Greene King IPA Championship Round 17 preview
The standout fixture of the weekend in the Greene King IPA Championship sees third-placed Rotherham Titans face fellow high fliers Bristol Rugby at Clifton Lane on Saturday in a game televised live on Sky Sports, kick off 4.45pm.
The Titans have beaten Bristol at Clifton Lane three years in a row, the 44-6 win in October 2011 being particularly memorable, not only for the score line but because of the outstanding tries scored on the day by Irish duo, Robin Copeland and Shane Monahan, who, like many of their former team-mates, are now plying their trade at the highest level.
Lee Blackett's boys have only lost once at home in all competitions this season – against London Welsh on October 5, while Bristol, who hold a four-point lead over Leeds Carnegie at the top of the table, have won their last four Championship games on the road. In total, Bristol have won nine out of the fifteen league fixtures between the sides, dating back to the first-ever clash in 1998: a 16-5 win for the Titans in the old Allied Dunbar Premiership 2.
This weekend's action begins on Friday night at Brickfields where Plymouth Albion will be looking to put an end to their long losing run against Nottingham Rugby. Nottingham's 15-10 victory over Albion at Meadow Lane on November 17 was their eighth straight win over the Devon outfit.
In addition to the tea-time kick off between Rotherham and Bristol, there are two afternoon fixtures to look forward to on Saturday.
Bottom-of-the-table Ealing Trailfinders have still to break their home hoodoo and the form book suggests they might struggle to end their winless run at Vallis Way against promotion-chasing London Welsh. Welsh won 28-0 back in November without really getting out of second gear.
Moseley and Bedford come together at Billesley Common with both sides looking to put heavy defeats to Leeds Carnegie behind them. Leeds put 50 points on the Blues and then went 12 better in dispatching Moseley 62-5 last time out. The winners of this lower mid-table game will able to put any lingering relegation fears to bed. Moseley won 26-13 at Goldington Road earlier in the season.
Free-scoring Leeds, meanwhile, are at home to London Scottish on Sunday. Scottish need a win to keep in touch with the top four promotion play-off places, but they will have their work cut out against James Lowes' side who have scored 23 tries in their last three fixtures. Scottish won the last meeting, 26-15.
Cornish Pirates' hopes of making the play-offs took a blow after they slipped to a 28-20 loss against Moseley at Billesley Common in last weekend's rearranged fixture. However Jersey, their opponents at the Mennaye Field on Sunday, still have much to play for. Now coached by former Pirate Harvey Biljon, Jersey are just six points off bottom spot with seven rounds of the regular season to go. Jersey avenged a narrow defeat in the Duchy at the end of last season when they beat Pirates 27-25 at St Peter in Round 8 of the Championship. Pirates came out on top though in December's British & Irish Cup double-header.
Round 17 Fixtures
Friday February 28
Plymouth Albion v Nottingham Rugby, KO 19:45
Saturday March 1
Moseley v Bedford Blues; KO 15:00
Ealing Trailfinders v London Welsh, KO 15:00
Rotherham Titans v Bristol Rugby, KO 16:45 (Live on Sky Sports HD)
Sunday March 2
Cornish Pirates v Jersey, KO 15:00
Leeds Carnegie v London Scottish, KO 15:00