By Richard Grainger
WHILE HALF of the second tier clubs enjoyed the luxury of a rare free weekend, the other six had the pleasure of A re-scheduled league or cup fixture to fill the void.
On Friday evening, London Scottish travelled to bottom placed Doncaster and came away with their first away win of the season.
In what was always going to be a tight encounter, Doncaster’s Dougie Flockhard and James Love traded penalties to tie the score at 9-9 with seven minutes to go.
When the Knights coughed up the ball deep in the visitors’ half, a long down-field kick was chased hard by Miles Mantella who collected the ball to score the decisive try in the corner.
This leaves Doncaster five points adrift behind Jersey at the foot of the table, while the Exiles move into eighth place, two points behind Rotherham.
Leeds consolidated their status in fourth place on Sunday with a 28-26 win over visitors Plymouth Albion.
This was a game re-scheduled for reasons very different to the wintry conditions. When the sides had met at Headingley four weeks ago Plymouth were defeated 34-16. But the West Country men complained that the inadequacy of the new surface had led to the referee’s insistence on uncontested scrums after 16 minutes, and this had seriously thwarted their game plan. Much to the annoyance of the Yorkshire outfit, the RFU agreed. And so, the game, played at a blustery West Park Leeds was always going to be a spikey affair.
But Leeds, mirroring events on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium, were well in control at 21-6 shortly before the interval.
Ryan Burrows was driven across the whitewash for Carnegie, then Stevie McColl broke through soft-shouldered Albion tackling before David Doherty stepped his way to the first of his brace of tries.
Joe Ford was on target with the conversions, while the visitors could only muster two penalties from the boot of Raul Roberts before Sam Hocking was driven over to give them less of a second-half mountain to climb.
But it was Albion who dominated the second period, outscoring Carnegie by 15 points to 7, as Leeds were unable to get out of their own half for the entire the third quarter.
Eventually the visitors’ dominance overcame stout Carnegie defence; shortly after Phil Nilsen was sent to the bin, Albion hooker Jon Vickers crashed over to make it 21-16.
Roberts added his second penalty to bring Plymouth to within two points but when Doherty finished off Fred Burdon’s break to bring up the bonus point, Leeds sensed they were home and dry.
But Plymouth has other ideas as Tom Bowen scorched down the touchline and fed Sean-Michael Stephen to score levaing Roberts with an easy conversion; it was game on again.
However, Leeds — who were much improved in both defence and discipline from recent outings — hung on, and the visitors had to be content with a losing bonus point. This sees Albion, who were briefly as high as fourth in the Championship, slip into the bottom four.
In the re-scheduled British & Irish Cup fixture at Pandy Park, Newcastle were too powerful for Cross Keys and top Pool 4 to gain crucial home advantage in the quarter finals with a 3-34 bonus-point win.
A mere 226 souls eschewed the dramas in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon to witness the Falcons coast to victory with tries from new boy Ollie Stedman, Warren Fury, and two penalty tries awarded against the tiring Welshmen by IRFU referee Mr Eanna O’Dowd.
Finally, Bedford made light work of their re-arranged British & Irish cup game against Bedwas at Goldington Road, demolishing the visitors 64-0.
This leaves them as top seeds in the competition, and they progress to the quarter-final stage where they will face Llanelli at home
A full programme of Championship action is scheduled for this weekend. The one to watch should be the clash between Leeds and Newcastle at Otley on Sunday.
Follow Richard Grainger on Twitter @Maverickwriter