Greene King IPA Championship Round 16 preview
The next round of Greene King IPA Championship fixtures begins with what appears to be a 'must-win' game for Ealing Trailfinders against Bedford Blues at Vallis Way on Friday night.
Bottom-of-the table Ealing have yet to pick up a single point on home soil, Leeds Carnegie being the latest side to come away from a trip to west London with the spoils of victory following Saturday's crushing 46-11 win. Last season's National One champions have found try-scoring hard to come by at home, too, mustering just seven scores compared to 14 on the road.
The good news for Ealing is that Bedford Blues have not travelled well this term, Mike Rayer's men winning just once in eight games away from Goldington Road and conceding 237 points in the process – the second highest total in the league behind Friday night's opponents.
Blues had to come from behind to beat Ealing when the sides met on October 27, two tries from Ollie Dodge helping them to a 31-14 victory.
Rotherham's position at the top of the Championship table was short-lived after they were well beaten by London Welsh at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday. The Exiles leapfrogged the Titans into first place as a result of the 47-16 win, with Leeds second and Rotherham now third going into Saturday's fixture against London Scottish.
To stay in play-off contention fifth-placed Scottish realistically need to win at Clifton Lane for the first time in two years. The Titans did the double over Scottish last season, although both were closely-fought affairs with the Exiles picking up a losing bonus point on each occasion. This season's clash at the Athletic Ground could not have been closer either, the Titans achieving the narrowest of victories (24-23) thanks, in part, to a brace of tries from hooker Tom Cruse.
Last weekend's 38-27 defeat to London Scottish means Plymouth have still to achieve back-to-back wins this season. But Albion, having got their Brickfields account up and running in tremendous style against London Welsh a fortnight ago, will fancy their chances of making it two home wins on the spin against 11th-placed Jersey. Equally, Jersey will be buoyed by Saturday's narrow win at home to Nottingham - their first win in seven attempts in the league. This will be the third time the sides have met this season, Plymouth having won both previous encounters despite trailing at half-time. Albion scored four tries in the final 25 minutes to win 41-27 on the opening day of the season at Sandy Park and followed it up with a 23-18 win at St Peter.
Sunday's triple bill could be significant in terms of the standings at the top end of the table as London Welsh, Leeds Carnegie and fourth-placed Bristol are all in action. Carnegie would appear to have the easier of the tasks, on paper at least, as they are at home to Moseley, while Bristol and Welsh must travel to Nottingham and Cornish Pirates respectively - the latter game being shown live on Sky Sports. Leeds are on a 12-game winning streak in the league against Moseley, who they beat 27-18 at Billesley Common back in October.
Of the 15 matches played since Bristol were demoted to this level four years ago, Bristol have won nine to Nottingham's five and there has been one draw. Bristol scored five tries to win 33-18 when the sides met at the Memorial Stadium in Round 5.
London Welsh enjoyed a comfortable 41-6 success when they last played Pirates at home. First half tries from Seb Jewell and Carl Kirwan saw the home side take a commanding 20-6 lead into half-time, with Rob Lewis' 47th minute try all but ending the game as a contest. Welsh wrapped up the bonus point through Andy Titterrell with Tom May's intercept try adding the icing eight minutes from time. All Pirates could muster in reply was two Kieran Hallett penalties.
Round 16 fixtures
Friday February 14
Ealing Trailfinders v Bedford Blues, KO 19:45
Saturday February 15
Rotherham v London Scottish, KO 14:00
Plymouth Albion v Jersey, KO 15:00
Sunday February 16
Leeds Carnegie v Moseley, KO 15:00
Nottingham Rugby v Bristol Rugby, KO 15:00
Cornish Pirates v London Welsh, KO 15:45 (Live on Sky Sports HD)