Greene King IPA Championship Round 22 preview
While all the promotion play-off places have now been secured, with Bristol, London Welsh, Leeds Carnegie and Rotherham Titans assured of their place in the top four, Round 22 of the Championship still holds plenty of intrigue at both ends of the table.
First plays second at the Memorial Stadium on Good Friday, as Bristol host London Welsh in what could be a dress rehearsal for the Championship final on May 29/June 4. Leeds and Rotherham will have plenty to say about that though, and the two Yorkshire rivals come together at Abbeydale Park, Sheffield in Saturday's televised battle of third versus fourth.
Welsh only beat Bristol once in four attempts during their Championship-winning campaign of 2012 but they were winners by 22 points to 7 when the sides met at the Kassam Stadium back in November. A 19-10 win for Leeds over Rotherham that same weekend moved them ahead of the Titans in the historical league head-to-head standings with 10 wins to Rotherham's nine since the first clash between the sides in 1994.
At the foot of the table Championship newcomers Ealing Trailfinders continue to fight tooth and nail to preserve their place in the division. Saturday's thrilling 35-33 bonus-point home win over Nottingham Rugby has put the west Londoners just three points behind Jersey with two games to play. Ealing, who have taken 10 points from their last three games, travel to Plymouth Albion this weekend while Jersey welcome London Scottish to St Peter on the back of a three-game losing run. Scottish won 29-3 at the Athletic Ground.
As things stand, Nottingham still need three points from their remaining two fixtures to be mathematically safe from the drop. Moseley ended an 11-game losing streak at this level against the Green & Whites when they won 29-15 at Billesley Common in Round 7.
Former Championship finalists Bedford Blues and Cornish Pirates meet at Goldington Road with nothing more than pride at stake. Pirates are assured of a top half of the table finish despite losing at home to Rotherham last time out, while the 9th-placed Blues look set for their lowest placed finish to a season in Mike Rayer's 10 years in charge. Pirates won 16-13 at the Mennaye Field.
Round 22 fixtures
Friday April 18
Bristol Rugby v London Welsh, KO 19:45. Live on Sky Sports HD.
Nottingham Rugby v Moseley, KO 20:00
Saturday April 19
Jersey v London Scottish, KO 14:00
Bedford Blues v Cornish Pirates, KO 15:00
Plymouth Albion v Ealing Trailfinders, KO 15:00
Rotherham Titans v Leeds Carnegie, KO 17:15. Live on Sky Sports HD.