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RFU Championship play-offs: Round 1 review

12 March 2012

  • Bristol storm Round 1 with 65-3 demolishing over Knights
  • Carnegie hold 2010/11 finalists Cornish Pirates to a draw

Leeds Carnegie held Cornish Pirates to a 14 point draw in round 1 of the play-offs

Photo: Brian Tempest

Pool A

Bristol fell just three points shy of matching their best ever points total in an away game in the league when they inflicted a 65-3 defeat on Doncaster last Friday night. The nine-try rout at Castle Park was also the first time they had scored 60 points on the road in a league match since the thrashing of Cornish Pirates in the final game of the 2010 play-off series.

Hooker Ross Johnston is the surprise leader at the top of the try-scoring charts after Round One of the play-offs following his hat- trick, while there were further scores for Jack Tovey (2), Luke Eves, Fautua Otto, Ben Glynn and a penalty try in what was a real statement of intent from Bristol ahead of this weekend’s visit ofLondon Welsh.

Bristol edged out Welsh 35-33 in one of the games of the season at the Memorial Stadium back in October, a crowd of over 6,000 and a TV audience watching at home being royally entertained by an eight-try thriller that was settled in injury-time.

London Welsh also go into the game on the back of a bonus-point win: a 32-21 success at home to Nottingham that was anything but as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. Welsh found themselves trailing by a point on the hour mark but three tries and 19 unanswered points in a devastating nine-minute spell yielded a crucial victory.

Nottingham will aim to bounce back with victory over shell-shocked Doncaster at Meadow Lane on Sunday.

Pool B

Bedford are in pole position to qualify for the Championship semi-finals after securing a magnificent 32-19 win at Rotherham. Remarkably, it was the Blues’ sixth bonus-point victory away from home this season. Mike Rayer’s men recovered from going behind to a Shane Monahan try in the first minute to score five tries and set themselves up nicely for this weekend’s massive game at home to Cornish Pirates.

The Pirates’ 14-all draw with Leeds has worked in the Blues’ favour and a second straight win would see the Goldington Road outfit open up a sizeable lead over the rest of their Pool B rivals. The corresponding regular season game between Bedford and Cornish Pirates resulted in a 32-13 win for the Blues on New Year’s Day.

Like Blues, Leeds showed a lot of character on the road to pick up two points away to Pirates, who had put over 50 points on them in the same fixture in Stage 1 of the season. The Sky Sports cameras were at that game and Leeds have been itching to put right those wrongs in front of a televised audience ever since.

Sunday’s game against Rotherham gives them that opportunity with the game at Headingley Carnegie being shown live by the satellite broadcaster. Rotherham, who need to win to keep their play- off hopes alive, will hope for a similar outcome to the last time they were on TV: a 15-14 win at Doncaster on February 18th which came courtesy of Garry Law’s last gasp penalty.

Pool C

Plymouth will hope to carry their regular season home form into the relegation play-offs when they take on Esher at Brickfields on Friday night. All six of Albion’s total number of wins in the regular season came in front of their own supporters, while Esher won just once on their travels in the first 22 rounds of action. Both sides were beaten on the opening weekend, Plymouth surrendering a 17-6 lead at Billesley Common to go down to a 25-17 defeat against Moseley.

Esher closed the gap between themselves and Plymouth at the bottom of the Pool C table courtesy of the losing bonus point they picked up in a 16-20 defeat against London Scottish. The home side won the two head-to-heads in the regular season.

London Scottish and Moseley, who meet at the Athletic Ground on Sunday, both boast ten points after the first round of the play-offs. Five penalties from Dan Mugford and a try from Gerard Mullen provided Championship newcomers Scottish with all 20 of their points at Esher.

Meanwhile, Moseley had kicker Ollie Thomas to thank for their victory after the winger booted six penalties and a conversion for a 20-point haul. Adam Caves added a try.

London Scottish had the Indian sign over Moseley during the regular season, recording a double over the Birmingham-based side. Mugford was instrumental in both victories having scored 24 points in the 37-21 win at home and another 19 in the 29-16 win on Moseley soil.