By Richard Grainger
Action from round 17 of the GKIPA Championship leaves the play-off slots looking likely to be berthed by the clubs currently occupying the top four positions.
Bristol back on top
Rotherham Titans 26, Bristol 34
Having dispatched Plymouth 43-12 in one of only two games to go ahead last weekend scoring seven tries in the process, Bristol narrowly saw off the Titans at Clifton Lane in front of the Sky TV cameras on Saturday evening. In a fine advert for Championship rugby, Bristol raced to a 0-21 lead after 20 minutes with tries from Ross Rennie, Nick Koster and centre Ben Mosses, all converted by Nicky Robinson.
But Rotherham, whose early defence and retention had been woeful, refused to lie down and fought back to 19-21 before Mosses finished off a fine move that owed its origin to a Rotherham handling error, swinging momentum back Bristol’s way. Then Robinson struck the first of two successful penalties before Juan Pablo Socino scored the Titans’ second try and converted to bring the score to 26-31 with eight minutes remaining. But Robinson’s second penalty secured the win and denied Rotherham the losing bonus point.
Despite their sixth consecutive league win, Bristol coach Sean Holley was less than delighted by his side’s inability to close out the game saying, “Overall, we’re really pleased to come away from a tough place with a win, and we know that we need to keep improving.”
For Rotherham, their inability to beat a side ahead of them in the division leaves them relying on those below them losing to secure a play-off spot.
Leeds exact revenge on Exiles
Leeds Carnegie 27, London Scottish 18
Carnegie produced a result to put the semblance of a smile back on Rotherham faces by denying the Exiles a losing bonus point at Headingley on Sunday. For Leeds it was the perfect antidote to the headache left by 26-15 defeat at the Athletic Ground back in November, and keeps them in second slot behind Bristol.
It was a tale of two scrum-halfs with Carnegie’s Craig Hampson dominating the game, orchestrating a comeback from 0-8 to 10-0 while his counterpart Robbie Shaw watched from the bin.
Debutant Jonny Bentley scored Leeds’ third try to seal the win after Alex Lozowski and Jacob Rowan had touched down.
Welsh weather early storm at Vallis Way
Ealing Trailfinders 6, London Welsh 39
Welsh were another side to take full value of an opponent in the bin, running in three tries at Vallis Way on Saturday while Ealing lock George Merrick served his sentence.
But Ealing, who now look odds-on to bounce straight back to National League 1, were 6-0 ahead after 26 minutes as the visitors struggled to find rhythm and composure.
Then fly-half Will Robinson got the Exiles back on level terms with two penalties before Pete Browne was driven over on the stroke of half-time.
But after the break it was all Welsh, who added three tries in the space of eight minutes before Tom May scored the fifth to round off an emphatic win with just over ten minutes to go.
Mid-table Mose in seventh heaven
Moseley 24, Bedford 13
Moseley look likely to secure their highest placing in the division after a purple patch resulting in two consecutive wins. Contests between Moseley and the Cornish Pirates at Billesley Common have resulted in draws on the Pirates’ previous three visits, but last Friday the Midlanders did enough to shade the Cornishmen, winning 28-20. And then seventh-placed Moseley did the double over Bedford with a comfortable 24-13 win at Billesley Common on Saturday. It was two tries a-piece but the kicking of Ollie Thomas, who notched four penalties and a conversion, put daylight between the sides. A delighted head coach Kevin Maggs reflected on his side’s improvement that has earned them a three-month unbeaten home run saying, “… We have some big games coming up at home, we are positive and we will look to win as many more as we can.”
Pirates punish Jersey and Plymouth make it two in a row
Cornish Pirates 19, Jersey 15 and Plymouth Albion 22, Nottingham 12
Jersey are still not out of the relegation woods and will need to take more than losing bonus points away from tight games like this, as only seven points separate them from bottom-placed Ealing. Although the Pirates sit in sixth slot with a game in hand, only the most optimistic of supporters would put money on their side making the play-offs.
Plymouth, who recorded their second league home win of the season thanks to Declan Cusack’s boot, are another side who can only entertain aspirations of a respectable mid-table finish. Cusack kicked five penalties and converted the game’s only try from Albion centre Heath Stevens.