Previews of all the Round 5 Play-Off games. All the teams plus news and comment
Saturday, 14 April 2012
Doncaster v Nottingham, Pool A 14:30
Esher v Plymouth Albion, Pool C 15:00
Moseley v London Scottish, Pool C 15:00
Rotherham Titans v Leeds Carnegie, Pool B 15:00
Sunday, 15 April 2012
Cornish Pirates v Bedford, Pool B 15:00
London Welsh v Bristol, Pool A 15:00
London Welsh are all but certain of a place in the Championship semi-finals after they surged to the top of Pool A thanks to a bonus point win at Doncaster. On loan Bath winger Nick Scott raced in for a hat trick of tries for the Exiles who are now ten points clear of third placed Nottingham who they meet in the final round of pool games later this month.
Welsh just need a bonus point from their remaining two games to make sure of their place in the last four for the third consecutive season. Doncaster, meanwhile, played their part in an entertaining contest that produced eight tries, three of them to the home side for whom former Newcastle academy player Fred Burdon crossed the line twice.
Bristol stuttered for the second time at home after being held to a 19 all draw against Nottingham. But it could have been worse for the West Country outfit had James Arlidge's drop goal attempt gone over in the final minute.
A crowd of just over 7,000 turned up at the Memorial Stadium expecting to see Bristol confirm their place in the semi-finals but Liam Middleton's men were unable to convert the ten point lead they held at half time into victory. Nottingham now need to beat Doncaster away and London Welsh at home to have any chance of progressing further in the competition.
Bedford became the first team to officially book their place in the Championship semi-finals after securing their first victory over Leeds at the fourth attempt this season. Leeds did the double over the Blues in the regular season and the sides then drew in the first play-off meeting at Headingley. But on home soil and in front of a large crowd Bedford laid that particular bogey to rest with a 26-20 win at Goldington Road. Tries for Josh Bassett and on loan Saracens scrum half Luke Baldwin at the start of the second half proved pivotal to the eventual outcome.
Cornish Pirates are strong favourites to join Bedford in the last four after repeating their home and away victories over Rotherham in the regular season in the play-offs. The Pirates are seven points clear of Leeds, who they meet at Headingley in the final round of fixtures, following their 17-14 success at Clifton Lane. Four penalties from Rob Cook and a try from flanker Phil Burgess were enough to see off the Titans who are bottom of the pool.
Leeds's hopes of returning to the Premiership at the first attempt are now hanging by a thread after a four- game winless run in the play-offs. A record of two draws and two defeats means that victories in their remaining two games are vital if they are to stand any chance of beating Pirates to the second semi- final qualification play-off spot.
Plymouth will live to fight another day in the Championship after securing their third straight win in the play-offs. On Sunday Albion completed the double over London Scottish with an 11-6 victory at the Athletic Ground to ensure that a troubled season on and off the field has a happy ending.
Aaron Carpenter's try in the 56th minute proved crucial to the eventual outcome with all the other points in a tight game coming from the boots of Dan Mugford and James Love with two penalties apiece. Love has been integral to Plymouth's survival bid with 51 points in the play-offs to add to the 187 he managed in the regular season, not a bad return for his inaugural Championship campaign.
Neither Plymouth nor Moseley can be caught at the top of the Pool C table. Both sides are safe having accumulated 19 points - 13 more than bottom side Esher with two games remaining. Moseley secured their future in the second tier with a 25-13 win at Esher, Brad Davies and David Lyons scoring their tries with Ollie Thomas contributing 10 points from the kicking tee.
Esher are effectively down and out unless they can pick up maximum points from their remaining two fixtures and London Scottish fail to claim a single bonus point in theirs. Esher are at home to Plymouth on April 14 before making the short trip to London Scottish a week later.
Doncaster - Brett Davey has announced his squad ahead of their final home Championship game of the season as they seek to bow out at Castle Park on a high note.
The Knights injury crisis hasn't relaxed as Davey is forced to name Latu Makaafi at centre with only seven fully fit backs. PJ Gidlow will return to the bench and will no doubt provide some impact late in the game.
Michael Noone and Chris Hallam have been forced to withdraw from the remainder of the season as they look to seek treatment for persistent injuries, with Noone setting off for surgery on a feet condition next week.
Michael Keating is handed the 15 jersey again as he looks to cement his abilities in the full-back position, while young prop Tomas Francis has been named as the starting tight-head as Brett Davey attempts to blood the teenager.
Doncaster are still without a victory in Pool A - yet are aware that their results could have a big impact on the final play-off standings. London Welsh require just a point from their remaining fixtures yet Bristol and Nottingham are locked in a battle for the second semi-final spot - with a Knights win this weekend handing Bristol the advantage.
15 Michael Keating 14 Dougie Flockhart 13 Latu Makaafi 12 Fred Burdon
11 Ben Toft 10 Gareth Quinn-McDonogh 9 Michael Heaney
1 Royce Burke-Flynn 2 Steve Boden 3 Tomas Francis 4 Matt Challinor
5 Dominic Parsons 6 Andy Boyde 7 David Bradford 8 Chris Planchant
16 Andy Brown 17 Jack Yeandle 18 Alex Brown 19 Dan Smith
20 Adam Kettle 21 Zack Farivarz 22 PJ Gidlow
Nottingham - hardman Joe Duffey says the Green and Whites must not be overawed by the must-win situation against Doncaster at Castle Park on Saturday.
Only a bonus point win will ensure that Nottingham stay in contention to advance to the RFU Championship semi-finals.
While Nottingham have already beaten the Knights four times during the campaign, and notched up record wins against the South Yorkshire side in the process, the hooker isn’t getting carried away.
“We know what to expect and what we need to do, but we really don’t want to get too excited,” Duffey said.
“If we want to play well, we need to have a cool, calm and collected build-up. If we get sucked into getting too hyped up for something like this, then we will end up doing things that we wouldn’t normally do.”
Duffey also warns that focusing too hard on needing a four-try bonus point win invites undue pressure on the side.
“We can do it, we can get the tries, but we can’t get in our head that we need to come up with four tries, because that is only going to get us wound up. And when that happens you are in danger of trying too much stuff.
“We need the tries, we know that, but they don’t all need to come at once.”
According to the experienced campaigner, it is a game of patience that Nottingham will need to rely on.
And when it comes to taking a stronghold of proceedings over 80 minutes, the 29-year-old New Zealander sets the benchmark.
“I’m not there to be pretty, I’m there to do the hard yards,” Duffey said.
“What we’ve noticed with Donny is that they have a tendency to be up at half-time, even against the better teams, and then they seem to run out of puff. Once they are tired we have to strike and play smart.
“If we work them hard in the scrum and in line outs, then they are going to be tired and there will be holes popping up either on the fringes or out wide.”
Nottingham director of rugby Glenn Delaney has made three changes to the side that draw 19-all with Bristol at the Memorial Stadium.
The Green and Whites’ most prolific play-off try scorer Tim Streather comes in at his preferred position of outside centre, replacing the injured Andrew Forsyth.
Matt Parr is promoted to the starting side ahead of loose head prop Michael Holford. Former England international Ayoola Erinle has also recovered from a niggling leg injury to take his place on the bench.
1 M Parr 2 J Duffey 3 R Bower 4 C Green
5 N Rouse 6 S Kalamafoni 7 Wilson 8 F Levi
9 S Romans 10 Arlidge 11 A Savage 12 Socino
13 T Streather 14 A Lewington 15 D Jackson.
16 M Holloway 17 M Holford 18 C Hammond 19 A Shaw
20 F Barnham 21 K Hallett 22 A Erinle.
Nottingham boss Glenn Delaney insists letting the feeling of unfinished business fester for more than two weeks will bring the best out of his players against Doncaster tomorrow.
The 19-19 draw with Bristol late last month was just enough to keep the Green and Whites' hopes of progressing to the next stage of the play-offs flickering.
While there was a moral victory to savour at the Memorial Stadium, the feeling of what could have been quickly manifested itself into a raging source of motivation.
And over the past fortnight, Delaney has fed the beast.
"The memory of that match lives longer on the basis that we felt we hadn't finished the job," said Delaney.
"If we had gone to Bristol and done the job, then there would be an entirely different psychology headed to Doncaster”.
Full Story www.thisisnottingham.co.uk
Esher - Mike Schmid has called for his Esher players to produce one final fling against Plymouth on Saturday to keep alive their remote chances of Championship survival.
Esher need to win their last two play-off games against Plymouth and London Scottish to stand any chance of avoiding relegation into National One.
Four successive play-off defeats leaves Esher a distant nine points adrift of Scottish, who travel to Moseley at the weekend.
Esher chief Schmid admits Esher’s chances of survival are remote but has called for his team to play without fear against Plymouth in their final home game.
He said: “There’s no point in worrying about ifs and buts and what is happening elsewhere. We have just got to go out and play because we owe ourselves and our supporters a good performance.
“We must stand up and play the game the way it’s meant to be played. All we can do is focus on winning and on playing the way we know we can.
“We must bring our heads and our hearts to the game and just go out and get a result. If we do that then there is a chance we can take it to the final game of the season.
“We have to play as hard as we can and hope Moseley do us a favour against Scottish at the same time. But that is not in our control so we must just focus on what is.
“All we can do is make sure we get the processes right and if we do that, the outcome comes too.”
Esher beat Plymouth 41-17 at home in February only to slip to an 18-11 defeat in the play-offs just three weeks later.
Schmid admitted his side paid the price for some poor decision-making in the West Country compounded by some ill-discipline that handed Plymouth the initiative.
Schmid added: “We gave them a lot of kickable penalties at Plymouth and you can’t afford to do that.
“We had the momentum early on but often wasted good field position and wasted opportunities. It was a poor performance.
“But these are all things in our control and if we match their physicality, we can put them under pressure on Saturday.”
Esher will be without top tryscorer Phil Mackenzie for the final two games as the Canadian international needs an operation on a groin injury.
Mackenzie said: “It’s been troubling me since November. I’ve tried to play on and do what’s best for Esher but it’s just got to the point where I can’t play with it any more.“
But Esher hope to be boosted by the return of hooker Stu Mackie following a knee op while Quins duo Seb Stegmann and Charlie Walker could also be available.
However, Prop Nic Mayhew is a doubt after picking up a shoulder injury in the defeat by Moseley.
15 Jonny Hylton 14 Seb Stegmann 13 Tom Cheeseman 12 Arran Cruickshanks
11 Tom Loizides 10 Mark Atkinson 9 Clive Stuart-Smith
1 Dave Millard 2 Kevin Corrigan 3 Ingacio Elosu 4 Paul Barker
5 Matt Symons 6 Ian Kench 7 Sam Stitcher (Capt.) 8 Peter Synnott
16 James Campbell 17 Ollie Mines 18 Perry Parker 19 Tom Alexander
20 Nicky Little 21 Luke Daniels 22 Patrick O'Grady
Plymouth Albion - Nat Saumi does not want his Plymouth Albion team taking their foot of the pedal just because they secured their Championship status last time out.
Albion head to Esher on Saturday hoping to make it four wins in a row in the Pool C of the play-offs.
Saumi has told his players to have the right mind set going into their final two games of the season.
"The players have to try and go to the next level," he said.
"I've asked them if they can go for a second away win and a fourth win in a row.
"Those are targets and goals we can build on for next season."
Albion make just two changes to their team that secured their first away victory of the season at London Scottish two weeks ago.
Fit-again Paul Rowley returns at scrum-half, while youngster Addison Lockley replaces the injured Tyler Hotson at lock.
Back James Love will be hoping to close in on Albion's club record of most league points in a season on Saturday.
Love has so far collected an impressive 238 points for Albion, which is just 22 short of the club record.
15 Sione Tu’ipulotu, 14 James Love, 13 Paul Bailey, 12 Bevon Armitage
11 Tyson Lewis, 10 Paul Roberts, 9 Paul Rowley
1 David Morton, 2 Jon Vickers, 3 Rob Dugard, 4 Addison Lockley
5 Sean-Michael Stephen (capt), 6 Herbie Stupple, 7 Wayne Sprangle, 8 Aaron Carpenter
Steve Johns, Mark Lee, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Andre
Gareth Evans, Davy McGregor, Sam Hocking.
Moseley - After a welcome break from action after the attritional intensity of four play-off matches, Moseley return to Championship duty at Billesley Common on Saturday with the visit of London Scottish.
With niggling injuries to lock Paul Spivey and full-back Anthony Carter there are two changes to the Moseley side. In the forwards Spivey is replaced by Dan Sanderson, and Ollie Thomas moves to full-back allowing the return of the exciting Billy Robinson on the wing.
With Moseley now safe from relegation their main motivation may be to regain some pride following three losses against the Exiles side this year, with head coach Kevin Maggs expecting his men to change this pattern. Scottish still need a point to be safe, so the match is bound to be a competitive affair.
Adding to the occasion is the fact that this is the Birmingham side's last home match of the campaign, and will be witnessed by many former players who will be attending their Old Players Reunion.
1. Marshall Gadd, 2.Adam Caves, 3. Colin Quigley, 4. David Lyons
5.Dan Sanderson, 06.Neil Mason, 07.Ben Pons, 08. Michael Ellery
9.Ryan Glynn, 10.Brad Davies, 11. Brad Hunt, 12.Andy Reay
13. Greg King, 14. William Robinson, 15. Ollie Thomas
16. Anthony O'donnell,17. Lloyd Fairbrother, 18. Richard Stott, 19. James Tyass
20. Michael Maltman, 21.Jack Adams, 22 Sam Brown
London Scottish - This Saturday’s Pool C encounter against Moseley carries huge significance for London Scottish, where just a point will seal safety in the RFU Championship for next season.
Having beaten Moseley in all three previous games this season, the Exiles have the upper hand against their opponents.
However, with Moseley securing their place in the division in their last outing against Esher, they will want to finish on a high in their last home game of the season.
With matters firmly in their own hands, Scottish are 100% focused on their Moseley encounter, and will not think about fellow strugglers Esher’s result until after the game.
Exiles winger Agustin Gosio is pleased with preparations ahead of the game: “Training has been great this week and everyone is really focused; we are looking for the win. We are not worrying about the Esher result because we know our match is important.”
15 Stuart Peel 14 Agustin Gosio 13 Ryan Westren 12 Charlie Hayter
11 Gerard Mullen 10 Dan Mugford 9 Simon Amor (c)
1 Nick Auterac 2 Adam Kwasnicki 3 Aaron Liffchak 4 Steve Pape
5 Alex Karonias 6 James Kellard 7 Zane Winslade 8 Mark Bright
16 Alex Clarke 17 Tom Standfield 18 Alex MacKenzie 19 Willie Lipp
20 Ben Lonergan 21 Jamie Stephenson 22 Ollie Grove
Rotherham Titans s are prepared for another tough Yorkshire derby as they welcome the visit of Leeds Carnegie to Clifton Lane on Saturday.
Mathematically, it is still possible for Titans to reach the semi-final stage of the competition, but anything less than a victory over local rivals Leeds will see their slender hopes evaporate.
The only change to the squad that narrowly lost 14-17 to Cornish Pirates last time out is Cliffie Hodgson comes in for the injured Garry Law at fly-half.
Looking ahead to the contest Titans assistant coach Ben Wade said, “The boys have trained very well this week and they are ready for what we anticipate will be a tough Yorkshire battle.
Both Leeds and ourselves can still progress from the pool, throw into the mix it’s a local derby with lots of pride at stake and that means both sides will be giving everything to gain the victory.
“We had a tremendous victory at Leeds just four weeks ago and to repeat that result would be brilliant, unfortunately that will count for nothing when the teams run out at Clifton Lane on Saturday.
The boys know that and there won’t be any complacency on our part. We’d like to sign off our last game of the season at Clifton Lane with a memorable victory and finish the campaign as the top side in Yorkshire.”
15 Tom Foden, 14 Peter Homan, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu
11 Shane Monahan, 10 Cliffie Hodgson, 9 Jimmy Williams
1 Shane Cahill, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Ben Hooper, 4 Neale Patrick
5 Barney Maddison, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall (Capt.), 8 Semisi Taulava.
16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 Talite Vaioleti, 19 Adrian Griffiths
20 Carl Kirwan, 21 Ed Tellwright, 22 Stephen Hamilton
Leeds Carnegie Coach Diccon Edwards has made three changes to the side that lost at Bedford for this Saturday's massive Yorkshire derby at Rotherham.
Michael Stephenson returns on the wing after recovering from the injury he suffered at Cornish Pirates in the second round of the Play offs whilst Jon Pendlebury has overcome injury too to face his old club.
Finally, Scott Barrow replaces Jordan Davies in the centres after passing a fitness test.
15. Stevie McColl 14. Michael Stephenson 13. Iain Thornley 12. Scott Barrow
11. Pete Lucock 10. Joe Ford 9. Will Cliff
1. Mike MacDonald 2. Andy Titterrell (c) 3. Halani Aulika 4. Jon Pendlebury
5. Sean Hohneck 6. Richard Beck 7. Jacob Rowan 8. Ryan Burrows
16. Scott Freer 17. Mo Mustafa 18. Ed Williamson 19. Chris Walker
20. Robbie Shaw 21. Jordan Davies 22. Tommy Bell
Cornish Pirates - When the Pirates take on Bedford Blues at home on Sunday they will have much to play for.
The Pirates have lost three times to the Blues this season, including a 24-34 result at the Mennaye Field last October, a 32-13 defeat at Bedford on New Year's Day, and then a 26-25 result in the second Pool B play-off game in March.
It will give the Pirates immense satisfaction should they win to help put the disappointment of a trio of defeats behind them, but also of greater importance, it would see them cement a semi-final place in this season's RFU Championship competition.
Further reason to strive hard to achieve victory is to give high performance manager Chris Stirling a happy send off before his return home to New Zealand, whilst this match will also see full-back Rob Cook make his 100th appearance for the Pirates. A fit again Drew Locke is named on the bench.
R. Cook, G. Pointer, S. Hill, A. Suniula, M. Evans
C. Thomas, G. Cattle (capt), B. Maidment, C. Morgan
K. Marriott, M. Smith, L. McGlone, A. Paver, D. Ward, C. Rimmer.
R. Brits, R. Elloway, P. Burgess, D. Ewers
T. Kessell, A. Penberthy, D. Locke.
The Cornish Pirates go into Chris Stirling's final match in charge knowing that victory will put them in the Championship semi-final, writes Dick Straughan.
The New Zealander is returning home on Wednesday to take up a senior post with the New Zealand Rugby Union after three highly successful years in charge of the Cornish side.
With two games remaining in the RFU Championship play-offs the Pirates need one more win to secure their spot in the semi-final along with Bedford who have already qualified.
They travel to Leeds next week but Stirling is determined that his squad should resolve the matter this week.
Full Story www.thisiscornwall.co.uk
Bedford - After a relaxing Easter break, Bedford Blues return to Championship play-off action this weekend with a challenging trip to Penzance to face the Cornish Pirates on Sunday afternoon.
Despite having three wins this season over the Cornishmen, the Blues are fully aware that they face a massive task as the hosts look to secure a semi-final place with a victory of their own.
The two teams last met in mid-March at Goldington Road with the Blues pinching the 26-25 win with the final kick of the game. During the regular season, Bedford won 24-34 at the Mennaye in October and 32-13 on New Year’s Day in the reverse fixture.
Even with the 100 per cent record and a semi-final place in the bag, Bedford Blues Forwards Coach Martin Hynes won’t be taking anything for granted on Sunday afternoon.
He said: “The play-offs have proven to be to our liking so far but we can’t rest on our laurels just because we have already made the semis. We want to finish top of the Pool and continue the good run of form that we are on. We’ve spoken all season about playing to the best of our ability for a full 80 minutes but we still haven’t done that.
“The extra weekend off has meant that a few of the lads who were carrying knocks have had time to recuperate and we can welcome them back to the squad. However the game has come too soon for Pritch, Dodgey and Gregor who are all carrying minor injuries while Darryl Veenendaal suffered an injury in training this week.
"It is a long old trip down to Penzance but games against the Pirates are always exciting and I think that everyone is raring to get back out onto the pitch again.”
15. Brendan Burke 14. Handre Schmidt 13. Henry Staff 12. Ian Vass
11. Mark Kohler 10. Jamie Lennard 9. Luke Baldwin
1. Nico Steenkamp 2. Chris Locke 3. Phil Boulton 4. Sam Pailor
5. Mike Howard 6. Jon Fisher 7. Sacha Harding (c) 8. Don Barrell
16. Neil Cochrane, 17. Ben Cooper, 18, Ricky Reeves, 19. Sean Tomes
20. Darren Fox, 21. Stefan Liebenberg, 22. Jake Sharp.
London Welsh entertain Bristol at Old Deer Park on Sunday in front of the live Sky Sports cameras knowing that victory will secure the Exiles top spot in Pool A.
However, should Nottingham fail to pick up a bonus-point win when away to Doncaster 24 hours earlier then the Exiles' place in the Championship semi-finals for a third consecutive year will be assured.
Sunday's meeting will be the fourth between London Welsh and Bristol this season, with the sides sharing one win a piece and a 12-12 draw at the Memorial Stadium last month. Former Exile Matthew Jones' penalty with the last kick of the game giving Bristol a share of the spoils.
With the largest margin of victory being just six points, Sunday has the potential to be another tight affair.
That came when Bristol travelled to Old Deer Park in January, with tries from Saul Nelson and Hudson Tonga'uiha giving the Exiles a 23-17 win.
Welsh won both meetings between the two sides at Old Deer Park during the 2010/11 season. Aled Thomas scoring 21 points as the Exiles won 39-14 during the regular season, while 54-9 was the margin of Welsh's victory in the play-offs.
Bristol's last win at Old Deer Park came in March 2010 when they won 28-3, on their way to reaching the Championship final.
15. Alex Davies, 14. Joe Ajuwa, 13. James Lewis, 12. Hudson Tonga'uiha
11. Nick Scott, 10. Gordon Ross (c) 9. Rob Lewis
1. Tom French, 2. Vili Ma'asi, 3. Greg Bateman, 4. Gary Johnson
5. Matt Corker, 6. Lee Beach, 7. Mike Denbee, 8. Ed Jackson.
16. Dan George, 17. Shawn Pittman, 18. James Tideswell, 19. Adam Brown
20. Ben Russell, 21. Jack Moates, 22. Simon Whatling.
Bristol Rugby travel to Old Deer Park knowing that victory would confirm a place in the semi-finals.
Bristol currently lie in second in Pool A, two points behind the Exiles with two games still to play.
Head Coach Liam Middleton makes five changes from the side that drew 19-19 with Nottingham with Sean Marsden set for his first start since the 48-13 victory over Moseley in February.
Tristan Roberts returns in place of Matthew Jones at fly half, while Ross Johnston and Wayne Thompson come into the front row.
James Merriman fails to recover from a head injury sustained against the Green and Whites and is replaced by Marco Mama.
Middleton opts for a five forwards and two backs split on the bench.
Sean Marsden, Jack Tovey, Fautua Otto, Luke Eves, Jon Goodridge
Tristan Roberts, Ruki Tipuna; Mark Irish, Ross Johnston, Wayne Thompson
Glen Townson, Roy Winters, Iain Grieve (c), Marco Mama, Dan Montagu.
Jason Harris-Wright, Mark Lilley, Darren Crompton, Ben Glynn
Henry Vanderglas, Tom Slater, Matty James.