Ealing, the division’s whipping boys for so long this season, finally crashed out of the GKIPA Championship despite a valiant fightback that took them to within an inch of survival.
By Richard Grainger
Trailfinders take the road back to League 1
Ealing 29, Rotherham 36
Two bonus points achieved by a spirited late comeback were not enough to avoid the drop, as the news filtered through to Vallis Way that Jersey had won at Goldington Road.
But considering that they were dead and buried six weeks ago, 15 points from four matches was a fine achievement and one which retiring director of rugby Mike Cudmore was quick to acknowledge, despite his disappointment.
“Where we’ve come from five or six weeks ago to where we are now makes me very proud,” he said.
Play-off bound Rotherham raced to a 3-22 interval lead which they extended in the second period with Charlie Mulchrone’s second try and a touchdown from Jordan Davies before Ealing roared back with tries from Ed Siggery, Ronnie McLean, Andrew Henderson and Billy Robinson.
Knights beat Blackheath to bounce back
Doncaster Knights will return to the GKIPA Championship next season to replace Ealing.
Doncaster, England’s most promoted club, added yet another league trophy to their cabinet, but only after a nervy 20-38 over Blackheath in the capital city. The Knights lifted the SSE National League 1 shield and bounce back into the second tier at the first attempt.
It was closer than the final score suggests as the hosts only trailed 15-17 until Doncaster scored three tries in the final quarter. The Yorkshire outfit, who are likely to be one of a trio from the shire in the GKIPA Championship next year, knew that defeat would virtually hand the trophy to Rosslyn Park, who had pushed them all the way this season.
Islanders stay afloat
Bedford 31, Jersey 41
Bedford won’t be sorry to hang up their boots for a month or so, as this was a dismal performance that typified their level of under-achievement this season.
While Jersey had by far the greater motivation, the Blues could never match the Islanders’ intensity, nor managed to look as if they wanted to for most of 80 minutes on Saturday.
Apart from capitalising on Ryan Hodson’s trip to the bin, when Harry Wells and Ollie Dodge put the hosts in front, Jersey controlled the tempo and never looked like loosening their grip on a game that would guarantee them a third term in the second tier.
But Bedford managed to get back on level terms with a 62nd minute try from former Jersey man Michael Le Bourgeois, until a penalty try and Aaron Penberthy’s 78th minute penalty saw Jersey home. Of course, had they not been docked two league points earlier in the season, life would have been much easier.
Leeds power prevents Pirates from swashbuckling
Leeds 36, Cornish Pirates 3
Carnegie took a while to turn possession and territory into points at a rain swept Headingley on Friday night. Obsession with grinding the Cornish scrum into the ground made for a dull opening 40 from which the hosts eventually managed to take a 12-3 lead into the dressing room.
However, the Pirates obligingly played like a team with little to get from the contest and Leeds ran in four second half tries after the break to take their tally to six. Even the visiting supporters’ familiar “Give us another Arrrrrrr…” chant was half-hearted.
Leeds now welcome London Welsh to Headingley on Sunday May 11th (1.00pm k/o) in the first leg of the semis with a trip to the Kassam Stadium the following Sunday (12.45 k/o).
Leeds may not be the pundits’ favourites to reach the Aviva Premiership this season, but they are certainly a good outside bet.
Bookies favourites Bristol must do better
London Scottish 31, Bristol 55
Bristol, the bookies favourites, can certainly score tries, but head coach Sean Holley believes they must do better defensively if they are to gain promotion.
In the warm spring sunshine at the Richmond Athletic Ground, Holley’s men had run in half a dozen tries before the break, with two more in the second period.
But attention was once again focused on Bristol’s inability to prevent the opposition crossing the whitewash.
Centre Adam Hughes, who scored twice on Saturday, certainly thought so saying, “We still have lots to improve upon but we are building and that’s what is important. We reacted well in the second half to tighten up and keep the score down.”
Scottish, for whom the match had no significance, crossed for five tries and this will be a huge cause of optimism for London Welsh or Leeds, who Bristol are most likely to meet in the final.
Bristol have opted to play the first leg of their semi against Rotherham at the Memorial Ground on Saturday May 10th, 2.45 k/o. The second leg will be played on Saturday, 17 May at the Abbeydale Stadium in Sheffield with a 6.05pm k/o.
Elsewhere in the GKIPA Championship
London Welsh galloped to a ten-try 64-12 victory against lowly Nottingham at the Kassam on Saturday while Kevin Maggs’s Moseley side beat Plymouth 16-11 at Billesley Common to end in seventh slot, their highest Championship finish to date.