By Richard Grainger
JUST FOUR points separate the top four clubs, while a relegation dogfight finally gets underway at the other end of the table, following the final matches in week 12 of the Greene King IPA Championship.
Nottingham 27, Ealing Trailfinders 28
Trailfinders find path to victory at Meadow Lane
Despite a hat-trick from skipper Brent Wilson at Meadow Lane on Sunday, Nottingham slipped to their eighth defeat as Ealing fashioned a second win with three first half tries and epic defence after the break. Sides in the relegation zone target their home games, but Ealing have given their survival hopes a massive boost with away wins against the two teams ahead of them. With Jersey and Nottingham still to visit Vallis Way in the spring, the division’s new boys now have every chance of securing a second season of GKIPA rugby.
Ronnie McLean scored a brace for the visitors, and the prolific Phil Chesters crossed for Ealing’s third before the break. Leading 15-25 at the turnaround, Trailfinders had to weather the predicted Nottingham storm, but Ben Ward’s penalty meant that Wilson’s third try was only sufficient to give the Green and Whites a losing bonus point.
Jersey 26, London Welsh 33
Welsh return to winning ways
Jersey’s spirited late fightback wasn’t quite enough to inflict a third consecutive defeat on London Welsh, whose win at St Peter on Saturday retuned them to the top of the division.
Mitch Lees crashed over for the Exiles in the fourth minute then Joe Ajuna barged through heavy traffic to score eleven minutes later. Alex Davies was on target with the conversions and rounded off Mike Denbee’s 26th minute try to give the visitors a commanding 21-0 lead.
Head coach Justin Burrell was happy with the Exiles’ win saying: “It was all about performance for us today and for 60 minutes we got a performance which had been lacking over the last couple of weeks.”
But it took four second-half penalties from Davies to stave off a spirited Jersey comeback that gathered momentum with a yellow card for No 8 Oli Stedman. Jersey pressure at scrum-time led to a penalty try to bring them within seven and secure a valuable bonus point.
Rotherham 35, Cornish Pirates 30
Pirates pulled back as Titans tighten tackles
The award for comeback of the week goes to Rotherham who chased down a deficit of 24-0 to bag a bonus point win at Clifton Road on Saturday.
The Cornishmen were 24-0 ahead after 27 minutes thanks to tries from Craig Holland, Tom Riley and Tom Kessell, all converted by Holland, who also banged over a penalty in the second minute.
However, the introduction of Laurence Pearce stiffened the hosts’ collective backbone and put some resolve into Rotherham’s soft-shouldered defence. Pearce crossed to get the Titans’ side of the scoreboard moving before Jack Roberts finished off a breath-taking Rotherham counter-attack. Then inspirational hooker Ben Sowrey completed Michael Keating’s break to cut the visitors’ lead to two before Keating himself dotted down for Juan Pablo Socina to convert. Pablo, the division’s top points scorer by a country mile, then added two further penalties to sink the Pirates.
Plymouth Albion 14, Leeds Carnegie 15
Leeds survive drop goal attempts at death
Plymouth pushed third placed Leeds all the way and almost secured victory when Declan Cusack’s second late long range drop goal attempt passed inches beneath the bar.
In an uninspiring game at Brickfields, which Leeds head coach Jimmy Lowes felt was marred by Albion being allowed to slow Carnegie ball down, the hosts scored the only try of the clash when scrum-half Ruairi Cushion crossed from a five-metre scrum.
Carnegie’s points came from five Glyn Hughes penalties.
The GKIPA Championship takes a two-week break for a return to British & Irish Cup action.