By Richard Grainger
It was a far from happy Hogmanay for the London Scottish faithful who travelled to Goldington Road to watch the Exiles squander the chance to consolidate a top four place by losing to erratic Bedford on New Year’s Day.
Bedford Blues 21, London Scottish 13
Blues upset formbook to climb out of basement
Bedford and Scottish had something in common going into this round 12 clash: they are the only two sides to have beaten the Greene King IPA Championship’s front-runners, London Welsh to date. But a lengthy injury list and a Boxing Day 35-6 thrashing at the hands of Rotherham meant that the visitors — on a five match winning run — started as clear favourites.
However, Bedford dominated proceedings with tries from Michael Le Bourgeois and Aaron Morris to add to three James Pritchard penalties and a conversion.
This win lifts the Blues, who had been blown away at Clifton Lane on Boxing Day with four second half tries from third-placed Rotherham, to seventh place, their highest this season.
London Welsh 5, London Scottish 13
Superior Scots win battle of the Exiles
For most of us, emerging from a mountain of leftover turkey, broken Christmas presents and soon-to-be broken New Year resolutions, the Saturday before Christmas seems a long time ago. For London Scottish, the day they deservedly denied the division’s leaders even a losing point on their home turf, will seem even more distant, thanks to their defeat by Bedford.
In front of the Sky cameras at the Kassam Stadium, James Buckland’s men took their chances and defended heroically to hang on for victory. It was nip and tuck at 0-6 until Miles Mantella’s 73rd minute interception try, converted by Lee Millar took the game away from Welsh. Alan Awcock’s last minute try for the hosts was too little too late. Welsh head coach Justin Burrell commented: “… at crucial times we made mistakes. I’m bitterly disappointed.”
Ealing 7, Bristol 21
Bristol butcher bonus point chances
Bristol’s director of rugby Andy Robinson was another coach disappointed with his side’s performance, as Bristol squandered countless opportunities to notch a fourth try at Vallis Way on their final pre-Christmas outing.
Robinson, never a man to pull his punches, voiced his disappointment at Bristol’s inability to kick on from an interval three-try 7-21 lead rather more strenuously than Burrell: “I’m disgusted with the players,” he said, “and it’s unacceptable to play the way we did in the second half.”
However, it was another Robinson — former Welsh international fly-half Nicky — whose two first half tries, tactical kicking and game management helped Bristol notch a 29-8 bonus point win over Moseley at the Memorial Ground on Saturday, put them back at the top of the table, and the hint of a smile back on the Director of Rugby’s face.
Moseley, who had gone into the festive season celebrating a gutsy 10-3 win over Jersey at Billesley Common, have just four wins to show from the first half of their campaign.
Cornish Pirates 10, Plymouth 3
Pirates grind out win in turgid tussle
Although it’s a little early to rule the Pirates out of another play-off wrestle, on the evidence of their Boxing Day performance against their neighbours from across the Tamar, they will have to work very hard to extend their season beyond Stage One of the GPIPA Championship.
Jack Andrew’s 17th minute try was converted by Craig Holland, and an Angus Sinclair penalty in the final minute was enough to register the Cornishmen’s eighth consecutive win over Plymouth Albion. Plymouth could only muster a single Dan Mugford penalty in a dour local derby. Albion head coach James Shanahan was philosophical about the relatively poor spectacle, later saying: “I don’t know many local derbies that are great on the eye. It is just about trying to win.”
Leeds Carnegie 30, Nottingham 19
Leeds look likely play-off candidates
By virtue of beating Nottingham at Headingley on Saturday, Leeds are one of four sides in the division with eight wins, and look a good bet to progress to the next stage. Carnegie, whose four tries to three victory avenged Nottingham’s win at Meadow Lane on the opening day of the season, were always in charge, but had to wait until the 74th minute for Richard Beck’s second try to secure the bonus point.
Top six clubs within eight points
Going into the second half of the season, there are only eight points separating top spot from sixth place. This weekend’s action features the remaining round 12 fixtures, so expect to see another re-shuffle!