By Richard Grainger
WINTERY CONDITIONS decimated the last week of pool stage action in the British & Irish Cup. Although seven of the 16 matches were postponed, all but two pools have been decided.
Bizarrely, despite five wins from five, Bristol still require one point from Sunday’s postponed fixture against Cardiff at the Memorial Stadium to progress from Pool 1.
Despite two defeats, the Ulster Ravens, whose game against Bridgend was also called off, could top the pool with a bonus-point win in Wales.
Bedford’s clash with Bedwas, who they beat 23-48 back in October, was also a victim of the big freeze. However, the Blues have already qualified from Pool 2 with home advantage assured in the quarter-finals.
However, home advantage will depend on other results for the Cornish Pirates, who slipped up against a confident Carmarthen Quins. The Welsh Premiership side were deserving of their 17-12 win, Pirates head coach Ian Davies conceded.
Despite the Cornishmen outscoring the hosts with two tries from Alex Cheeseman and Rob Elloway to one from a fine backs’ move finished by Jason Harries, a high penalty count swung the game the way of the Welshmen.
James Dixon was on target with three shots at goal, and when Gavin Cattle went to the bin for a bout of injudicious footwork, Jack Maynard slotted the resultant penalty from the halfway line in the 74th minute to secure victory.
Cross Keys will have to wait for the weather to improve before they enjoy a visit to Kingston Park. However, that will not alter the outcome of Pool 4 as Newcastle Falcons have already qualified with home advantage for the knock-out stage.
Leeds had to change the venue twice for their meeting with Pool 5 leaders, Leinster A.
The match, which produced an entertaining 30-30 draw, was eventually played on a 3G artificial surface at West Park.
Leeds head coach Diccon Edwards was another to express anguish at the referee; in particular, for an incident near the end where the ball appeared to have been illegally slapped from the Carnegie scrum-half’s hands.
However, Leeds were in the driving seat until Leinster’s Leo Auva touched down towards the end to secure the draw and qualify the Dublin side for the quarter-finals.
Neither Leeds nor Jersey, whose visit to Pontypridd was postponed, will play any further part in this year’s competition.
It was ‘get your slide rule out’ time at Parc y Scarlets as wing Kyle Evans sprinted in for two of six tries as Llanelli bagged the bonus-point win they needed to progress from Pool 6.
“We have got to be delighted with that,” head of rugby Anthony Buchanan told the Llanelli website. “This pool has been really competitive and we always felt it was within our grasp.
Their 40-17 defeat was a blow for Championship relegation candidates Moseley who had led the pool going into round six, and had beaten the Welsh outfit 36-26 at Billesley Common in October.
Both sides finished on 19 points but Llanelli were superior by 48 points and this was enough to clinch the pool.
Aberavon’s trip to Rotherham on Saturday was another victim of the weather. However, reigning champions Munster A’s 15-0 win over Plymouth Albion means that the Irishmen progress to the next stage and Rotherham will play no further part, whatever the outcome of their re-arranged fixture.
Despite only trailing by 0-3 at the break, Albion never seriously looked like producing a shock result in Cork. Corey Hircock and South African flanker CJ Stander touched down for the hosts to add to Scott Deasy’s first half penalty.
Munster, who were down to 13 men at one stage in the first half, top Pool 7 with 23 points, and look a good bet to retain the trophy.
And finally, it’s slide rules out again for Pool 8, the only other group still to produce a qualifier.
When Nottingham play their re-arranged match against Llandovery, the home side will require a bonus-point win and for the Welsh team to leave Meadow Lane with nothing.
Not only that, the Green and Whites will need to finish the match 19 points ahead of the visitors to reverse an inferior points difference.
Championship action resumes this weekend and the one to watch in round 14 will be Nottingham against Bedford at Meadow Lane on Sunday. The match kicks off at 2.45 and is live on Sky Sports 1.
Follow Richard on Twitter @maverickwriter