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Preview: Greene King IPA Championship final 1st leg

27 May 2014

  • Bristol and London Welsh battle for Championship title
  • Both former Premiership sides
Jon Mills of London Welsh celebrates with the trophy after victory during the RFU Championship Playoff 2nd leg match between London Welsh and Cornish Pirates at Kassam Stadium on May 30, 2012 in Oxford, England

Photo: RFU Archive

After a long and thoroughly entertaining season, two games over the course of the next eight days will determine whether it is London Welsh or Bristol Rugby who win the Greene King IPA Championship title – and with it promotion back to the Aviva Premiership.

Both have graced the top flight before, Bristol for many years with distinction until their fall five years ago while Welsh have had a brief taste, in 2012/13, and want more.

As the top two sides from the regular season, few people would dispute that Bristol, the best attacking side in the competition, and London Welsh, who boast the best defence, are fitting finalists.

History points to a tight first leg, at the Kassam Stadium, kick-off 19:45 live on Sky Sports, with tries few and far between in three of the four previous finals. Experienced referee Wayne Barnes will officiate proceedings in Oxford.

The inaugural final between champions Exeter and Bristol in 2009/10 produced a try-less first leg, with three penalties from the boot of Gareth Steenson to two from Adrian Jarvis handing the Chiefs the initiative.

Worcester managed to cross Cornish Pirates’ line twice in winning 21-12 in the first leg at the Mennaye Field before going on to finish the job a week later in a more expansive encounter at Sixways.

Bristol Rugby

Photo: RFU Achive

London Welsh bucked the trend in the third Championship final away to Cornish Pirates, coming away from the Duchy with a 16-point advantage after outscoring their hosts four tries to three.

Last year’s showpiece between Bedford Blues and Newcastle was an altogether cagier affair first up, with all the points in an 18-9 win for the Falcons coming from kicks at goal. Jimmy Gopperth was on target with six penalties while Myles Dorrian converted two and Jake Sharp a third for the Blues.

In each of the last three finals, the away side has won the first leg and gone on to win the title.

Past Championship finals

2009/10
Exeter Chiefs 9 Bristol Rugby 6
Bristol Rugby 10 Exeter Chiefs 29

2010/11
Cornish Pirates 12 Worcester Warriors 21
Worcester Warriors 25 Cornish Pirates 20

2011/12
Cornish Pirates 21 London Welsh 37
London Welsh 29 Cornish Pirates 20

2012/13
Bedford Blues 9 Newcastle Falcons 18
Newcastle Falcons 31 Bedford Blues 24

2013/14 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 fixtures will be broadcast live on Sky Sports HD