By Richard Grainger
With five rounds left in stage one of the Greene King IPA Championship, this weekend the top four sides virtually rubber-stamped their tickets to the play-offs, scoring 22 tries between them.
Long away-day leaves Leeds with lower energy levels
Jersey 13, Leeds 18
Leeds were the only promotion hopefuls not to enjoy fun in the sun and almost paid the penalty for their day return to St Peter on Saturday.
The hosts led 13-11 until the 68th minute thanks to two Aaron Penberthy penalties and a converted try from Jack Burroughs. Carnegie had their chances, and it took a superb tackle from new boy Ryan Hodson to prevent Ollie Goss from scoring. But the Yorkshiremen were finally rewarded for their patience when Fred Burdon scythed through the middle to score for Jonny Bentley to knock over the extras.
“I put my hand up about the decision to travel on the day,” said a relieved Leeds head coach James Lowes, “It did affect the boys’ energy levels and was a risk.”
A losing BP doesn’t put clear water between Jersey and Ealing, with an eight-point gap not insurmountable.
Dire defense won’t deliver championships
Bristol Rugby 46, Cornish Pirates 33
Marco Mama ran in four tries as Bristol defeated the Cornish Pirates 46-33 at the Memorial Ground on Sunday to remain in top spot. But this was no defensive masterclass, as promotion candidates Bristol leaked four tries in a contest that was palpably closer than the score suggests.
The Pirates, who picked up a try bonus point themselves, were in contention trailing 36-33 with ten minutes to go. It was no surprise that Director of Rugby Andy Robinson was less than sanguine about Bristol’s cat-flap defence.
“The disappointment, however, is the manner that we are conceding tries,” said Robinson. “It’s frustrating and a regular occurrence for us. It’s something that we need to look at.
“We have to be able to defend and that’s a responsibility from all of us to be tight defensively – that’s what will deliver championships.”
Welsh outclass mid-table Moseley
London Welsh 42, Moseley 18
The London Welsh faithful enjoyed the return of GKIPA Championship rugby to the Old Deer Park on Sunday before events down the A316 at Twickenham took the tarnish off their day.
Welsh, who still have a game in hand, ran in five tries against Moseley to take their tally to 17 in their last three games. Ollie Stedman scored two, and Nathan Morris, Joe Ajuwa and Nick Scott also crossed.
“It was a good win,” said Exiles head coach Justin Burrell. “We set a target of winning all five of our games in March and our last three games — Rotherham, Ealing and Moseley — have produced three bonus point wins.”
Burrell, clearly smarting from allegations that Welsh’s success is simply down to having a big pack added, “People are quite quick to say we’re a big heavy pack, and we are a big heavy side, but the skills within our pack are the best I’ve seen from a team that I’ve worked with.”
Titans top of the try class
Nottingham 7, Rotherham Titans 51
This eight-try demolition of Nottingham at Meadow Lane on Sunday leaves Titans only two points behind Bristol’s tally of 374, and as Rotherham have conceded two fewer, the sides are level on points difference. However, despite having been docked one point, it is Bristol’s 16 bonus points compared to Rotherham’s nine that leaves the Yorkshire outfit in fourth slot. That, and the fact that they have yet to beat a side placed above them.
Wingman Curtis Wilson scored a hat-trick, Sean Scanlon bagged a brace and Ali Birch, Dallan Murphy and Michael Keating also touched down.
Exiles’ still entertain play-off hopes
London Scottish 42, Ealing Trailfinders 13
Scottish are still in the play-off hunt — should Rotherham fluff their lines — following a perfect six goal win over relegation favourites Ealing in the Richmond sun on Sunday. James Love, Miles Mantella and Mark Bright bagged a couple each while Love knocked over all six conversions.
Plymouth punish ticker-less Bedford
Bedford 18, Plymouth Albion 33
It’s hard to believe, on the evidence of this performance, that the Blues were slugging it out with Newcastle for a place in the Premiership little more than a year ago.
Plymouth, who had two men in the bin during the second half, were still good enough to beat lack-lustre Bedford on their home patch.
Skipper James Pritchard was brutally honest about his side’s commitment saying, “We’re just not showing any ticker out there… they’ve scored two tries when they’ve gone through untouched and I’ve never seen a Bedford side do that.”
Ealing will be looking forward to Bedford’s visit to Vallis Way this Saturday.