GKIPA Championship preview - Round 22


Aggregate attendances have reached an all-time high in the Greene King IPA Championship after the 300,000 mark was passed for the first time in the competition's history in round 21.

A total of 315,731 spectators, at an average of 2,506 per game, have watched Championship rugby at grounds up and down the country this season, and that figure is set for a further boost with another bumper gate expected for the top-two clash between the division's best-supported clubs, Worcester Warriors and Bristol Rugby, at Sixways on Saturday.

A quirk of the fixture list sees the two other likely play-off contenders come face-to-face at Clifton Lane, with Rotherham Titans up against third-placed London Scottish. The Titans still need a point to be absolutely certain of their place in the top four although it would take a huge set of results to deny them. Nottingham need a bonus-point win at Bedford and for Rotherham to take nothing from their final fixture, in addition to a 127-point turnaround, to leapfrog them in the table.
Bedford Blues v Nottingham, Saturday April 25, kick-off 3pm
Tenth-placed Bedford are set for their lowest finish in 14 seasons at this level unless they can overhaul the one-point gap between themselves and Doncaster on the final weekend. Not since the 2000/01 season, when they finished 11th, have the Blues failed to finish 9th or higher in the second tier of English rugby. Fourteen points from the boot of debutant Will Maisey and Brent Wilson's try helped the Green & Whites win 19-10 at Meadow Lane. Bedford have proved to be a potent force in the second half of matches at Goldington Road this season, scoring 21 of their 32 tries at home after the break.

Jersey v Moseley, Saturday April 25, kick-off 3pm
Jersey were denied a first-ever Championship win against Moseley at Billesley Common back in September when home winger Drew Cheshire scored his second try late on and Ollie Thomas held his nerve to land the conversion and level the scores at 22-22. All four previous Championship clashes ended in wins for Moseley.

Plymouth Albion v Doncaster Knights, Saturday April 25, kick-off 3pm
Plymouth have nothing but pride left to play for after Saturday's 29-0 defeat at Moseley confirmed their relegation to National League One. No team coached by Graham Dawe will go down without a fight though, and Albion have won their last two at home to Doncaster in the league. The Knights' last victory at Brickfields was in October 2011. The newly-promoted Knights announced their return to the Championship with a 27-6 win over Albion in round 1. Dougie Flockhart looks certain to finish the season as the Championship's top points-scorer after taking his overall tally to 223 in Doncaster's 25-19 win against Bedford.

Rotherham Titans v London Scottish, Saturday April 25, kick-off 3pm
Mark Bright got his record-breaking season off to a flying start when he scored a hat-trick against Rotherham in this season's first encounter. The No.8 now holds the individual record for tries in a season in the Championship with 24. London Scottish have won four and lost three of their previous clashes with Rotherham, who go into the match on the back of a run of five wins from six outings.

Worcester Warriors v Bristol Rugby, Saturday April 25, kick-off 3pm
Bristol only need a losing bonus point to bring up a century of competition points for the season, a feat only previously achieved by Worcester who finished their 2010/11 title-winning campaign on 101 points. A new record is within Bristol's grasp if they complete a league double over the Warriors. Bristol's last visit to Sixways ended in a 38-20 defeat, on 8 October, 2010. Worcester have set new Championship records this season for tries scored (120) and 'points for' (832).

Yorkshire Carnegie v Cornish Pirates, Saturday April 25, kick-off 3pm
Carnegie kicked off the new season with a win for the first time in six seasons when they prevailed by 29-18 at the Mennaye Field back in September. All of Carnegie's tries that day came from forwards with Ben Harris (2), Chris Jones and Ryan Burrows all scoring. Carnegie and Pirates meet at Headingley exactly one year to the day since Carnegie won 36-3 in last season's corresponding fixture. All six of the Pirates' previous trips north to play Carnegie have ended in defeat.

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