With wintry conditions decimating the Championship’s week 20 programme once again, at least one thing was decided – no one can catch Bristol in Stage One, writes Richard Grainger.
Bristol romped home 48-13 winners in front of 4322 at the Memorial Stadium to secure a bonus point win and dash any hopes that Moseley might have held of completing the double over the league leaders.
With a lead of 10 points over the Cornish Pirates – who failed to secure the bonus point yesterday against Rotherham – this means that Bristol go into their final two Stage One matches in the knowledge that they don’t even need a point to take pole position in the play-offs. They are now guaranteed three points and will face fourth, fifth and eighth-placed sides when Stage Two begins on the weekend commencing 9th March. Check out the highlights below…
Moseley contributed to an entertaining game but could not live with Bristol who registered tries from Ross Johnston, Fautua Otto, Marco Mama, Will Helu, Matt Williams and completed a dominant afternoon with a penalty try. Moseley replied with two Glyn Hughes penalties and a well-taken try from Anthony Carter. Bristol go into the play-offs with wins over every other Championship side.
As predicted last week, another scintillating contest at Molesey Road on Saturday resulted in the second win for resurgent Esher over London Scottish.
Esher, who were in control for most of the match, have laid down a marker to co-habitants of the relegation zone that they will be no pushover come the 9th March.
Ryan Western broke away to open the scoring for the Exiles shortly after Esher flanker Peter Synnott had surprised everybody by assuming the kicking responsibilities, opening the scoring with a penalty.
Scottish took full advantage when Sam Stitcher was sent to the sin bin and drove Esher’s pack over the line for Mark Bright to touch down. But Esher recovered from a half-time 3-14 deficit, and two tries from Phil McKenzie and a third from Man of the Match Synnott underlined their superiority.
Coach Mike Schmid was delighted with the win, while Exiles’ player-coach Simon Amor praised Esher’s attacking ability and felt that his side had simply run out of tackles.
Also on Saturday, Bedford notched a bonus point win over Plymouth Albion at Goldington Road. For the second week running the match was in doubt but an army of Blues fans turned out to clear the pitch preceding what coach Mike Rayer described as not just a team performance, but a performance from the whole town.
Albion played their part in the encounter with late tries from Sione Ipulotu and Paul Bailey, but the Blues controlled the proceedings up until the last ten minutes. A brace of tries from James Pritchard, added to touchdowns from Mike Howard and Mark Kohler were enough to see them hold onto third spot. They are a point behind the Pirates, who entertain Bristol this Sunday in a game of massive significance to the hosts, as is the Blues’ trip to Moseley.
The Pirates travelled to Clifton Lane yesterday and despite scoring in the second minute when Dave Ward was driven over, could not secure that vital bonus point. The best they can do now is to finish Stage One as runners-up, but Bedford and the London Welsh will have something to say about that. 463 fans turned up to watch the re-arranged fixture in which Rotherham went down 14-19. Coach Andre Bester was philosophical, reflecting that many of his players hadn’t played for a month due to cancellations.
The match between London Welsh and Doncaster at the Old Deer Park was postponed for the second time, and Leeds had their trip to Nottingham called off. The Green and Whites are scheduled to take on Doncaster at Meadow Lane tomorrow night at 7.45, should the weather permit. Leeds host Esher on Sunday in what should be a fascinating encounter and will tell Esher how far they have come.
For where this leaves things, click here: http://clubs.rfu.com/Fixtures/MatchByDivision.aspx?DivID=130433319