- Bristol Rugby and London Welsh book final places
- It was a real team effort – Bristol coach Sean Holley
Photo: John White Media
Bristol Rugby and London Welsh will fight it out for the Greene King IPA Championship trophy, having beaten their respective opposition on aggregate over the two semi-final legs.
Despite holding only a three-point advantage over Rotherham going into the away leg, Bristol Rugby’s experience from 1-15, not least in former Wales captain and British & Irish Lion Ryan Jones, proved the difference when they recorded a 22-11 (39-25 on aggregate) win over Rotherham Titans at Abbeydale Park. Having gone in at the break trailing by eight points, the West Country men had it all to do in the second half but came out victors, scoring 19 unanswered points.
Bristol will now be looking to return to the top tier after five seasons playing in the Championship.
Speaking to www.bristolrugby.co.uk after the win, first team coach Sean Holley said: “I’m so pleased for the boys, we pushed through with belief. It was a real team effort. It’s important for the fans – no club has a right to be in the Premiership but these supporters have travelled in huge numbers and they deserve a final at the Mem.”
Credit must be given to Rotherham Titans who, having finished seventh last season, climbed to fourth in the table under the stewardship of first-time head coach Lee Blackett. While disappointed not to have made the final, the runner-up status will undoubtably propel the Yorkshire men on to further success in the seasons to come.
“...we’re a resilient bunch” – Burnell
Joining Bristol in the battle for promotion are London Welsh, who dropped from the top tier last season despite causing some upset with five wins over their Premiership counterparts.
In an utterly enthralling match at the Kassam Stadium, Oxford, London Welsh edged the play-off encounter, a late penalty from Gordon Ross sealing the 29-20 win on the day, 60-58 on aggregate.
Leeds Carnegie went into the second leg with a seven-point advantage, and seemed to be on their way to the final when leading by 13 points in the closing quarter.
Photo: RFU Archive
True to form, the visitors began the match in their usual free flowing style, determined to play with the ball in hand from the get go. Tries from Steve McColl and Charlie Beech appeared to put the visitors in the driving seat, with both Glynn Hughes and Gordon Ross having an off-day with the boot.
But two late scores from Seb Stegman and Ollie Stedman put the home side back in control, while Ross’s successful penalty two minutes from full-time sealed the win in a dramatic play-off semi-final.
“When you get two good teams it can go either way, but like I’ve said from day one, we’re a resilient bunch,” commented head coach Justin Burnell.
“We never roll over and in that last 20 we just seemed to get better. There was no panic whatsoever.
“That’s what we’re about. There’s a special breed here and a good mixture. We’ve a couple of northerners in there and a couple of Welsh lads and they’ve just been brought up to work hard.”
Greene King IPA Championship final:
London Welsh v Bristol Rugby, Wednesday, May 28, KO 19:45
Bristol Rugby v London Welsh, Wednesday, June 4, KO 19:45
Both matches will be broadcast live on Sky Sports HD