GK IPA Championship preview - Round 18


Plymouth Albion could move off the bottom of the table for the first time in over five months if they manage to beat Yorkshire Carnegie at Brickfields on Saturday and relegation rivals Moseley lose away to Nottingham Rugby 24 hours later.

Tenth-placed Doncaster are in the best form of the three sides in the thick of the action to avoid the drop into National League One with 12 points from their last five league games compared to Plymouth's 11 and Moseley's six.

At the top end of the table, Worcester Warriors and Bristol Rugby can secure a home semi-final with wins this weekend while London Scottish are all but mathematically certain of third place.

Who'll join them in the play-offs is still anyone's guess. Rotherham have it all to do to remain in fourth with a visit from high-flying Bristol to come this Saturday. Nottingham are two points off the pace in fifth while Yorkshire Carnegie, who announced Bryan Redpath as their new head coach last week, are eight points behind the Titans and still in with an outside chance of reaching the knockout stages.

Bedford Blues (9th) v Cornish Pirates (7th), Friday March 20, kick-off 7.45pm

Both of this season's British & Irish Cup ties went the way of the Blues, but it was the Pirates who ran out convincing winners when the sides met in the league back in November. Tom Kessell marked his 100th appearance for the Duchy outfit with a try as the Pirates turned the form book upside down to win 65-14. Pirates have not won at Goldington Road since March 2011.

London Scottish (3rd) v Doncaster Knights (10th), Friday March 20, kick-off 7.45pm

The winning margin has been 10 points or less in each of three occasions these sides have met in the league at Castle Park, Scottish winning the last two. Matt Williams scored against his former club and there was a try for Matt Heeks in last season's corresponding fixture, with Pete Lydon kicking the remainder of the Exiles' points in a 19-9 victory. All of Doncaster's points came from the prolific boot of GKIPA Championship Player of the Month for February, Dougie Flockhart.

Rotherham Titans (4th) v Bristol Rugby (2nd), Saturday March 21, kick-off 3.00pm

Bristol overturned a 10-7 half-time deficit to beat Rotherham 27-17 in the first match of the season at Ashton Gate. The West Country side are on a seven-match winning run against the Titans, who last tasted success on Bristol soil in August 2010. Convincing victories over Yorkshire Carnegie and Cornish Pirates have put the Titans back in the play-off picture. They haven't won three league games on the bounce since September.

Jersey (8th) v Worcester Warriors (1st), Saturday March 21, kick-off 3.00pm

It took a Ryan Lamb penalty seconds before the end of the game for Worcester to beat Jersey 32-29 when the sides met at Sixways back in round 8. One of the best defences comes up against the league's top attack at St Peter on Saturday: Jersey have conceded the third fewest tries in the Championship while Worcester, with 96, have scored the most. The Warriors have three of the top five finishers in the league, with Tom Biggs (12), Max Stelling (11) and Sam Smith (10) all into double figures for the season.

Plymouth Albion (12th) v Yorkshire Carnegie (6th), Saturday March 21, kick-off 3.00pm

Christian Georgiou came up with dramatic late try to snatch a draw for Carnegie in the Headingley encounter back in November. That proved to be Gary Mercer's last match in charge of Carnegie, who have since parted company with caretaker boss Tommy McGee and appointed Bryan Redpath in his place. Carnegie have won eight, drawn two and lost two of the last 12 games against Albion, who have also changed their coaching set-up this season too with Graham Dawe returning to work as Director of Rugby alongside Head Coach James Shanahan.

Nottingham Rugby (5th) v Moseley (11th), Saturday March 21, kick-off 3.00pm

These teams have met a total of 17 times at this level with Nottingham victorious in 15 of them. Nottingham scored three first-half tries but failed to add a fourth when they won 27-26 at Billesley Common back in November.  That game produced five yellow cards, three of them being dished out to the Green & Whites, who have the second worst disciplinary record in the league behind Jersey.

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