By Richard Grainger
AT THE risk of reading like the front page of the Express, the weather was the pivotal story in the GKIPA Championship this weekend. Yet despite apocryphal conditions that in some cases delayed the start or resumption of play, and in others dominated proceedings entirely, only Plymouth’s trip to Bristol on Sunday was called off.
Leeds lose pole position to pumped up Exiles
London Welsh 19, Leeds 10
Carnegie, who had not lost in the league since mid-November, arrived at a wet and wind-swept Kassam Stadium on Sunday eager to repay the Exiles for the narrow defeat they had inflicted on them at Headingley in early November.
But it was the Welsh who looked the hungrier, and duly did the double over one of the sides they are likely to meet in the play-offs, to go back to the top of the class. Going into the break with only Gordon Ross’s first minute penalty separating the sides, the Exiles emerged the sharper of the two and Ross soon doubled his side’s score with a second penalty.
However, Carnegie snatched the lead when James Doherty — who had earlier spent 10 minutes in the bin for an off the ball incident — crossed for the visitors. Glyn Hughes converted before Ross wiped out Carnegie’s lead with two further penalties.
The game was decided 15 minutes from time when Seb Stegmann collected Ross’s chip to touch down.
Titans too good for Jersey
Jersey 22, Rotherham 35
It is no mean feat to return from St Peter with a five-try bonus point win achieved in atrocious conditions and with two men sent to the bin, and this performance must surely confirm that Rotherham are serious about reaching the top flight this year.
Head coach Lee Blackett certainly thinks so. “That has to be one of our best performances of the season,” he said, “to get the win here showed a great attitude, and to get a bonus point as well was fantastic.” Titans’ tries came from Alfie To’oala, Ben Sowrey, Jamie Broadley, Sean Scanlon and Ali Birch. Jersey managed three of their own, and a late surge briefly gave the home fans hopes of two bonus points, but Rotherham were too clinical, closing out the game with a 79th minute penalty from the division’s runaway top scorer, Juan Pablo Socini.
Moseley march towards safety in mudlark
Moseley 22, Ealing 12
Two tries from Matt Williams and one each for Simon Hunt and Rhys Buckley helped put some daylight between head coach Kevin Maggs’ side and the usual basement battle Moseley have come to expect, come March.
In a game that was delayed for 15 minutes waiting for thunder, lightning and hailstones to abate, the Midlanders showed sufficient composure, playing into the elements in the first half, to turn round 10-5 ahead. Williams’ second stretched that advantage to 17-5 but when Ronnie McLean-Dents went in under the posts for Ealing and player-coach Ben Ward to convert, the Billesley Road faithful had cause for concern. But this was as close as the Trailfinders got to parity as Buckley’s last-minute try cruelly denied them a bonus point.
Blues make Nottingham pay for shoddy handling
Bedford 14, Nottingham 9
The monsoon that had delayed the kick-off at Billesley Common had made its way to Goldington Road by half time on Saturday, and Bedford made the most of the wind at their backs to overturn a 3-6 half time deficit. Head coach Martin Haag’s men were made to field a bombardment of high kicks and, much to his annoyance, made a mess of it. When Alex Shaw was send to the bin for an alleged obstruction, it was his inability to catch a high ball preceding the incident that annoyed Haag: “… all I saw was Alex dropping the ball, and I was more angry at that so I didn’t actually see what he did afterwards.”
The only try of the game came from Bedford’s Joe Vandermolen, while James Pritchard and Nottingham’s Matthew Jarvis slotted three penalties a-piece.
Pirates sunk in Richmond thunderstorm
London Scottish 25, Cornish Pirates 6
This four-try bonus point win at the Athletic Ground on Saturday pushes Scottish back into third slot, level on points with Bristol, who have a game in hand, and Leeds.
Pirates, who were totally out-played in the second half, could only manage two Kieran Hallett penalties, and slide to sixth place.
The game ended in a thunderstorm of biblical proportions, which infiltrated the visitors’ dressing room where Pirates’ new Director of Rugby, Ian Davies, told his players to expect changes next week.