CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND-UP – ROUND 20…or not…as was the case.
With a fairness seldom seen in any sport, the return of winter managed to wipe out the entire Championship programme last weekend, writes Richard Grainger.
And with foresight not normally attributable to the RFU, this weekend was left as a reserve date, should it be necessary for any clubs to catch up on cancellations. And so the whole of week 20’s fixtures have been re-arranged for one week hence.
With heavy snow blanketing most of England, especially in the south, matches scheduled for Friday at Bristol, Rotherham and Bedford were the first casualties of the freeze.
The remaining fixtures at the Old Deer Park, Esher and Nottingham were later called off. Bedford used the postponement to fit in some extra training and even found time to share this on YouTube:
This being the only Championship rugby related activity on offer last weekend, I thought it worthy of inclusion. In the old days, a cancellation would have allowed us to adjourn to the club bar for a drunken afternoon watching the internationals followed by a curry and a few more beers. How times have changed.
Third-placed Bedford’s match against Plymouth Albion has been re-scheduled for Saturday at 2pm. Plymouth, third from bottom, are capable of causing an upset or two, as they showed with a comfortable home win over Leeds. With all sorts of trouble off the pitch, cash-strapped Albion are fighting every inch of the way to stay in the Championship. To review recent developments at Brickfields, follow this link.
Moseley travel to leaders Bristol on Sunday with a mathematical chance of catching Nottingham, who still need a point for a place in the top eight, and avoiding the relegation scrap. However, Bristol should breeze past the finish line ahead of the visitors, especially as many recent signings will be keen to make an impact.
Also on Sunday, Nottingham are at home to the inconsistent Leeds – currently in fifth place. Carnegie have only won four times away from home but should start as favourites, particularly as Nottingham have only managed five home wins this season. Leeds are targeting a place in the top four which would give them two points to take into the play-offs.
So too are London Welsh, currently in fourth slot, and they play hosts to Doncaster on Sunday. The Exiles will be looking for their seventh win on the trot, and start in pole position, although their home record is unremarkable. It would have been even worse had they not managed to close out a couple of tight encounters.
Rotherham, who have an enviable home record with eight wins already under their belts, take on the Cornish Pirates – whose away record is dire – at Clifton Lane on Saturday. Although the Pirates are sitting in second place, the Titans should shade this one.
Finally, the league’s two bottom sides meet when Esher take on London Scottish at Molesey Road on Saturday at 3pm. Esher, whose Chairman of Rugby is John Inverdale, have only recorded one Championship win this term against Rotherham on New Year’s Eve. This could be the clash of the weekend, as both clubs are now guaranteed a place in the relegation play-offs and will be keen to build some form going into stage two.
Just to remind you, this is how the table currently stands.