by Richard Grainger
With the final matches in the pool stage of the British & Irish Cup completed on Saturday, five out of 12 Greene King IPA Championship sides can look forward to the knock-out rounds, with three of them having secured a home berth.
Pool 1: Leinster lose the trail at Vallis Way
Ealing 13, Leinster 14; Moseley 31, Cross Keys 17
Ealing will take heart from pushing the reigning British & Irish Cup holders all the way at Vallis Road. The GKIPA Championship’s bottom side made Leinster A work hard to leave West London as the only unbeaten side in the tournament. When Darren Hudson scored for the Dubliners after four minutes it looked as if Ealing were in for another difficult afternoon. However they defended heroically and were rewarded when the prolific Phil Chesters collected Andrew Henderson’s kick to score in the corner in the 80th minute.
Moseley were sporadically good for their five-try bonus point win against Cross Keys at Billesley Common. However head coach Kevin Maggs was furious that his side conceded a try when Keys had a man in the bin: “We just lacked the killer instinct I was expecting from us being at home,” said Maggs, whose side entertain Ealing in a crucial Championship encounter on Saturday.
Pool 2: Scottish folly puts Ponty through
London Scottish 18, London Welsh 21; Pontypridd 43, Edinburgh Accies 0
London Scottish were left to rue their decision to go for the win again their old neighbours at Richmond, turning down a kickable penalty which would have earned them a draw — sufficient to put them through.
This means that Pontypridd progress to the knock-out stages, thanks to superior points difference, helped by they six-try demolition of Edinburgh Accies at Sardis Road. They now have a trip to Dublin to take on Leinster A in the quarter-finals to look forward to.
Pool 3: Titans turn the corner at Goldington Road
Bedford 24, Rotherham 32; Connacht 12 Llanelli 10
Rotherham’s second week loss to Connacht and meager tally of bonus points means that they will be away for the quarters, but only up the road at Headingley. The Titans’ eighth win on the bounce was also the first time they had left Goldington Road victorious since 2006. It was four tries a-piece and head coach Lee Blackett praised his side’s attacking play but said: “We’ll have to look at our defence because we weren’t happy with that area…”
Connacht finished on a high note in Galway, beating Llanelli. Manager Anthony Buchanan’s young side — one that included five Welsh U20 internationals — competed well in a match that had nothing on it for either side.
Pool 4: Top two go through but on the road
Nottingham 23, Plymouth Albion 34; Striling County 5, Munster A 31
Both Munster’s second string and Plymouth Albion progress with away fixtures in the next round. Albion topped the group by virtue of superior points difference while Munster scored five tries against Stirling, and their trip to Cornwall to face the Pirates in the quarters will be one to watch. Albion notched a four-try bonus point win at Meadow Lane against Nottingham and will now have to beat Bristol at the Memorial Ground to reach the semi-finals. As all Plymouth’s wins have been away from home this season, this is hardly likely to give them sleepless nights.
Pool 5: Top Two go through with home berths
Leeds 24, Bristol 19; Aberavon 11, Gala 9
With Leeds and Bristol knowing that they were both likely to progress before kick-off, this could have made for a dull encounter. But with Leeds having recently moved into top spot in the Championship, and the sides with one win a-piece this season, there was plenty to play for. Although Bristol outscored the Yorkshiremen by three tries to two, Glyn Hughes was on song with fourteen points from the boot, and Carnegie’s better discipline saw them home.
Aberavon narrowly beat Gala in a match with only pride at stake.
Pool 6: Ravens last gasp swoop spoils Pirates perfect six
Ulster 27, Cornish Pirates 23; Ayr 14, Jersey 13
The Ravens denied the Pirates a perfect six from six with an injury time try from Dave Shanahan at Deramore Park. Ulster’s second-string, who were out of the competition already, saved their best performance of the tournament for the Pirates’ visit and deserved their three-try to two win.
Jersey, who rested key players for the trip north of the border, could only manage a penalty try, and had the Scottish championships Ayr managed to keep 15 men on the pitch for longer, they could have won by more.
This week sees a return to GKIPA Championship action.