Greene King IPA Championship Round 11 preview
London Welsh hold an eight-point lead at the top of the Greene King IPA Championship table going into the festive programme, which begins for the Exiles on Saturday with a home clash against local rivals London Scottish, live on Sky Sports.
Welsh were beaten 28-26 by Bedford in Round 10 – their first league loss of the season – and will be looking to put the record straight on their return to the Kassam Stadium a month after their last game there: a 28-0 win over Ealing. Scottish have enjoyed success at the expense of Welsh already this season, having come away from Monks Lane, Newbury with a 32-26 win in the B&I Cup. In their Championship-winning year of 2011/12, Welsh recorded the double over Scottish, although both were closely-fought affairs with Scottish claiming a losing bonus point on each occasion.
Scottish are currently in a four-way tie for second place with Yorkshire duo, Rotherham Titans and Leeds Carnegie, and Bristol Rugby. On paper, Bristol would appear to have the easiest task of the weekend, as they travel to west London to play basement side Ealing. Bristol have come unstuck against lower-ranked teams in the past though, and Ealing will be buoyed by their first win of the season in Round 10: a 28-18 victory away to Jersey. On Friday they defeated Moseley 21-18 in the B&I Cup to get their home campaign up and running.
Moseley welcome Jersey to Billesley Common on Saturday, who parted company with head coach Ben Harvey after their loss to Ealing, leaving the visitors six points off the bottom of the table. Highly-rated forwards coach Steve Boden has been overseeing team affairs since then. Moseley won 23-19 in last season's corresponding fixture.
Boxing Day's double bill features the West Country showdown between Cornish Pirates and Plymouth Albion, while high-flying Rotherham are up against last season's beaten finalists Bedford. Pirates won narrowly in both of last season's cross-Tamar derbies: 19-17 on home soil and 9-5 in monsoon-like conditions in the return match at Brickfields.
For the second season running Rotherham and Bedford play each other on Boxing Day. Twelve months ago it was the Blues who took the points after a 22-16 win at Goldington Road. Earlier that year James McKinney's late penalty earned the Titans three points from a thrilling 38-38 draw at Clifton Lane. The sides have already met once at Clifton Lane this term, Juan Pablo Socino kicking all of the Titans' points in a 12-11 win in the B&I Cup.
Bristol's match against Moseley on Saturday December 28th completes a hectic schedule of five games in 20 days for Andy Robinson's men. Moseley achieved the double over Bristol last season to continue their fine record over the West Country outfit since the sides came together at this level: Moseley have won five and drawn one of the last nine meetings.
Revenge will be on the minds of Leeds Carnegie's players when they take on Nottingham on Saturday 28th in front of the Sky Sports cameras. Carnegie began the season with an opening day 24-16 defeat against the Green & Whites at Castle Park, Doncaster in what is widely viewed as their worst performance of the season. But they have improved immeasurably since then and are currently on a four-game winning streak in all competitions.
Round 11 fixtures (December 21-28)
Saturday December 21
Moseley v Jersey RFC, KO 15:00
Ealing Trailfinders v Bristol Rugby, KO 15:00
London Welsh v London Scottish, KO 17:00 (Live on Sky Sports HD)
Thursday December 26
Rotherham Titans v Bedford Blues
Cornish Pirates v Plymouth Albion
Saturday December 28
Leeds Carnegie v Nottingham Rugby, KO 14:00 (Live on Sky Sports HD)
Bristol Rugby v Moseley, KO 15:00