- Moseley and Plymouth retain place in the RFU Championship
- Bedford semi-final spot sealed with victory over Leeds
Photo: RFU Archive
The RFU Championship play-offs take a break this weekend as the British & Irish Cup semi-finals come to town, but with only two games remaining, how are the teams lining up in the “business end” of the season?
London Welsh are all but certain of a place in the Championship semi finals after they surged to the top of Pool A thanks to a bonus-point win at Doncaster. On-loan Bath wing Nick Scott raced in for a hat-trick of tries for the Exiles who are now ten points clear of third-placed Nottingham who they meet in the final round of pool games later this month.
Welsh just need a bonus point from their remaining two games to make sure of their place in the last four for the third consecutive season. Doncaster, meanwhile, played their part in an entertaining contest that produced eight tries – three of them to the home side for whom former Newcastle academy player Fred Burdon crossed the line twice.
Bristol stuttered for the second time at home after being held to a 19-all draw against Nottingham. But it could have been worse for the West Country outfit had James Arlidge’s drop goal gone over in the final minute.
A crowd of more than 7,000 turned up at the Memorial Stadium expecting to see Bristol confirm their place in the semi-finals but Liam Middleton’s men were unable to convert the ten point lead they held at half-time into victory. Nottingham now need to beat Doncaster away and London Welsh at home to have any chance of progressing further in the competition.
Bedford became the first team to officially book their place in the Championship semi finals after securing their first victory over Leeds at the fourth attempt this season.
Leeds did the double over the Blues in the regular season and the sides then drew in the first play- off meeting at Headingley. But on home soil and in front of a large crowd Bedford laid that particular bogey to rest with a 26-20 win at Goldington Road. Tries for Josh Bassett and on-loan Saracens scrum half Luke Baldwin at the start of the second half proved pivotal to the eventual outcome.
Cornish Pirates are strong favourites to join Bedford in the last four after repeating their home and away victories over Rotherham in the regular season in the play-offs. The Pirates are seven points clear of Leeds, who they meet at Headingley in the final round of fixtures, following their 17-14 success at Clifton Lane. Four penalties from Rob Cook and a try from flanker Phil Burgess were enough to see off the Titans who are bottom of the pool.
Leeds’s hopes of returning to the Premiership at the first attempt are now hanging by a thread after a four-game winless run in the play-offs. A record of two draws and two defeats means that victories in their remaining two games are vital if they are to stand any chance of beating Pirates to the second semi-final qualification play-off spot.
Plymouth will live to fight another day in the Championship after securing their third straight win in the play-offs. On Sunday Albion completed the double over London Scottish with an 11-6 victory at the Athletic Ground to ensure that a troubled season on and off the field has a happy ending.
Aaron Carpenter’s try in the 56th minute proved crucial to the eventual outcome with all the other points in a tight game coming from the boots of Dan Mugford and James Love with two penalties apiece. Love has been integral to Plymouth’s survival bid with 51 points in the play-offs to add to the 187 he managed in the regular season – not a bad return for his inaugural Championship campaign.
Neither Plymouth nor Moseley can be caught at the top of the Pool C table. Both sides are safe having accumulated 19 points – 13 more than bottom side Esher with two games remaining.
Moseley secured their future in the second tier with a 25-13 win at Esher, Brad Davies and David Lyons scoring their tries with Ollie Thomas contributing 10 points from the kicking tee.
Esher are effectively down and out unless they can pick up maximum points from their remaining two fixtures and London Scottish fail to claim a single bonus point in theirs. Esher are at home to Plymouth on April 14 before making the short trip to London Scottish a week later.