This weekend's Greene King IPA Championship semi-finals involve
four former Premiership sides who are all bidding to return to the
top level of English club rugby.
Bristol, regular season winners for the fourth time in six years,
take on Rotherham Titans at this stage of the competition for the
second year running, while London Scottish find themselves up
against Worcester Warriors after making the Championship play-offs
for the first time.
Bristol v Rotherham Titans, Saturday 2 May, kick-off
1.30pm. Live on Sky Sports
Ashton Gate is sure to be packed to the rafters on Saturday for a
game which pits together two in-form teams who like to play
Fourth-placed Rotherham had expected to face Worcester in the
play-offs but Bristol's stunning 30-26 victory at Sixways in round
22 saw them sit atop the table instead.
"It was a cracking game, a very good performance from us and the
boys now know that they can come up here and win which could be
important if we meet again," said Bristol had coach Sean
"But what we also know is that we are in exactly the same position
as we were 12 months ago when we finished top of the pile and
failed to win promotion. The slate is wiped clean and now we have
to concentrate fully on Rotherham."
Bristol took their points tally to 103 for the regular season -
a new competition record - with their victory at Sixways, and they
haven't lost in the league since being turned over by Cornish
Pirates on the first Saturday in February.
During that nine-match winning run they have amassed 355 points, at
an average of 39 per game, scoring 52 tries in the process.
Rotherham, meanwhile, claimed fourth spot after winning six of
their last seven games in the league, their only defeat coming
against Bristol when they were edged out 27-25, at Clifton Lane on
Bristol are on a seven-game winning run against the Titans, and
will be strong favourites to extend that sequence on home soil.
During that period, however, the winning margin has never been more
than 11 points and they will take Rotherham lightly at their
Outstanding head coach Lee Blackett will leave the club at the end
of the season to take up the backs coach position at Wasps, and the
32-year-old would love nothing more than to see the Titans joining
him in the Aviva Premiership.
"Facing Bristol is going to be tough and we know we are the
underdogs," he said.
"But we are in form, we are playing well and now we have to make
sure we take this through to the next week."
In last season's semi-finals, Rotherham had to make up a
three-point deficit from the first leg after Bristol won
Jamie Broadley's late try had given the Titans real hope, and they
sensed a potential shock was on the cards in the return match when
they led 11-3 at half-time.
But Bristol used all their experience to claw their way back
though, and the boot of Nicky Robinson saw them prevail 22-11 on
the day and 39-25 on aggregate.
London Scottish v Worcester Warriors, Saturday 2 May,
British & Irish Cup champions Worcester's bid to win the second
and most prized piece of silverware on offer at this level begins
with a trip to London Scottish, who they defeated home and away
during the regular season.
The GKIPA Championship's leading try scorer Mark Bright scored two
tries on his return from England Sevens duty but it wasn't enough
to prevent Scottish slipping to a 34-17 defeat when the Exiles
played Worcester at The Athletic Ground just before
After Bright on 24 tries, Worcester boast the next four players -
Sam Betty, Max Stelling, Tom Biggs and Sam Smith - in the
division's top try-scorers chart. Having such a wealth of attacking
talent has helped Worcester set a new competition record for tries
(122) and points (858) scored.
With 335 points conceded, Worcester also possessed the best
defensive record over the course of the 22-game regular
Bright got on the scoresheet again in the return match at Sixways
at the end of March, but Worcester ran out convincing 56-15
winners. Eight different players got their names on the scoresheet
for the Warriors that day.
Reflecting on his side's defeat to Bristol, Warriors director of
rugby Dean Ryan said: "We have played 160 minutes of rugby against
Bristol and it has been a four-point ball game each time.
"We wanted to come top of the pile but we didn't and, ultimately,
we want to be in the Premiership and I am sure Bristol do so we
have to work really hard to do that.
"We have to get through London Scottish and we will have to work
really hard and Bristol will have to work really hard to get past
Rotherham," said Ryan.
Scottish go into the match on the back of a 19-3 loss to
Rotherham - their second defeat on Yorkshire soil in the space of a
"Losing to Bristol will make Dean Ryan an angry man and that makes
for an angry team who will want to make a statement," said London
Scottish director of rugby Mike Friday.
"We need to prepare for a huge, huge battle. Worcester's finishing
against us this season has been ruthless.
"They have fantastic resources but we are more than capable of
competing against Worcester."
Championship play-off semi-finals (two
Sat 2nd May 1.45pm - London Scottish vs Worcester
(Richmond Athletic Ground)
Sat 2nd May 1.30pm - Bristol vs Rotherham (Ashton Gate)
Fri 8th May 7.45pm - Worcester vs London Scottish
Sun 10th May 1.45pm - Rotherham vs Bristol (Abbeydale,
Championship play-off final (two legs)
Wed 20th May 7.45pm (SS)
Wed 27th May 7.45pm (SS)
SS = live on Sky Sports
17 Nov 2022
Old rivals both seek to stretch start-of-season winning run to 10 games