RFU Championship Round 18 preview
The top two sides in the division do battle at Kingston Park on Friday evening as runaway league leaders Newcastle entertain Bedford.
The Falcons conceded their first tries since New Year’s Day last Saturday but still had too much in reserve for a spirited Rotherham side. Newcastle ran out winners by 34 points to 22 at Clifton Lane to maintain their unblemished record in the Championship. Bedford, meanwhile, lost at home to Bristol – their fifth defeat in a row to the West Country side - to leave them 25 points adrift of the Falcons in second place. Four points on Friday would guarantee Newcastle top seed status in the play-offs with four rounds of the regular season still to go.
Resurgent Bristol are in action the same evening as they entertain Nottingham at the Memorial Stadium. Bristol will no doubt be gunning for revenge after suffering a record 63-7 mauling at the hands of the Green & Whites at the start of November. They go into the game on the back of a five-game winning run.
Castle Park plays host to a hugely significant South Yorkshire derby on Saturday as relegation threatened Doncaster entertain rivals Rotherham. The bottom-of-the-table Knights are two points behind 11th-placed Jersey, knowing that a win is vital if they are to kick-start their survival bid. Rotherham won 38-20 in Round 8 and came away from Castle Park with the points last season thanks to Garry Law’s last-gasp penalty kick. Jersey will take heart from the fact they outscored in-form London Scottish five tries to four in a 41-33 defeat at the Athletic Ground. This weekend they face a trip to Plymouth, who also lost by an eight-point margin in their last outing against Nottingham.
Cornish Pirates’ play-off hopes suffered a setback after Leeds turned around a half-time deficit to win 37-25 at Cross Green. The Pirates are now five points off the pace and have played a game more than fourth-placed Bristol. This Sunday they entertain Moseley who have yet to beat the Pirates in Cornwall in six attempts at this level. Moseley eased their relegation worries with a vital win over Doncaster last time out.
Leeds’ promotion hopes remained alive with that win over the Pirates. Carnegie face London Scottish in Round 18 at their sixth different ‘home’ venue of the season – the home of Hull Ionians. Leeds have won all three previous league encounters including a 37-14 success at the Athletic Ground in Round 8.
Friday March 8
Bristol v Nottingham, KO 19:45
Newcastle Falcons v Bedford Blues, KO 20:00
Saturday March 9
Doncaster Knights v Rotherham Titans, KO 14:30
Plymouth Albion v Jersey, KO 15:00
Sunday March 10
Cornish Pirates v Moseley, KO 13:15
Leeds Carnegie v London Scottish, KO 15:00