GK IPA Championship preview - Round 19


Bristol Rugby and Worcester Warriors are now mathematically certain a home semi-final in the end-of-season play-offs as neither of the top two can be caught by either third-placed London Scottish or any of the other play-off contenders.

In the unlikely event that Scottish pick up a bonus-point win at Worcester this weekend and play-off rivals Nottingham and Rotherham fail to record victories, the Exiles would also be guaranteed their place in the top four with three rounds to spare.

The race for the fourth and final play-off spot looks like going right down to the wire though. As many as four teams still harbour realistic hopes of extending their season beyond the end of April, with Nottingham Rugby, on 46 points, currently in the driving seat.

Pirates, who are the furthest adrift of the quartet on 39 points, would appear to have it all to do with two tough away trips to come against Jersey and Yorkshire Carnegie - either side of a visit from high-flying Worcester - following this weekend's derby against Plymouth Albion.

The chase for the top 4 - remaining games

Nottingham Rugby (46 pts) Rotherham Titans (44 pts) Yorkshire Carnegie (40 pts) Cornish Pirates (39 pts)
Doncaster Knights (A) Moseley (A) Jersey (H) Plymouth Albion (H)
London Scottish (A) Doncaster Knights (H) Worcester Warriors (A) Jersey (A)
Rotherham Titans (H) Nottingham Rugby (A) London Scottish (H) Worcester Warriors (H)
Bedford Blues (A) London Scottish (H) Cornish Pirates (H) Yorkshire Carnegie (A)

At the bottom of the table, Doncaster should be able to prepare for another season in the Championship after securing two points from a 13-13 draw at London Scottish in round 18.

There is now an 11-point buffer between themselves and bottom club Plymouth, who are five points adrift of 11th-placed Moseley. Moseley play Plymouth at Billesley Common in a likely relegation decider on the penultimate weekend of the season.

Moseley v Rotherham Titans, Friday 27 March, kick-off 7.45pm
Moseley ended a seven-game losing run to the Titans when they won 26-22 at Clifton Lane on Boxing Day. Rotherham were their own worst enemies that day, ill-discipline resulting in them losing three men to the sin-bin in nine second-half minutes. Since then, Moseley have only won once in eight league outings to drop perilously close to the bottom of the table while Rotherham are still in play-off contention despite an inconsistent set of results. Rotherham have won on their last four visits to Billesley Common.

Referee: Andrew Small

Bristol Rugby v Bedford Blues, Sunday 29 March, kick-off 3.00pm
A quick-fire brace of tries from Chris Brooker saw Bristol overturn a 17-7 half-time deficit and win 28-24 when these sides met at Goldington Road on Boxing Day. Bedford go into the game on the back of four straight defeats and have not beaten GKIPA Championship leaders Bristol since recording a 39-22 victory against them at Goldington Road on Boxing Day in 2011.

Referee: Steve Lee

Cornish Pirates v Plymouth Albion, Sunday 29 March, kick-off 3.00pm
Pirates lost to Yorkshire outfits Doncaster and Rotherham in their last two outings at the Mennaye Field, and will be determined to avoid a hat-trick of home defeats when local rivals Plymouth come to town. A brace of tries from flanker Joe Atkinson and one apiece for Alex Dancer and Max Bodilly earned Pirates maximum points in this season's now annual festive fixture against Albion. That 27-19 victory extended the Pirates' unbeaten run against Albion to 12 matches. Plymouth's last win in the fixture was on 3 October, 2009, when they won 16-8 at Brickfields.

Referee: Dean Richards

Yorkshire Carnegie v Jersey, Sunday 29 March, kick-off 3.00pm
Bryan Redpath began his reign as Carnegie head coach with an impressive win at Plymouth, and the former Scotland international will be hoping his honeymoon period continues for at least another week against Jersey. A penalty try and one from Chris Walker and seven points from the boot of Harry Leonard earned Carnegie a hard-fought 17-13 win in the first encounter at St Peter. Carnegie have never lost to Jersey at Headingley and are on a three-game winning run at home. But Jersey will travel to Leeds in confident mood after becoming the first side to beat Worcester since Bristol on the opening day.

Referee: Andrew Jackson

Doncaster Knights v Nottingham Rugby, Saturday 28 March, kick-off 2.30pm
The Green & Whites moved into the play-off places for the first time since April 2013 when they beat the Knights 24-3 in late December. Nottingham have an impressive head-to-head record against the Knights, winning eight of the last 10 meetings in all competitions. Doncaster's last league win over Nottingham was a 46-42 victory at Castle Park on 2 October, 2010. With 392 points conceded, Doncaster have the fifth best defensive record in the GKIPA Championship.

Referee: Ian Tempest

Worcester Warriors v London Scottish, Saturday 28 March, kick-off 3.00pm
Warriors won the first-ever league fixture between these sides, 34-19, on 20 December, 2014. Sam Smith and Mark Bright bagged a brace of tries for their respective sides that day, but Scottish No.8 Bright continues to lead the way in the division's try scoring charts with 21. Worcester's record 24-game winning streak came to an end when they were beaten by Jersey in round 18.

Referee: Greg Macdonald

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