 tries and 13 try bonus points in 22 games including a 70-12 win over Bristol and a 47-18 win over Quins. If this wasn’t enough Wasps partook in one of the all time great Premiership finals vs Exeter in which Gareth Steenson brutally levelled the scores with a penalty on 80 minutes and then won the game in extra time on 98 minutes.
Bristol Bears 2020/2021
The culmination of attacking innovation and a game plan built over 3 years and tailored for an all-star team of Barbarians. Pat Lam has created a team which is an anomaly in modern English rugby which relies on offloading, pace and most significantly the use of the wide channels and he has the perfect roster to do it with. In the forwards he has players that are comfortable with ball in hand and can create tries from anywhere on the field in Afoa, Thacker, Vui, Luatua, Hughes and Harding. The backs are a mix of unbearable pace and freakish skill which consistently create highlights more suited to a 7s game than a cold Sunday afternoon Premiership game in Exeter. Every position compliments the next with Randall and Sheedy constantly looking to push the pace and Radradra and Piutau constant threats in the wide channels running the outside arc. Add to that the outrageous finishing of Naulago and Morahan and Purdy. Lam has two of the best players in the world in Semi and Charles and has essentially given them the ultimate green light to play like they are in their back garden back home. Bears are currently top of the Premiership and may be on their way to a title this season and if not they will have many more opportunities in the coming years.