GKIPA Championship Round 19 Preview19/03/2014
As the first phase of the Greene King IPA Championship season
enters its final month, victory over fellow title hopefuls Leeds
Carnegie at Headingley on Sunday would go a long way to securing
Bristol Rugby top seed status.
The Championship leaders head north on 71 points with a three-point advantage over London Welsh, who won their game in hand against Cornish Pirates, 20-5, at the Mennaye Field on Sunday to move on to 68 points for the season.
Leeds, who have not been beaten by Bristol at Headingley since they returned to the second tier of English rugby, are third on 65 points with Rotherham four points further back in fourth.
Leeds beat Bristol at home, 21-17, in the pool stages of this season's British & Irish Cup, before going down to the West Country and winning in the league at the Memorial Stadium for the first time in 11 years. Leeds won last season's corresponding fixture in convincing fashion, the sides sharing 10 tries between them in a 50-31 victory for the Yorkshire outfit.
There will be no shortage of drama elsewhere in Round 19, which gets underway with a bottom-of-the-table clash between Ealing Trailfinders and Jersey at Vallis Way on Friday night. Despite trailing for the first 60 minutes of the match, two tries from wing Phil Chesters and one from former Jersey full-back Andrew Henderson, plus four conversions from Ben Ward, saw Ealing open their account for the season with a 28-18 win when the sides met at St Peter earlier in the season.
Jersey's hopes of staying in the Championship received a massive boost on Saturday when 15 points from the boot of Aaron Penberthy helped them to a 30-23 win over Plymouth Albion at Brickfields. That victory - only their fifth of the season - has given them a 12-point cushion at the foot of the table.
Saturday's double bill sees Moseley take on London Scottish and Rotherham Titans entertain Plymouth Albion. Moseley are on a six-game winning run at home in all competitions, their last defeat at Billesley Common coming against London Welsh on November 23. Scottish won 25-20 on their last trip to the west Midlands, while Moseley were undone by a Miles Mantella hat-trick in this season's clash at the Athletic Ground, which ended in a 38-17 win for the Exiles.
Rotherham Titans have won four games on the bounce against Plymouth, the most recent coming at Brickfields in Round 10 when they won 28-17. The outcome of that match could have been different though had Albion not missed 16 points from the kicking tee. Not since New Year's Day, 2011 have Plymouth returned home to Devon from Clifton Lane with the spoils of victory
As well as the eagerly anticipated match-up between the division's two highest try scoring sides, Leeds (66 tries) and Bristol (82), there are two other games to look forward to on Sunday: London Welsh v Bedford Blues and Cornish Pirates v Nottingham Rugby.
Bedford became the first side to beat London Welsh this season when they won a nail-biting game at Goldington Road back in November, 28-26. Welsh would have snatched a share of the spoils had Alex Davies been able to convert Kevin Davis' try from the touchline with the last kick of the game.
Nottingham's game with Cornish Pirates at Meadow Lane did finish with honours even, a last minute kick from Matthew Jarvis saving the Green & Whites from defeat. Of the last 11 meetings between the sides Nottingham have won only one.
Round 19 fixtures
Friday March 21
Ealing Trailfinders v Jersey, KO 19:45
Saturday March 22
Moseley v London Scottish, KO 15:00
Rotherham Titans v Plymouth Albion, KO 15:00
Sunday March 23
Cornish Pirates v Nottingham Rugby, KO 15:00
Leeds Carnegie v Bristol Rugby, KO 15:00
London Welsh v Bedford Blues, KO 14:30