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RFU Championship play-offs: Round 3 preview

21 March 2012

  • Bedford hold a seven-point lead at the top of Pool B
  • Injury-hit Doncaster suffer second heavy defeat
Plymouth Albion centre Paul Bailey hands off the defence

Photo: RFU Archive

Pool A

The tradition of tight matches between Bristol and London Welsh continued on Sunday with a 12-all draw fought out at the Memorial Stadium between two of the leading promotion contenders.

A crowd of 4,721 watched as both sides traded kicks at goal throughout. Two penalties apiece from Bristol’s Tristan Roberts and Matthew Jones – the second coming in stoppage time - cancelled out by Alex Davies’ three penalties and a drop goal from Gordon Ross.

Bristol remain on top of Pool A, though, heading into this weekend’s clash against Nottingham at Meadow Lane. Liam Middleton’s men did the double over the Green & Whites in the regular season, winning 18-15 and 24-35.

Nottingham fell one try shy of picking up a bonus point in a 30-3 win over injury-hit Doncaster. Just three James Arlidge penalties were all Nottingham had to show for their efforts at half-time, but they came to life after the break to register scores from Michael Holford, Ayoola Erinle and Tim Streather before time ran out.

A daunting trip to Old Deer Park to face London Welsh awaits the Knights who failed to pick up any points against their Pool A rivals in the regular season, a fate which could repeat itself in the play- offs if they are not careful. Doncaster were well beaten at Welsh’s famous home ground in a midweek match one month ago, and they also lost 21-10 when the sides met at Castle Park on November 5th.

Pool B

Bedford go into the third week of the play-offs holding a seven-point lead at the top of Pool B. The Blues pulled off an extraordinary win at home against Cornish Pirates to put themselves in pole position to qualify for the semi-finals. On a night of high drama, Bedford brilliantly overturned a 19-point half-time deficit to snatch victory when James Pritchard converted Brendan Burke’s last-gasp try. The 26-25 victory sets the Blues up perfectly for Sunday’s away game at Leeds, who are still very much in contention for the runners-up spot despite a woeful performance at home to Rotherham.

Carnegie lost 20-3 at Headingley in front of their lowest home league crowd of the season and they will need an immediate response if they are to maintain their promotion hopes.

Luckily for Leeds, only two points separates the three sides chasing Bedford and they can take heart from the fact they defeated Bedford home and away in the regular season.

Rotherham, meanwhile, travel to Cornish Pirates looking to reverse the 30-13 defeat they suffered at the Mennaye Field at the beginning of November.

Memories of last season’s televised 67-14 drubbing by the Duchy outfit in the play- offs will also serve as motivation for the Titans who will miss captain Sam Dickinson because of the arm injury he sustained against Leeds.

When the Pirates drew 14-all with Leeds in the opening round of the play-offs it was only the second time they have failed to win at home all season.

Pool C

London Scottish recorded their third win against Moseley this season to go top of Pool C in the relegation play-offs. Both sides scored two tries apiece and the respective kickers cancelled each other out with ten points coming from the boots of Dan Mugford and Ollie Thomas, meaning that James Brown’s drop goal proved decisive in the final outcome.

Scottish face Plymouth at Brickfields on Friday night where they will hope to take another giant leap towards safety with victory over Albion. Just four points separated the two sides when they met during the regular season, the home side winning on each occasion.

Albion’s 29-25 win in October came courtesy of a try from the last play of the game deep into injury time.

Scottish were one of six scalps taken by Plymouth on home soil in Stage 1 of the Championship campaign and they added to that tally further in the play- offs with an 18-11 win over Esher at the weekend.

Albion were indebted to the accurate goal kicking of James Love for all of their points in a win that puts them four points clear of Esher with four games to go.

Esher travel to Moseley on Saturday knowing that they need to convert losing bonus points into wins. Mike Schmid’s men have been within one score of their opponents in the first two play- off games but nothing less than victory will do at Billesley Common unless Albion lose. Moseley did the double over Esher in the regular season.