It is all to play for in the Greene King IPA Championship
play-off semi-finals with top seeds Bristol and Worcester still
having plenty of work to do before they are assured of their place
in the final.
Bristol overcame a nervy first 60 minutes to open up a 12-point
gap between themselves and Rotherham Titans after a 32-20 victory
in the first leg at Ashton Gate, while at The Richmond Athletic
Ground, the Warriors had to rely on a stoppage time penalty try to
beat London Scottish 27-22 and take a five-point lead with them
back to Sixways.
Both Rotherham and London Scottish can take heart from the fact
that in the last two seasons of Championship rugby, a side that has
lost the first leg of the semi-final has gone on to make the final
and win the title.
Newcastle were the first to achieve the feat in May 2013 when they
overturned a five-point deficit from the first leg against Leeds
Carnegie to win through. London Welsh denied Leeds again the
following year, despite trailing 38-31 from the first
Worcester Warriors v London Scottish, Friday 8 May,
Friday night rugby returns to Sixways as Worcester Warriors try
and seal the deal and make it through to their second GKIPA
The Warriors had to overcome a magnificent Scottish recovery to
edge a seven-try thriller and take the slenderest of leads back to
At 17-3 up after 26 minutes, Worcester appeared to be coasting to
a routine victory. However Scottish stunned them with three
unanswered tries before a late penalty try put the visitors in
command ahead of Friday's rematch.
"We're frustrated that the margin wasn't greater but we're pleased
to win away from home and be five points up," said Worcester
director of rugby Dean Ryan.
"We've done the difficult thing, now we're going back to where we
play well to hopefully finish the job. We want to reward our
supporters and put on a show."
Worcester have a played three, won three record at home on a
Friday night whereas London Scottish are looking for their first
Friday night win on the road in three attempts, having lost twice
to Bristol under the Ashton Gate floodlights.
Sixways was the scene of arguably the most exciting Championship
semi-final of all time when Bedford came agonisingly close to
pulling off a shock win in May 2011. It took Kai Horstmann's 78th
minute try and Joe Carlisle's conversion to edge Worcester into a
23-22 lead after James Pritchard had threatened to kick the
Warriors out of the competition.
Even then, there was more drama when, from Myles Dorrian's
last-ditch drop-goal attempt, Tom Bedford thought he had scored a
winning try for the Blues. But TV replays showed that the kick had
landed behind the dead ball line before bouncing back into
Cooper Vuna, Worcester's two-try hero from the first leg in
Richmond, marked his debut for the club with a try when London
Scottish last visited Sixways six weeks ago. Vuna was one of eight
different try scorers for the Warriors that day as Dean Ryan's men
ran out 56-15 winners.
Rotherham Titans v Bristol, Sunday 10 May, kick-off
1.45pm (live on Sky Sports)
Bristol stretched their winning run over the Titans to nine
matches with victory in the first leg at Ashton Gate, but the
result was in doubt until Welsh fly-half Nicky Robinson came off
the bench to steer his side home with a superb cameo display.
"The guys coming off the bench made all the difference. It was
great to see Nicky come on and orchestrate the game. Overall we are
pleased to win by 12 points," said Bristol director of rugby Andy
Titans head coach Lee Blackett commented: "We missed 12 points out
there with kicks, which would have put a different complexion on it
for next week. We created a lot of opportunities but we lost the
final third of the match.
"It is a two-legged affair, though. We are still in it but we need
an early score next week."
Nicky Robinson was hugely influential when Bristol visited
Rotherham's temporary home at Abbeydale, Sheffield this time last
year, the 33-year-old kicking 17 points as Bristol recovered from a
11-3 half-time deficit to win 22-11 on the day and 39-25 on
Rotherham have only beaten Bristol by 12 points - the size of
the deficit from the first leg - on one occasion: 44-6 on 29
Championship play-off semi-finals (two legs)
Sat 2nd May 1.45pm - London Scottish vs Worcester
(Richmond Athletic Ground) 22-27
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
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