Championship Play-Offs Preview 8th & 10th May


It is all to play for in the Greene King IPA Championship play-off semi-finals with top seeds Bristol and Worcester still having plenty of work to do before they are assured of their place in the final.

Bristol overcame a nervy first 60 minutes to open up a 12-point gap between themselves and Rotherham Titans after a 32-20 victory in the first leg at Ashton Gate, while at The Richmond Athletic Ground, the Warriors had to rely on a stoppage time penalty try to beat London Scottish 27-22 and take a five-point lead with them back to Sixways.

Both Rotherham and London Scottish can take heart from the fact that in the last two seasons of Championship rugby, a side that has lost the first leg of the semi-final has gone on to make the final and win the title.

Newcastle were the first to achieve the feat in May 2013 when they overturned a five-point deficit from the first leg against Leeds Carnegie to win through. London Welsh denied Leeds again the following year, despite trailing 38-31 from the first encounter.

Worcester Warriors v London Scottish, Friday 8 May, kick-off 7.45pm

Friday night rugby returns to Sixways as Worcester Warriors try and seal the deal and make it through to their second GKIPA Championship final.

Worcester Warriors

The Warriors had to overcome a magnificent Scottish recovery to edge a seven-try thriller and take the slenderest of leads back to Sixways.

At 17-3 up after 26 minutes, Worcester appeared to be coasting to a routine victory. However Scottish stunned them with three unanswered tries before a late penalty try put the visitors in command ahead of Friday's rematch.

"We're frustrated that the margin wasn't greater but we're pleased to win away from home and be five points up," said Worcester director of rugby Dean Ryan.

"We've done the difficult thing, now we're going back to where we play well to hopefully finish the job. We want to reward our supporters and put on a show."

Worcester have a played three, won three record at home on a Friday night whereas London Scottish are looking for their first Friday night win on the road in three attempts, having lost twice to Bristol under the Ashton Gate floodlights.

London Scottish

Sixways was the scene of arguably the most exciting Championship semi-final of all time when Bedford came agonisingly close to pulling off a shock win in May 2011. It took Kai Horstmann's 78th minute try and Joe Carlisle's conversion to edge Worcester into a 23-22 lead after James Pritchard had threatened to kick the Warriors out of the competition.

Even then, there was more drama when, from Myles Dorrian's last-ditch drop-goal attempt, Tom Bedford thought he had scored a winning try for the Blues. But TV replays showed that the kick had landed behind the dead ball line before bouncing back into play.

Cooper Vuna, Worcester's two-try hero from the first leg in Richmond, marked his debut for the club with a try when London Scottish last visited Sixways six weeks ago. Vuna was one of eight different try scorers for the Warriors that day as Dean Ryan's men ran out 56-15 winners.

Rotherham Titans v Bristol, Sunday 10 May, kick-off 1.45pm (live on Sky Sports)

Bristol stretched their winning run over the Titans to nine matches with victory in the first leg at Ashton Gate, but the result was in doubt until Welsh fly-half Nicky Robinson came off the bench to steer his side home with a superb cameo display.

Bristol rugby

"The guys coming off the bench made all the difference. It was great to see Nicky come on and orchestrate the game. Overall we are pleased to win by 12 points," said Bristol director of rugby Andy Robinson.

Titans head coach Lee Blackett commented: "We missed 12 points out there with kicks, which would have put a different complexion on it for next week. We created a lot of opportunities but we lost the final third of the match.

"It is a two-legged affair, though. We are still in it but we need an early score next week."

Nicky Robinson was hugely influential when Bristol visited Rotherham's temporary home at Abbeydale, Sheffield this time last year, the 33-year-old kicking 17 points as Bristol recovered from a 11-3 half-time deficit to win 22-11 on the day and 39-25 on aggregate.

Rotherham Titans

Rotherham have only beaten Bristol by 12 points - the size of the deficit from the first leg - on one occasion: 44-6 on 29 October, 2011.

Championship play-off semi-finals (two legs)

Sat 2nd May 1.45pm - London Scottish vs Worcester (Richmond Athletic Ground) 22-27
Sat 2nd May 1.30pm - Bristol vs Rotherham (Ashton Gate) (SS) 32-20

Fri 8th May 7.45pm - Worcester vs London Scottish (Sixways)
Sun 10th May 1.45pm - Rotherham vs Bristol (Abbeydale, Sheffield) (SS)

Championship play-off final (two legs)

Wed 20th May 7.45pm (SS)
Wed 27th May 7.45pm (SS)

SS = live on Sky Sports

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