GKIPA Championship preview - Round 1404/02/2015
Plymouth's improved fortunes on and off the pitch have thrown
the Greene King IPA Championship relegation battle wide open
heading into round 14. Albion celebrated being saved from going
into administration with a 22-8 home win against Rotherham at
The victory, only their second of the season, puts them on 14 points - just three behind Doncaster, who put up a great fight away to Worcester before losing 25-5, and four in arrears of Moseley.
History suggests that four more wins would be more than enough to preserve Albion's Championship status for another season. Ealing, with 28 (in a 23-game regular season), recorded the highest points tally of any relegated side in the last four seasons of Championship rugby when they finished bottom in 2013/14, while in previous years Doncaster and Esher went down with 23 points to their name and Birmingham & Solihull with 22.
Worcester's hard-earned bonus-point win against the Knights combined with Bristol's first defeat of the season away to Cornish Pirates sees the Warriors take over at the top of the division. Bristol scored six tries but shipped five as they were beaten for the first time since they lost last season's Championship play-off final against London Welsh. The 45-28 loss continued Bristol's losing record at the Mennaye Field. They have lost their last seven games at the Penzance venue, with their last win coming in 2004.
Pirates moved up a place to sixth as a result of the victory, three points clear of Bedford, Jersey and Yorkshire Carnegie, who are all tied on 26 points. Rotherham, in fifth on 32 points, are now within their sights but a play-off challenge still looks beyond both teams even though Nottingham, on 40 points, slipped to a narrow defeat at Jersey. Meanwhile, London Scottish cemented their place in the top four with an impressive bonus-point win away to Bedford.
Bedford Blues v Plymouth Albion, Saturday, 7 February, kick-off 3pm
Blues sealed a bonus-point win with the last play of the game when the sides met at Brickfields back in September. Albion won 33-18 on their last visit to Goldington Road in last season's corresponding fixture - their first win there since the 2009/10 campaign. The visitors are coached by former Blue James Shanahan.
Doncaster Knights v Yorkshire Carnegie, Saturday, 7 February, kick-off 2.30pm
Castle Park is not a happy hunting ground for Carnegie, who have lost three and drawn one of their last four fixtures there. The Leeds-based side's last victory on Doncaster soil was on 17 February, 2007, when current England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster was in charge. The Knights beat Carnegie 32-23 in round four.
London Scottish v Bristol Rugby, Saturday, 7 February, kick-off 3pm
All seven Championship meetings have gone the way of Bristol since London Scottish were promoted back to this level in 2011. Bristol beat an injury-ravaged Exiles side 42-17 in the Ashton Gate fixture, scoring six tries in the process.
Moseley v Cornish Pirates, Saturday, 7 February. kick-off 3pm
Moseley's 28-20 win at Billesley Common in February last year ended a run of three straight draws in the fixture. Two tries from Tom Kessell helped Pirates maintain their unbeaten home record against Moseley in the Championship when the sides met at the Mennaye Field at the end of September. Pirates won 29-19.
Rotherham Titans v Jersey, Saturday, 7 February, kick-off 2pm
James McKinney's 'full house' of a try, two conversions, a drop goal and a penalty ensured Rotherham prevailed by 32-29 when they travelled to St Peter earlier in the season. Titans have won four out of five matches against Jersey since the island side were promoted to this level.
Nottingham Rugby v Worcester Warriors, Sunday, 8 February, kick-off 3pm
Tom Biggs was the hat-trick hero when Worcester ran out 55-16 winners at Sixways earlier this season. The Warriors' previous visit to Nottingham, in 2010/11, ended in a 38-24 victory at Meadow Lane. Of the 14 tries Nottingham have conceded at home this season 10 have come in the first half.