By Richard Grainger
BRISTOL PICKED up a valuable bonus-point win over Rotherham with relative ease, watched by their new director of Rugby, Andy Robinson.
The former Scotland national coach’s first day at work will be on March 1st, when he will take up the reigns in a newly created role, working alongside head coach Liam Middleton.
“I am delighted to be joining Bristol Rugby at such an exciting time for the club,” Robinson said. “Our immediate objective is to achieve promotion back to the Aviva Premiership as soon as possible.”
Bristol chairman Chris Booy told a press conference that there is plenty of ambition at the Memorial Ground. The club, backed by Guernsey-based businessman Steve Lansdown, also have plans to groundshare with Bristol City Football Club. This would mean either moving to a refurbished Ashton Vale or to a new arena at Ashton gate, which would provide them with the largest rugby stadium in the country.
Not only that, last week Bristol announced the arrival of four current Premiership players and have more big-money signings in the pipeline.
Bristol galloped to a 25-6 lead at the Memorial Ground on Sunday, with tries from George Watkins and Ryan Edwards to add to a penalty try.
But with 20 minutes to go, the Titans staged a comeback, and tries from Joe Ellyat and James McKinney made it a five-point game with ten minutes remaining before Luke Eves sealed it for Bristol and secured the bonus point.
Bristol’s 30-20 win sees them move back into fourth place, trading places with the Cornish Pirates who lost 17-20 at the Mennaye Field on Sunday to the current form side, London Scottish.
It came as no real surprise that the Exiles, who recorded their fourth straight win, did the double over the Cornishmen away from home.
But the hosts led 10-0 at the break thanks to a Matt Evans try converted by Kieran Hallett who also added a penalty.
Either side of half time, Scottish had two men in the sin bin, and when Evans scored his second and Hallett added the extras to give Pirates a 17-0 lead, it looked ominous for the visitors.
However James Love’s contribution of a try, two conversions and two penalties added to Mark Bright’s try, saw them home and dry.
Plymouth had to be content with two bonus-points for the second consecutive week.
Despite scoring four tries, Albion were denied the win when Paul Roberts’ touchline conversion attempt drifted wide after Canadian international Aaron Carpenter had squeezed over in the corner deep into injury time.
Plymouth’s new captain, Ruairi Cushion, was happy with his side’s performance, particularly the 11 tries that the westcountry side have scored in their last three matches.
Bedford head coach Mike Rayer conceded that his side were lucky to bag the points and gave credit to Plymouth for playing some outstanding rugby. This 27-28 victory confirms the Blues’ status in second place, although Nottingham are hard on their heels with a game in hand, having had their clash against Jersey called off.
Having last week tipped Leeds as a good outside bet to make the play-offs, they resumed their topsy-turvy season by losing to bottom-placed Doncaster 23-17 at Castle Park on Saturday.
And it could have been a whole lot worse. Leeds, who pushed league pacemakers Newcastle all the way last week, were 23-0 down by half-time.
The Knights had Jamie Lennard to thank for their win: the fly-half scored a try and kicked two conversions and three penalties.
To their credit, Carnegie managed to get back into contention and could have even nicked the game, as they forced Doncaster to defend for their lives for most of 12 minutes of injury time.
Leeds fought back with a try from the league’s top leading scorer, David Doherty, converted by Rory Clegg who also added a penalty. When the visitors were awarded a penalty try, converted by Clegg, in the 76th minute, the Headingley side secured an unlikely losing bonus-point and set things up for an edgy finish.
Leeds coach Diccon Edwards was left to ponder how his side’s poor work rate, equally dismal body language and a huge error count had gifted their Yorkshire neighbours the game.
Newcastle breezed past relegation strugglers Moseley at Kingston Park with 36-3 bonus-point win.
However, it was another performance that failed to fill head coach Dean Richards with deep joy. Despite scoring six tries, the Falcons were far from firing on all cylinders, and news from the westcountry will mean that they won’t be taking a return to the Aviva Premiership for granted until the Championship silverware is safely locked away in their trophy cabinet.
All this leaves the Championship table looking like this…
Follow Richard Grainger on Twitter @maverickwriter