GK IPA Championship preview - Round 1504/02/2016
THE Greene King IPA Championship returned in style last weekend with points galore across all of the fixtures, and with an Exiles derby on the cards this Saturday, the drama is only set to continue.
The last round of matches saw an average of over 50 points per Championship game, with Bristol Rugby, Doncaster Knights, and Bedford Blues all tightening their grip on the play-off spots with bonus-point victories.
But this weekend the headline clash could well be seen lower down the table, as London Welsh host London Scottish in what is sure to be a hotly-contested derby.
It was Scottish who edged a tight clash at Richmond Athletic Ground earlier in the campaign, with a last-gasp Peter Lydon drop goal earning them a dramatic 11-10 win.
Lydon has pulled a rabbit out of the hat for Scottish on numerous occasions this season and his latest feat came last weekend, as his touchline conversion at the death sealed an impressive 22-20 victory over Carnegie.
And with just a point separating the sides in the Championship standings – with Scottish ahead of Welsh in eighth spot – a win for either team could see them climb several places away from the lower reaches of the table.
Nottingham will host the third-placed Blues in another crunch clash, where a win for Martin Haag's side will haul them back into the reckoning for a top-four finish.
Bedford came out on top when the sides last met back in October, with a resilient defensive display earning them a 28-19 victory at Goldington Road, as well as tries from Pat Tapley, Sam Blanchet and Jordan Burns.
But they will have to be wary of the league's joint-top try scorer in Paul Grant, who is still neck-and-neck with Doncaster Knights' Latu Makaafi after last week's try against Moseley took his tally to 13 scores.
Cornish Pirates are another side who will be looking to get their play-off hopes back on track this weekend, but face a tough task away at Yorkshire Carnegie.
It will be fourth versus sixth at Headingley, but Carnegie have already racked up five home victories during the campaign and the league's second highest points scorers have scored a whopping 235 points on home soil.
It looks set to be a tough weekend for the sides lower down the Championship standings, with second-bottom side Ealing Trailfinders hosting promotion-chasing Doncaster.
Despite their distance away from each other in the table, the Knights only just edged their clash earlier this season 23-17 thanks to Makaafi's double and the boot of Michael Heaney, and with home advantage Ealing will be hoping to cause an upset.
Rotherham Titans will hope to shore up their defence against Bristol's potent attack – having shipped 115 points in their last three games.
Bristol's points difference is comfortably the strongest in the league, although a spirited Titans performance at Ashton Gate earlier this season – where Bristol streaked away in the closing stages to win 28-12 – will give them food for thought.
And bottom of the pile Moseley will travel to mid-table Jersey, who they lost 29-18 to at home earlier this season.
Points have been hard to come by in recent weeks for Moseley, who are yet to hit double figures in the Championship since the turn of the year, and they have not beaten the Channel Islanders since March 2014.
Round 15 fixtures
Saturday February 6th
London Welsh v London Scottish, kick-off 2pm
Rotherham Titans v Bristol Rugby, kick-off 2pm
Ealing Trailfinders v Doncaster Knights, kick-off 3pm
Jersey v Moseley, kick-off 3pm
Sunday February 7th
Nottingham v Bedford Blues, kick-off 3pm
Yorkshire Carnegie v Cornish Pirates, kick-off 3pm
Click here to download stats from round 14