GKIPA Championship Round 15 Preview


As Round 15 of the Greene King IPA Championship approaches it is still very much all to play for at both the top and bottom ends of the table.

The battle for promotion looks as competitive as ever with just five points covering the top four clubs, while, at the other end, Ealing Trailfinders, who looked relegation favourites after the first three months of the season, have found another gear to move within two points of 11th placed Jersey.

Draw specialists Moseley and Cornish Pirates have the honour of getting the next round of fixtures underway with a Friday night game at the soon-to-be redeveloped Billesley Common. Incredibly, the last three corresponding fixtures have finished all-square: 9-9 in 2012/13, 27-27 2011/12 and 26-26 in 2010/11. Pirates won their home game, two first-half tries from centre Tom Riley contributing to a 28-13 victory.

London Scottish and Plymouth Albion, who meet at the Athletic Ground on Saturday, found themselves on the either end of shock results last weekend. While Scottish surprisingly went down five penalty goals to one to Nottingham at Meadow Lane, Plymouth produced the result of the season against London Welsh. Previously, Albion had not won a league game at Brickfields in six attempts and had slipped into the bottom three. But James Shanahan's men finally found their form to run in five tries and win 36-15. Replacement scrum half Jamie Stevenson's late try proved the difference between the sides back on October 4, Scottish winning 22-20. The last five meetings have been tight affairs with the winning margin never more than seven points.

Bristol's attacking intent was there for all to see as they ran in four tries in each half to put 50 points on Jersey at the Memorial Stadium on Sunday. The same day Bedford shipped a half-century of points at Leeds Carnegie, which suggests the Blues may be in for a long afternoon when two of English rugby's established names meet at Goldington Road on Saturday afternoon. Indeed, Bristol have won the last five games between the two, the most recent coming back in October when they celebrated 125 years as a club in some style with a 45-27 victory.

Saturday's remaining two games have serious implications at the bottom end of the table. Ealing, who have now taken 11 points from their last four away games following an 18-18 draw at Cornish Pirates, desperately need to replicate that form at home. They face a Leeds side that moved up one place in the table to third after destroying Bedford 50-6 at Headingley. The first-ever fixture between the sides ended in a 64-3 win for Leeds, Alex Lozowski converting all bar one of Leeds's nine tries.

Meanwhile, Harvey Biljon will hope to win his first game as Jersey boss at the third attempt when his side takes on 10th placed Nottingham at St Peter. If successful, Jersey would drag Nottingham right back into the relegation picture. Nottingham, who are currently 12 points off the bottom, came away from their last trip to the Island with a hard-fought 20-13 victory.

The weekend's action comes to a conclusion with a genuine top-of-the-table clash between surprise league leaders Rotherham Titans and second-placed London Welsh at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday. And if Sunday's standalone fixture is halfway as good as the first clash between the sides this season then fans are in for a real treat. Rotherham, at various stages of an excellent contest, led five times at Clifton Lane, scoring three of their four tries inside the first 12 minutes. Eventually Welsh's dominance up front told and, thanks to the accurate kicking of Gordon Ross and Alex Davies, they clawed their way back into the contest to win 32-27. Titans won on their last away trip to London Welsh: 33-25 at Old Deer Park on October 15, 2012. New Ireland squad member Robin Copeland scored twice that day as Rotherham spectacularly ended a 21-game run without an away win.

Round 15 fixtures

Friday February 7
Moseley v Cornish Pirates, KO 19:30

Saturday February 8
London Scottish v Plymouth Albion, KO 14:30
Bedford Blues v Bristol Rugby, KO 15:00
Ealing Trailfinders v Leeds Carnegie, KO 15:00
Jersey v Nottingham Rugby, KO 15:00

Sunday February 9
London Welsh v Rotherham Titans, KO 14:30

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