By Richard Grainger
NOTTINGHAM FAILED to build on last weekend’s thrashing of Bristol, losing 29-9 to table-leaders Newcastle at Kingston Park on Friday night.
The top of the table clash lacked fizz and drama, but Newcastle’s pack once again underlined why they lead the Championship by 12 points, with flanker Mark Wilson the standout player.
The Falcons, who have only been as good as they’ve had to be this season, found themselves going into the dressing rooms at the interval with a slender one-point lead and a game to win.
However, they upped the pace in the second half and added tries from Alex Tate, Luke Fielden and a penalty try to Richard Mayhew’s first half score.
“I’m a little frustrated with how things went, and so are the players,” Head Coach Dean Richards told the Newcastle website, “but if we’re playing at 60 per cent and getting the bonus point, then there is a lot more to come from us and that’s a nice thing.”
At the other end of the table, Doncaster will be kicking themselves for relinquishing a 21-10 lead over second-placed Bedford with 70 minutes on the clock, at Castle Park on Friday night.
They still led 21-15 after nine minutes of stoppage time, but when prop Tom Davies was yellow carded, the Blues pack created pressure, and winger Josh Bassett finished off a forwards drive. Brendan Burke slotted the conversion and Knights’ coach Brett Davey was left to rue the last four minutes.
Bedford coach Mike Rayer admitted the Blues had been fortunate to emerge with the win, but praised the character of his players who played to the final whistle.
Plymouth returned to winning ways against London Scottish in dreadful conditions at Brickfields on Friday night.
Albion dominated the first half and were 12-0 ahead with tries from winger Tom Bowen and Sean-Michael Stephen after 10 minutes They could have added a third but for an illegal hit on Albion’s Sam Hocking from the Exiles’ Jim Thompson, which earned him a yellow card.
However, as is the story of their season, the Exiles were much improved in the second half, and came back from a 21-3 interval deficit to score two tries through Thompson and prop Mark Irish.
Paul Roberts’s boot separated the sides and Albion hung on to record a 24-20 win.
This was the Exiles’ fifth consecutive defeat and underlines the importance of their next outing, against fellow strugglers Moseley, in two weeks time.
Leeds made it two wins in a row with a comfortable 38-12 win over Moseley at Wharfedale on Sunday.
Carnegie, who dominated the game, had bagged the bonus point by half-time and lead 26-12. Moseley, who had held the Pirates to a 9-9 draw last weekend, were unable to cross the whitewash for a second week running, and had only four Oliver Thomas penalties to show for their efforts.
Leeds went on to add a further two tries in the second period and bounce back into fourth place in the table.
The Cornish Pirates shrugged off their Midland blues on Sunday with by thrashing Rotherham 53-21. The Titans, who have now shortened the list of candidates to replace Andre Bester as Head Coach from six to three, scored two tries through hooker Ted Stagg but conceded eight.
And finally, Liam Middleton strenuously denied that his chat with Bristol chairman Chris Booy was anything other than routine, following his side’s humiliating 63-7 defeat by Nottingham last weekend.
And Bristol’s topsy-turvy season continued with a 39-16 win over Jersey, bringing the channel islanders run of wins to an end.
Middleton, who has had the benefit of Dean Ryan’s part-time advice, told the Bristol website: “You expect a few nerves, but that’s understandable considering the ambition to do well and the need for a response after Nottingham. The way we attacked the game was more of a ‘Bristol Fashion’ display than we have seen in recent weeks.”
There’s a break from Championship action this weekend as a select RFU Championship XV take on the Maori All Blacks on Saturday at Castle Park. Kick-off is at 12.05pm and tickets can be obtained by ringing 01302 831388.
After nine rounds, the Championship table looks like this: looking like this…
Follow Richard Grainger on twitter: @maverickwriter.com