RFU Championship Round 17 preview
RFU Championship leaders Newcastle will play at Clifton Lane for the first time in nearly 12 years when they take on Rotherham this Saturday.
Tries from Rory Lawson, Scott MacLeod, Jonny Golding and Zach Kibirige secured a bonus-point 33-0 win when the sides met at a snow-bound Kingston Park in Round 7. Since then Newcastle have gone on to win all 16 of their league matches to hold a commanding lead at the top of the division.
The last time Newcastle played Rotherham in South Yorkshire was at the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield on the final day of the 2003/04 Premiership season, when a 26-22 success for the Falcons saw the Titans conclude their last top flight campaign.
Rotherham have never beaten Newcastle in seven previous league and cup meetings including a 39-36 loss at Clifton Lane on April 10, 2001.
Three other games take place on Saturday, with Bedford v Bristol arguably the pick of the bunch. Bedford are second in the Championship table, with Bristol 13 points in arrears and clinging on to the fourth and final play-off place. However, Bristol are on a three-game winning run against the Blues having done the double over them last season to add to a 23-13 win when the sides met at the Memorial Ground back in October.
Moseley’s home game against Doncaster is no less important as vital points are at stake at the bottom end of the table. Tenth-placed Moseley have a game in hand and a three-point advantage over the Knights who prop up the division. Doncaster won 24-16 in this season’s first encounter at Castle Park.
Saturday’s other game sees in-form London Scottish entertain a Jersey side battling against the drop. Scottish have won five out of their last six games since the turn of the year including three in a row in the Championship. The trip to London is the first of two back-to-back games for Jersey who start the weekend one point better off than Doncaster. Jersey won 20-17 in the game at St Peter.
Leeds Carnegie will be hoping to make it third time lucky at Cross Green having lost to both Bedford and Newcastle in their two previous ‘on the road’ outings at the home of Otley RUFC. Cornish Pirates make their first visit to homely West Yorkshire venue since losing to Otley in the old National One on November 25, 2006. Pirates and Leeds are level on 41 points going into the game. Pirates beat Leeds 21-8 first time around.
Plymouth Albion travel to Nottingham in search of their first-ever win at Meadow Lane. Albion have returned home beaten on all seven previous visits to the ground, with their last win on Nottingham soil coming at the Green & Whites’ former home at Ireland Avenue on January 15, 2005. Six places and 19 points separate Nottingham and Plymouth Albion in the Championship table. Nottingham won 31-22 at Brickfields in Round 7 to extend their winning run over Albion to five matches.
RFU Championship Round 17 fixtures:
Saturday March 2
London Scottish v Jersey, KO 14:00
Bedford Blues v Bristol Rugby, KO 15:00
Moseley v Doncaster Knights, KO 15:00
Rotherham Titans v Newcastle Falcons, KO 15:00
Sunday March 3
Leeds Carnegie v Cornish Pirates, KO 14:30
Nottingham Rugby v Plymouth Albion, KO 15:00