Another pulsating weekend of Championship rugby leaves only 15 points between the leaders and the 9th placed team in the division, writes Richard Grainger.
In a topsy-turvy round of matches, no clear pattern of rightful succession to the Premiership court is emerging, but any team in the top half could be the heir apparent.
Bristol still top the division despite a 44-6 rout away at Rotherham, who continue to humble league leaders.
ROTHERHAM 44, BRISTOL 6
Rotherham, who have already beaten Bedford and London Welsh, led by 22-6 at the break but pulled away in the second half with tries by Robin Copeland and Shane Monahan (2). Liam Middleton’s team could only muster two Matty James penalties in reply.
Garry Law was prolific with the boot and his 24 points and helped to ensure that the second period was largely one-way traffic.
Middleton, whose Bristol side was impressive against London Welsh last Friday, conceded that their performance was unacceptable.BEDFORD 28, LEEDS 45
In the surprise result of the weekend, Leeds battled to overcome Bedford in a pulsating match away from home.
Bedford coach Mike Rayer was quoted in The Rugby Paper: “We ended up having our asses kicked on our own patch and that hurts.”
What must have hurt all the more was that Leeds were hardly in the game for the first 20 minutes, had two players yellow-carded and saw Bedford pick up the four try bonus point before them. That they still came away with a win speaks volumes. Leeds’ five tries came from Ford, Steve McColl (2) Iain Thornley – on loan from Sale – and Robbie Shaw.
Coach Diccon Edwards cited good discipline and a strong team ethic in the face of the early Bedford onslaught as the foundation for their success.
PLYMOUTH ALBION 21, MOSELEY 20
Arriving at Brickfields 35 minutes before kick-off didn’t seem to hinder Moseley who started the stronger of these bottom-four placed teams.
A try by Anthony Carter after four minutes, converted by winger Ollie Thomas gave them the perfect start.
Chevvy Pennycook’s try shortly before the break was converted by Thomas to give the visitors a 14-8 interval lead.
Plymouth’s James Love had kept the home side in touch with a penalty and a fine individual try just before the half-time whistle.
Love and Thomas each kicked two penalties before the decisive penalty try was awarded in the 73rd minute that settled the outcome in Plymouth’s favour.
Moseley coach, the former Irish International centre Kevin Maggs had no complaints about the decision, and was happy with referee Michael Tutty’s game.
Plymouth’s Graham Dawe – never one to get too excited about referees’ decisions – said: “ It was a good call, but I probably wouldn’t have given it myself”. Graham Dawe refereeing – now that would be a thing!
LONDON WELSH 17, CORNISH PIRATES 17
Despite grounds that fall well short of a welcome mat into the Premiership, both these teams have serious aspirations of dining at rugby’s top table.
The critical factor in this encounter was the sin-binning of Pirates’ flanker Chris Morgan, who departed deep into the last quarter for not releasing. (Richie McCaw, please take note!)
However, with the Cornishmen leading 17-8 and very much in control, it was the visitors who were by far the more disappointed at the outcome.
In a pulsating and sometimes error-strewn match, the Pirates build a 14-point lead that should have been the springboard for victory. First half tries by Jonny Bentley and winger Grant Pointer were converted by Rob Cook in reply to an unconverted Rob Lewis try for the Welsh.
Cook stretched the lead with a penalty in the 62nd minute, but Exiles’ replacement fly half Alex Davies chipped over two kicks to keep the home side in touch and then leveled the match by landing a monster from over forty yards in the 73rd minute.
Exiles head coach Lyn Jones expressed his relief with his side’s two points and felt pleased that they had managed to restrict the Pirates so effectively. For the Pirates it was two points gone west – or perhaps east.
ESHER 20, DONCASTER 29
Having said how difficult it is to predict the final status of teams in this division, one thing looks pretty clear: on the evidence of this performance, Esher will be scrapping for survival and not promotion, come the play-offs.
A four-try bonus point win for the visitors owed more than a little to Esher’s cat-flap defence, and left director of rugby Mike Schmid with plenty to work on – an hour’s tackling practice for starters.
Although they were first on the scoreboard through a Doncaster error, punished by Canadian Philip Mackenzie, there was little else for the small home crowd to cheer until Robin Boot crossed in the 75th minute.
By then, with tries for the Knights from Michael Keating (2), Latu Maka’afi and ex-Esher winger Douglas Flockhart, it was all over bar the shouting.
And with only 837 in attendance, that probably didn’t disturb the locals too much.
NOTTINGHAM 33 LONDON SCOTTISH 31
Another belter of a game.
London Scottish, have recently been boosted by the on-loan London Irish pairing of Guy Armitage (brother of Delon and Steffon) and David Sasi, a talented No8, in addition to Elliot Daly, on loan from Wasps.
Despite these classy new inclusions the Green and Whites led 23-6 at the break, but a second half fightback led to a pulsating final quarter.
Pressure from the visitors forced Nottingham into a huge third quarter error count that resulted in a try by Agustin Gosio, converted by James Brown and a debut try from Armitage. This was followed by a penalty by Brown that briefly gave the visitors the lead.
However, No8 Alex Shaw rounded off a 30 metre forward drive with a try that not only gave Nottingham the win but a bonus point.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK: Leeds away win at Bedford
LOW POINT OF THE WEEK: Leeds 16 penalties and 2 yellow cards at Bedford
AVERAGE PENALTIES CONCEDED: 8.5
TOTAL VISITS TO SIN BIN: 6
AVERAGE ATTENDANCE: 1816
TOP TRY SCORER: Ed Jackson (L. Welsh) 8
TOP POINTS SCORER: James Love (P. Albion) 145
ONE TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND:
If you’re looking for fireworks, forgot the 5th November and watch Leeds Carnegie take on Nottingham at Headingly on Sunday
Well that’s all for this week. It’s all bubbling up quite nicely in the Championship.