By Richard Grainger
A CHAMPIONSHIP club is guaranteed a place in this year’s final of the British and Irish Cup; and it is little surprise that they will meet one of the Irish Provincial ‘A’ sides.
Although this was principally a British and Irish Cup weekend for the five Championship sides who had made it through to the knock-out stages, one re-arranged league encounter leaves two of the four Championship play-off places wide open.
Leeds took on Moseley at Billesley Common and controlled the play in the first half, turning round 26-3 ahead, with the bonus point already in the bag.
However, head coach Diccon Edwards was less than happy with his side’s second half performance as Moseley, showing the gritty determination they have displayed all season, pushed all the visitors all the way.
Once again, poor discipline proved to be Carnegie’s achilles heel, and two yellows allowed the Midlanders to dominate the second period.
Leeds scrum-half Craig Hampson scarpered over inside four minutes then Steve McColl crossed twice for the visitors. When Josh Griffin burst through a massive hole to secure the bonus point before the end of the first quarter, it looked like being a long afternoon for Kevin Maggs’ men.
But tries from Ryan Glynn and Sam Dickinson, converted by Ollie Thomas, who added a penalty, hauled the deficit back to six points, and it took a penalty from Rory Clegg five minutes from time, to settle Yorkshire nerves.
This leaves Carnegie three points ahead of Bristol with two games to play. However, Leeds face Bedford and Nottingham, the former a point above them, with a game in hand, and the latter already with a play-off berth.
Bristol meet London Scottish away and Newcastle at home on the final day of the regular season. This one could go right to the wire.
Newcastle disposed of a below strength Nottingham in their B&I Cup quarter-final clash, running in 11 tries at Kingston Park. Jimmy Gopperth was the star of the show with a classy individual try, a penalty and six conversions. When he made way for understudy Joel Hodgson with 11 minutes remaining, the promising youngster found time to ink two tries and a conversion beside his own name.
Bedford kept alive prospects of silverware with a sterling second half performance at Goldington Road on Saturday, virtually denying visitors Llanelli any use of the ball.
Turning round a 13-15 deficit, the Blues’ scrum gained the ascendancy, errors were reduced, and the home side made better use of the ball to win 32-18.
It was two tries apiece, but 22 points from Jake Sharp’s boot put daylight between the teams.
Defensive inaccuracy once again proved to be Bristol’s undoing against Leinster ‘A’ at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday.
In an entertaining game, Bristol leaked four tries, although the outcome was in the balance until Fionn Carr danced over for Leinster’s fourth late on. Minutes later, Ross Johnston crossed for Bristol’s second, but this was little other than consolation.
“It was a good game of rugby, but, of course, we were disappointed with the scoreboard at the end,” Director of Rugby Andy Robinson told the Bristol website. “There were a some young guys playing today and I was pleased with the effort. We’re disappointed because we want to win every game, but I’m pleased with elements that we can build on.”
Finally, Cornish hearts were broken when Munster ‘A’ winger wing Ronan O’Mahony touched down in the fourth minute of injury time to finally kill off a massive defensive effort from the Pirates at the Mennaye Field on Sunday. The Cornishmen, who had two players sin-binned, bowed out of the competition, losing 9-10 to the title holders.
Leinster ‘A’ will meet Munster ‘A’ the semi-final on the same weekend Munster travel to play Clermont in the Semi-Final of the Heineken Cup.
The other semi final sees Bedford Blues host Newcastle Falcons. Both games will take place over the weekend of April 26/27/28, and the winners of the Bedford v Newcastle game will host the final.
Follow Richard Grainger on Twitter @maverickwriter