by Richard Grainger
Two points separate the top four sides with eight rounds remaining in the first stage of the Greene King IPA Championship. And with London Scottish trailing the pack by just five points, it looks like a five horse race for the play-offs.
Exiles’ power and pace too much for Titans
London Welsh 47, Rotherham Titans 16
The Exiles picked this top-of-the-league clash to bounce back from defeat at Plymouth with their most ebullient performance of the season. Rotherham, who began the day at the top of the table, surrendered a ten-match winning streak to a Welsh side anxious to put memories of their nightmare trip to Devon behind them.
The Exiles took the game to Rotherham from the off and had complete control by the interval with tries from Nathan Trevett, Richard Thorpe, James Tideswell and the prolific Seb Stegmann to take a 26-9 lead into the dressing room.
Stegmann added a second after the turnaround, and tries from lock Peter Browne and Alan Awcock took the Exiles close to the half-century mark. The league’s top scorers could only muster three penalties from an off-form Juan Pablo Socini and a late consolation try from Marshall Gadd.
But the question remains for head coach Justin Burrell: which Exiles side will take the pitch against Cornish Pirates at the Mennaye Field next weekend — the one who dispatched Leeds and Rotherham or the one who were unraveled at Brickfields?
Trailfinders’ trouble deepens as Carnegie canter clear
Ealing Trailfinders 11, Leeds Carnegie 46
Leeds, who are now tied with Bristol and Rotherham on 52 points, were another side to notch seven tries.
Trailfinders were briefly in contention when Phil Chesters, the league’s fifth highest try scorer, collected Ben Ward’s cross-kick to touch down in the corner and reduce an early deficit to 5-7. Thereafter, it was all Carnegie who, despite the miserable conditions at Vallis Way on Saturday, played attractive rugby to help inflict a milestone on Ealing that they will quickly want to forget: this drubbing, brought up 500 points conceded this season.
Ealing will not be putting roses on the table for Bedford’s Valentine’s Day visit to Vallis Way, as this is a match they must win if they are to entertain any realistic hopes of Championship survival.
Jersey 17, Nottingham 13
Burroughs buries Green and Whites with last gasp try
As if things weren’t bad enough for Ealing, they also had to digest the news that a last-minute try for Jersey meant the gap between the relegation battlers has grown to six points.
Head coach Martin Haag’s men looked good for the points leading 10-13 at St Peter on Saturday, until local man Jack Burroughs crossed in the corner in the final play.
“We should have been further ahead,” said Haag, whose side played into the gale in the first period. “The boys played exceptionally well in the first half.”
Haag didn’t think much of the decision to show prop Harry Williams yellow, but if Matt Jarvis had brought his kicking boots, Burroughs’ try would only have left Jersey with a losing bonus point.
Brave Blues’ fightback not enough
Bedford 19, Bristol 32
Bristol sit in fourth slot but with a game in hand thanks to this win over Bedford at the Memorial Ground on Saturday; but it wasn’t as comfortable as the score suggests.
The hosts raced to a 15-0 lead after 27 minutes only for the Blues to hit back with three tries and briefly seize a 15-19 lead with 30 minutes left on the clock. However, director of rugby Andy Robinson’s men kicked on with three more unanswered tries in the final quarter to bank their tenth league win.
Sleepy Scottish still too good for plucky Plymouth
London Scottish 38, Plymouth Albion 27
London Scottish were another side to establish a commanding position only for early dominance to dissipate, as Albion fought back at the Athletic Ground on Saturday. The hosts were good for their 19-0 first quarter lead then went to sleep and allowed Plymouth to hit back with 27 unanswered points either side of half-time. But ultimately the Scottish woke from their slumber and killed off any hopes of back-to-back wins against top five opponents for the Plymouth. Yellow cards for Rhys Oakley and Lloyd Fairbrother in the final quarter made their task considerably easier.
Moseley’s predicted draw against the Cornish Pirates at Billesley Common on Friday night will have to wait, as the pitch was deemed unplayable.