By Richard Grainger
IT WAS a good weekend for the Championship clubs in the British & Irish Cup, with wins for eight out of the twelve sides from the division, six now lead their pool at the half way stage of the first phase of the competition. And it looks as if at least four — Bristol, Bedford, the Cornish Pirates and Newcastle — are on track for a place in the quarter-finals.
Despite losing 18-13 at Gala on Saturday, Moseley, already in a relegation battle in the Championship, gained a valuable bonus point, keeping them ahead of the pack in Pool 7.
Also in that pool are fellow Championship strugglers London Scottish, who beat Llanelli 24-15 on Sunday at the Athletic ground with tries from Mark Bright, Miles Mantella and Jim Thompson. The visitors responded with two late tries but the Exiles enthralled their small band of supporters by continuing the mini-revival enjoyed against Moseley two weeks ago.
In Pool 1, Bristol, who hammered the Exiles last weekend, were equally rampant at Bridgend, beating the Ravens 8-32 at the Riverside Hardware Brewery Field on Saturday. Alafoti Faosiliva, who has now scored four tries in two games for his new club, was on the score sheet along with from George Watkins and Matt Williams (2).
Bedford lead the way in Pool 2 following their 12-62 thrashing of Neath. The visitors scored nine tries to the two scored by the five-time Welsh Premiership champions, with James Pritchard contributing 27 points with the boot.
The Pirates, whose form has been inconsistent in the Championship, disposed of Swansea 27-9 at the Mennaye Field on Sunday to lead Pool 3. Joe Buckle and Laurie McGlone crossed the whitewash for the hosts and Keiron Hallett added a conversion and five penalties. Sam Davies made the only marks on the board, striking three penalties for the Whites.
In Pool 4, the Falcons extended their winning run in all forms of competition to 14 games with a 10-26 win at Newport on Saturday. Despite notching the bonus point with tries from Jimmy Gopperth (2) Richard Mayhew and a penalty try, once again Head Coach Dean Richards was far from happy.
“We’ll have to look at the video and try and work out why some decisions were made,” Richards told the Newcastle website, adding: “I thought we played well in the first-half and we looked reasonably good, but in the second-half some of the refereeing decisions upset us a little bit.”
Despite scoring four tries, Leeds went down 24-30 to Pontypridd on Sunday.
Pontypridd, who have only lost one game this season, defeated Leinster in their last Cup game. The reigning Principality Premiership Champions are joint leaders of Pool 5 and favourites to progress from to the quarter-finals.
Above them in third place are Jersey, who lost 12-16 to Leinster A at St. Peter on Saturday. Despite Jersey’s dominant pack helping them to a 12-6 interval lead, the Irishmen hit back with two unconverted tries in three minutes to gave a them a narrow lead that they managed to hold on to.
It was two tries a-piece at the Talbot Athletic Ground on Saturday, but Paul Robert’s 78th minute penalty secured the win for Plymouth over Aberavon to give the visitors their first victory in the competition this season.
Rotherham may be flying high in the Championship, but they were brought down to earth by a classy Munster A. Despite only trailing by a point at the break, the Titans could only manage one converted try to Munster’s three in the second period and finished 21-36 points adrift at Clifton Lane.
With a 13-16 win over Llandovery at Church Bank on Saturday, Doncaster, another side finding life tough in the Championship this season, are joint leaders of Pool 8. It was 13-13 until the dying moments when Jamie Lennard slotted the winning penalty for the Knights.
Finally, Nottingham were rampant with a nine-try mauling of Scottish top-flight champions Melrose, at Meadow Park on Saturday. The Green and Whites had crossed the visitors’ line four times before the half hour mark. And thanks to fellow table-toppers Doncaster’s win, Nottingham aren’t out of the running in Pool 8 yet.
The reverse of these fixtures will be played this weekend, with a return to Championship action over the festive period.
Follow Richard Grainger on Twitter @maverickwriter