By Richard Grainger
Greene King IPA Championship action takes a break for two weeks to make way for the first and second round of pool matches of the British & Irish Cup.
Although some Championship outfits use this competition to rotate their squad, for others it is an excellent format for pepping up a flagging season — even in mid-October. This will be the fifth season of the second tier cup competition that currently involves all 12 Championship clubs and three each from Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Leinster A are the current holders, by virtue of a 78th minute Noel Reid penalty last May, beating Newcastle Falcons 17-18 at Kingston Park.
When the B&I Cup group rounds conclude in mid-January, the winners of the six groups, plus the two best runners-up will line up for the quarter-finals, where the teams ranked one to four will have home advantage.
Leinster A 49, Ealing Trailfinders 8
Cup action brought no solace for the West Londoners who suffered another heavy defeat, this time at the hands of head coach Girvan Dempsey’s young side. Although Ealing never gave up, Leinster’s impressive fly-half Cathal Marsh led the rout with a try and seven conversions.
London Welsh 26, London Scottish 32
Welsh decided to host the battle of the Exiles down the road at Newbury, but paid the price for a host of errors and poor discipline that allowed their former neighbours to capitalise with six penalties. Despite scoring two tries a-piece, the former Aviva Premiership side, who had made 14 changes from their previous outing, could have no complaints at the outcome. Former England and Leicester centre, Ollie Smith, joins Welsh’s coaching staff this week.
Cornish Pirates 34, Ulster A 17
This was a vintage performance by Pirates, who won the inaugural final in 2010. A delighted assistant coach Harvey Biljon said: “Ulster had a lot of Heineken Cup experience and are a tough outfit.” Pirates were made to work hard for their win but dominated the final quarter and secured the bonus point when Matt Evans ran home from 40 metres.
Cross Keys 20, Moseley 16
Cross Keys, beaten finalist two years ago, raced to a14-3 led, despite intensive early pressure from the visitors. However, Moseley, who are still looking for their first competitive win this term, almost pulled a 20-3 interval deficit back with two tries of their own. However, despite a tense finish, a bad-tempered second half will be remembered for a massive brawl and a flurry of cards from referee Mr Stuart Gaffikin.
Bristol 21, Leeds Carnegie 17
Both sides made sweeping changes but produced an entertaining encounter, despite wet and windy conditions, at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday. The hosts fought back from a 7-15 deficit, with tries from Jarad Williams and Ben Glynn.
Jersey 28, Ayr 16
Jersey were pushed all the way by their visitors whose 1200 mile round-trip did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm. However, the Scottish outfit were reduced to 13 men in the final quarter and Jersey, who were dominant in the scrum, capitalized and notched the bonus point with two late tries.
Plymouth 28, Nottingham 9
Nottingham, with three players seeing yellow at Brickfields on Friday night, were another side whose lack of discipline let them down. Albion head coach James Shanahan was delighted with his side’s performance but rued missing out on the bonus point: “It would have been good to have got the bonus point but tonight was all about winning.”
Rotherham 12, Bedford Blues 11
The Titans overcame a Bedford side determined to transform their dreadful start to the season in awful conditions at Clifton Lane on Saturday. Bedford scored the only try of the game, but four Juan Pablo Socino penalties were enough to get Rotherham the points.
Elsewhere, Munster A started strongly with a 39-8 win over Stirling County and Edinburgh Accies lost 13-53 to Pontypridd.
British & Irish Cup action continues this weekend.