RFU Championship Round 19 preview
For the second round in a row, albeit with a weeks grace in between, Championship leaders Newcastle are pitted against their nearest rivals in the league table.
Dean Richards’ men will certainly be hoping for an easier ride than the one they encountered against Bedford on March 8th, when they take on second-placed Nottingham at Meadow Lane this Friday evening. The Blues were within a whisker of becoming the first team to beat the Falcons until Noah Cato went over for a last-gasp converted try to ruin their evening.
Nottingham leapfrogged Bedford into second place after winning at Bristol the same evening; a position they cemented with a hard-fought victory at Jersey on Saturday. As well as earning his side four more precious points, skipper Brent Wilson’s brace took him to the top of the division’s try-scoring charts on 12 alongside Matt Evans of Cornish Pirates and Leeds’ Dave Doherty.
Three second-half tries saw Newcastle beat Nottingham 29-9 in the first fixture at Kingston Park. A bonus-point win for Nottingham would guarantee them a play-off spot with three rounds to go.
Saturday is one for the traditionalists with all the remaining games in Round 19 scheduled for a 3.00pm kick off.
The game between Bedford and Doncaster at Goldington Road has a lot riding on it for both teams. The Blues need a win to secure their place in the play-off zone, while bottom-of-the-table Doncaster cannot afford to come away from the Midlands with anything less than four points. Encouragingly for the Knights they held the Blues to an 18-all draw in last season’s corresponding fixture. The Blues secured the narrowest of victories at Castle Park back in November - by 22 points to 21, when winger Josh Bassett went over for a converted try 13 minutes into stoppage time.
Jersey go into their game against Bristol six points clear of the Knights thanks to the losing bonus point they gained last time out against Nottingham at St Peter. Bristol, who won the first-ever clash between these sides (39-16), need a win to keep in the hunt for a place in the top four. Last weekend’s defeat away to Moseley saw them slip three points off the pace.
A win of any sorts at the Athletic Ground against London Scottish would secure Plymouth Albion’s place in the Championship should Doncaster fail to beat Bedford. Albion kept up the recent trend of four-point winning margins in fixtures between the sides when they won the Brickfields clash in Round 9, 24-20. Both the home teams won by an identical margin in 2011/12.
Moseley, too, could retin their Championship status for another year if they beat Leeds at Billesley Common and other results go their way. Last weekend the Birmingham-based club produced a marvellous comeback to down Bristol and complete the league double over the men from the West Country. Moseley are currently 11 points clear of danger. Play-off hopefuls Leeds won 43-32 on their last visit to Billesley Common.
Cornish Pirates need to extend their winning run over Rotherham to eight matches if they are to maintain any hope of reaching the end-of-season play-offs. The Pirates won twice at Clifton Lane last season: 19-14 in the regular season and 17-14 in the play-offs. A hat-trick of tries from Phil Burgess helped Pirates record a 53-21 when the sides met earlier this season.
Friday March 20
Nottingham v Newcastle Falcons, KO 19.45
Saturday March 21
Bedford Blues v Doncaster Knights, KO 15:00
Jersey v Bristol Rugby, KO 15:00
London Scottish v Plymouth Albion, KO 15:00
Moseley v Leeds Carnegie, KO 15:00
Rotherham Titans v Cornish Pirates, KO 15:00