- Esher face "must-win" to avoid relegation
- London Welsh & Bristol Rugby edge closer to semi-final spot
Photo: RFU Archive
RFU Championship playoffs
Wins for Bristol and London Welsh this weekend would all but mathematically confirm their place in the semi-finals with two rounds of the play-offs still to go. Neither side has been beaten as yet with Bristol sitting on top of the pile in Pool A with 14 points to Welsh’s 13. Four penalties and a conversion from Matthew Jones and tries from Fautua Otto and William Helu helped Bristol to a 24-19 win at Nottingham last time out.
Liam Middleton’s men play the Green & Whites again at the Memorial Stadium on Friday night. Bristol won the corresponding fixture in the regular season on October 7 by 18 points to 15 – one of eleven games involving Nottingham where a single score separated the sides. That game was undoubtedly the closest of the lot with Bristol only coming out on top thanks to a Tristan Roberts penalty in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
London Welsh face Doncaster hoping for a second win over the Knights in the space of seven days. But Welsh will want to turn in a better performance having been outscored on Saturday by the Pool A cellar dwellers four tries to three.
Alex Davies remains a consistent source of points with the boot, taking his personal tally in the play- offs to 40 with five penalties and two conversions in last weekend’s 34-24 win. Doncaster have now gone seven games without a win against the Exiles, who won 21-10 on their last visit to Castle Park.
Leeds’ best performance of the season was at Bedford on October 29 when they came away from Goldington Road with a 45-28 victory. An equally good performance is needed on their return to the ground this Saturday if they are to keep their fading promotion hopes alive.
Two draws and a defeat from the first three rounds of action mean Leeds have plenty of ground to make up on the Blues and Cornish Pirates who currently occupy the two semi-final qualification spots.
Blues lead the way in the Pool B table by five points from the Pirates after picking up two points from an entertaining 24-all draw against Leeds at Headingley.
Cornish Pirates, meanwhile, bounced back from the disappointment of last weekend’s one-point loss at Bedford to beat Rotherham at the Mennaye Field. It took a couple of tries from Grant Pointer and a determined team performance to see off the Titans who conceded over 60 points there in last season’s play-offs.
Pirates won 19-14 at Clifton Lane in a low-key Monday afternoon game on February 13, but Saturday’s return fixture will not be for the faint hearted as the Titans need to win to remain in the hunt for the knockout stages.
It will take a disciplined display from the Pirates to achieve an away double over the Titans. Fly half Garry Law has continued his good form with the boot in the regular season into the play-offs, topping the scoring charts with 41 from three games.
Esher’s two-season stay in the Championship is perilously close to being over with a win in Saturday’s return match against Moseley imperative if they are to give themselves a fighting chance of survival. The Surrey side has suffered three straight losses in the relegation play-offs, adding just two points to the four they carried over from the regular season along the way.
Mike Schmid’s men were beaten 27-15 at Billesley Common in the first leg of the double-header against Moseley, who outscored the visitors three tries to two. Moseley scored tries through former Worcester duo David Lyons and Greg King, and veteran hooker Adam Caves.
Having managed just one try-scoring bonus point throughout 22 rounds of the regular season Plymouth found their attacking edge at just the right time to produce a stunning win over London Scottish.
Albion crossed Scottish’s line on four occasions with tries for hooker Jon Vickers, his replacement Gareth Evans, Sione Tu’ipulotu and Aaron Carpenter to make it two wins out of two at Brickfields on a Friday night.
Plymouth have to back that up this weekend with victory in the Exiles’ own backyard, something they failed to do at the start of the year when they came away from the Athletic Ground having gone down to a 21-17 defeat.
All Plymouth’s points came after the break on that occasion and throughout the season the Devonians have tended to be a stronger second half team with 28 of their 41 league tries scored then.