Friday, 30 March 2012
Bristol v Nottingham, Pool A - 19:45
Saturday, 31 March 2012
Bedford v Leeds Carnegie, Pool B - 15:00
Doncaster v London Welsh, Pool A - 14:30
Esher v Moseley, Pool C - 15:00
Rotherham Titans v Cornish Pirates, Pool B - 14:00
Sunday, 1 April 2012
London Scottish v Plymouth Albion, Pool C - 14:00
Wins for Bristol and London Welsh this weekend would all but mathematically confirm their place in the semi- finals with two rounds of the play- offs still to go. Neither side has been beaten as yet with Bristol sitting on top of the pile in Pool A with 14 points to Welsh's 13. Four penalties and a conversion from Matthew Jones and tries from Fautua Otto and William Helu helped Bristol to a 24-19 win at Nottingham last time out.
Liam Middleton's men play the Green & Whites again at the Memorial Stadium on Friday night. Bristol won the corresponding fixture in the regular season on October 7th by 18 points to 15 - one of eleven games involving Nottingham where a single score separated the sides. That game was undoubtedly the closest of the lot with Bristol only coming out on top thanks to a Tristan Roberts penalty in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
London Welsh face Doncaster hoping for a second win over the Knights in the space of seven days. But Welsh will want to turn in a better performance having been outscored on Saturday by the Pool A cellar dwellers four tries to three. Alex Davies remains a consistent source of points with the boot, taking his personal tally in the play- offs to 40 with five penalties and two conversions in last weekend's 34-24 win. Doncaster have now gone seven games without a win against the Exiles, who won 21-10 on their last visit to Castle Park.
Leeds' best performance of the season was at Bedford on October 29th when they came away from Goldington Road with a 45-28 victory. An equally good performance is needed on their return to the ground this Saturday if they are to keep their fading promotion hopes alive.
Two draws and a defeat from the first three rounds of action mean Leeds have plenty of ground to make up on the Blues and Cornish Pirates who currently occupy the two semi- final qualification spots. Blues lead the way in the Pool B table by five points from the Pirates after picking up two points from an entertaining 24- all draw against Leeds at Headingley.
Cornish Pirates, meanwhile, bounced back from the disappointment of last weekend's one- point loss at Bedford to beat Rotherham at the Mennaye Field. It took a couple of tries from Grant Pointer and a determined team performance to see off the Titans who conceded over 60 points there in last season's play- offs. Pirates won 19-14 at Clifton Lane in a low- key Monday afternoon game on February 13th, but Saturday's return fixture will not be for the faint hearted as the Titans need to win to remain in the hunt for the knockout stages.
It will take a disciplined display from the Pirates to achieve an away double over the Titans. Fly- half Garry Law has continued his good form with the boot in the regular season into the play- offs, topping the scoring charts with 41 from three games.
Esher's two- season stay in the Championship is perilously close to being over with a win in Saturday's return match against Moseley imperative if they are to give themselves a fighting chance of survival. The Surrey side has suffered three straight losses in the relegation play- offs, adding just two points to the four they carried over from the regular season along the way.
Mike Schmid's men were beaten 27-15 at Billesley Common in the first leg of the double- header against Moseley, who outscored the visitors three tries to two. Moseley scored tries through former Worcester duo, David Lyons and Greg King, and veteran hooker Adam Caves.
Having managed just one try- scoring bonus point throughout 22 rounds of the regular season Plymouth found their attacking edge at just the right time to produce a stunning win over London Scottish. Albion crossed Scottish's line on four occasions with tries for hooker Jon Vickers, his replacement Gareth Evans, Sione Tu'ipulotu and Aaron Carpenter to make it two wins out of two at Brickfields on a Friday night.
Plymouth have to back that up this weekend with victory in the Exiles' own backyard, something they failed to do at the start of the year when they came away from the Athletic Ground having gone down to a 21-17 defeat. All Plymouth's points came after the break on that occasion and throughout the season the Devonians have tended to be a stronger second half team with 28 of their 41 league tries scored then.
Bristol welcome Nottingham to the Memorial Stadium tonight, knowing victory would confirm a spot in the RFU Championship semi-finals
Liam Middleton keeps faith with the backline that helped earn Bristol a 24-19 win over the Green and Whites at Meadow Lane last weekend, but makes four changes to his pack.
Marco Mama is sidelined through injury, while Ross Johnston, Mark Irish and Mariano Sambucetti also miss out.
James Merriman, who is back to full-fitness following knee surgery, returns to the back-row after a seven-week absence.
Glen Townson replaces Mariano Sambucetti in the second row, and Jason Harris-Wright is set for his first start since December.
Jason Hobson will make his 100th first team appearance, while Dan Montagu plays his 50th league start for the Club.
Jon Goodridge, Jack Tovey, Fautua Otto, Luke Eves
Will Helu, Matthew Jones, Ruki Tipuna
Mark Lilley, Jason Harris-Wright, Jason Hobson, Glen Townson
Roy Winters, Iain Grieve (c), James Merriman, Dan Montagu.
Ross Johnston, Wayne Thompson, Mark Irish, Ben Glynn
Henry Vanderglas, Tom Slater, Matty James.
Nottingham director of rugby Glenn Delaney says those who write-off the Green and Whites do so at their peril.
With a seven point gap opening between Nottingham and London Welsh in second place, the number crunchers are predicting Friday's trip to the Memorial Stadium to meet Bristol as the final nail in the East Midlands clubs' hopes of Premiership promotion.
Delaney's message, however, is "Put the calculators away.
"They tend to come out early with this sort of stuff, with all the ifs and buts factored in already," Delaney added.
"If play-off rugby teaches you anything, it's that every week there is something different waiting to happen."
Apart from going back over familiar ground about Nottingham's stoic play-off performances - pushing Bristol at Meadow Lane last week and the long periods of domination in the opening defeat to London Welsh - it's the resurgence of Doncaster last week which gives Delaney heart.
The side that was batted by 60 points by Bristol in the opening finals game, threatened to upset a London Welsh side that had a week earlier held that same Bristol side to a draw.
"Doncaster weren't given a hope against a side that achieved what so many thought was impossible when they nearly beat the in-form Bristol on their home patch," Delaney said.
"And when you breakdown our performances, there should be no surprise in what we are capable of."
Delaney has entrusted those beaten by five points last week to atone for the loss, naming an unchanged side for the trip to the Memorial.
As far as the Green and Whites are concerned, they will be looking to startwhere they finished five days earlier.
"There is no reason to change much," Delaney said.
"What we did was certainly working. Maybe, we will do it a bit better this week.
"It's that wonderful little game of chess and that is effectively one half of rugby played.
"We put huge amounts of pressure on them in the last 20 minutes and we saw some cracks.
"Our job now is to reinforce and take advantage of what openings we saw, continue to put them under the same sort of pressure from last week and this time finish it with a result.
"We now mix things up with what worked and what might work this time around."
1 Michael Holfrod 2 Joe Duffey 3 Ryan Bower 4 Calum Green
5 Nic Rouse 6 Sione Kalamafoni 7 Brent Wilson 8 Filio Levi
9 Sean Romans 10 James Arlidge 11 Tim Streather 12 Juan Socino
13 Andrew Forsyth 14 Alex Lewington 15 David Jackson.
16 Matt Holloway 17 Ben Prescott 18 Matt Parr 19 Alex Shaw
20 Craig Hammond 21 Finlay Barnham 22 Kieran Hallett.
Bedford Blues - With three games down and three to go, the Blues sit top of Pool B but they go into the game knowing that they still have everything to do if they want to reach the semi-finals for a third consecutive year.
Following Sunday’s 24 all draw at Headingley, the Blues welcome Leeds to Goldington Road but are fully aware of the huge task that lays ahead come 3pm.
The Yorkshire club thoroughly enjoyed their last visit in October when they ran out 28-45 winners and followed that win up with a 21-17 ‘regular season’ result in the return.
With Leeds trailing second placed Cornish Pirates by four points ahead of Saturday’s game, Bedford know that Diccon Edwards men will be throwing everything including the kitchen sink at the Blues in an effort to get their first win of play-offs and push for a semi-final spot of their own.
Looking ahead to the game, Director of Rugby Mike Rayer said: “Walking away from Headingley last week with two points was a real bonus given the way Leeds dominated for large parts of the game. Our defence had to work overtime but you can’t buy the spirit that the players showed, we had to dig deep in the final quarter and they responded magnificently
“We’ve had a lot to work on in training this week and the boys have gone about it with their usual appetite and enthusiasm. Now we need to transfer that onto the pitch on Saturday. We are at home and need to make it count and if last week’s second half is anything to go by then I’m sure we are in for a cracking game of rugby.”
The Blues make six changes from the team that drew with Leeds last weekend with Neil Cochrane, Phil Boulton and Darren Fox returning up front while Luke Baldwin, Jake Sharp and Henry Staff return behind the scrum.
15. James Pritchard (c) 14. Ollie Dodge 13. Brendan Burke 12. Henry Staff
11. Josh Bassett 10. Jake Sharp 9. Luke Baldwin
1. Sam Walsh 2. Neil Cochrane 3. Phil Boulton 4. Paul Tupai
5. Alex Rae 6. Jonathon Fisher 7. Darren Fox 8. Don Barrell
16. Chris Locke, 17. Ben Cooper, 18. Mike Howard, 19. Sacha Harding
20. Darryl Veenendaal, 21. Jamie Lennard. 22. Ian Vass
Leeds Carnegie welcome back USA international Mike MacDonald to their side to face Bedford Blues this Saturday after the prop has missed eight games with a hand injury.
MacDonald is one of three changes to the starting line up from the team that drew 24-24 against Bedford at Headingley Carnegie last Sunday.
Full back and leading scorer Tommy Bell returns from illness at full back allowing Stevie McColl to revert to the wing in place of Lee Blackett, who is amongst the replacements. McColl scored two tries on the wing when Leeds won at Goldington Road back in October.
In the centres, Jordan Davies makes only his third start for the club for the injured Scott Barrow.
On the bench, there are a further two chances. Scott Freer replaces Phil Nilsen as the replacement hooker whilst England U20 captain Chris Walker comes in for his club and England team mate Dominic Barrow.
15. Tommy Bell 14. Stevie McColl 13. Iain Thornley 12. Jordan Davies
11. Pete Lucock 10. Joe Ford 9. Will Cliff
1. Mike MacDonald 2. Andy Titterrell (c) 3. Halani Aulika 4. Richard Beck
5. Sean Hohneck 6. Ed Williamson 7. Jacob Rowan 8. Ryan Burrows
16. Scott Freer 17. Sam Lockwood 18. Mo Mustafa 19. Dan Hemingway
20. Chris Walker 21. Robbie Shaw 22. Lee Blackett
In Other News From Leeds
Chris Walker and younger brother Jack have both signed new deals with Leeds Carnegie
England U20 captain Chris Walker, 20, has signed a new two year contract whilst his younger brother Jack, the England U16 hooker, has agreed a long term four year deal with the club. Chris has been a major part of the Leeds Carnegie squad this season in the Championship having featured in fifteen games so far and is expected to back in the squad for Saturday's trip to Goldington Road having returned from the successful Under 20's Six Nations campaign with England.
Chris has captained the England U18 and Under 20 side and made his debut for Leeds Carnegie last season in the LV Cup at Llanelli.
Jack Walker, who also attends Settle College, was part of the England U16 squad this season but was then called up for the Under 17 and this played for the England U18s team in a trial game against Northampton's Under 19 squad.
Full Story www.leedscarnegie.com
Doncaster Knights have kept faith with the new-look team which outscored London Welsh last weekend for Saturday's return fixture against the Exiles.
The Knights were unlucky to lose the play-off clash down in Richmond 34-24, with disciplinary errors costing them dear despite scoring four tries to Welsh's three.
The only change to the starting line-up is at scrum-half, where Michael Heaney gets the nod over injured captain Chris Hallam.
Top scorer Michael Keating will once again switch from the wing to play at full-back after some promising performances in the 15 jersey, while teenage prop Tomas Francis is awarded his second Championship start following an impressive display in London.
The bench sees prop Andy Brown return from a short injury lay-off, while full-back Toby Berridge has recovered from a hamstring strain. Flanker Latu Makaafi has been named as a replacement back.
Doncaster must win their fourth Pool A match with a bonus point if they are to stand any chance of qualifying for the promotion semi-finals.
15 Michael Keating 14 Dougie Flockhart 13 Oli Goss 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 Dom Parsons 6 Andy Boyde 7 Zack Farivarz 8 Chris Planchant
16 Jack Yeandle 17 Alex Brown 18 Andy Brown 19 Adam Kettle
20 David Bradford 21 Toby Berridge 22 Latu Makaafi
London Welsh will look to take another step towards a third consecutive Championship semi-final appearance against Doncaster Knights at Castle Park tomorrow.
Indeed, the Exiles could secure their place in the last four this weekend if they can make it nine straight wins over the Knights and Bristol take the points against Nottingham at the Memorial Stadium this evening.
However, Welsh can ill afford a repeat of their first half performance against the Knights at Old Deer Park last Saturday, which forced Lyn Jones' side to dig deep in the second half to eventually come out on top 34-24.
The visitors had led 19-12 and three tries to nil at the break, but second half tries from Dan George, Nick Scott and Hudson Tonga'uiha, together with 19 points from the boot of full back Alex Davies, maintained the Exiles' unbeaten start to Pool A.
Welsh completed the double over the Knights in the regular season, when they followed up their 21-10 win at Castle Park with a 37-14 mid-week win at Old Deer Park last month. Jack Moates scoring the pick of the Exiles' five tries.
The Exiles came out on top 29-24 last season and recorded a 26-10 victory in the sides 2009/10 play-off meeting.
Doncaster last tasted victory over Welsh in October 2009 when they won 20-9 at Old Deer Park.
15. Alex Davies, 14. Nick Scott, 13. James Lewis, 12. Hudson Tonga'uiha,
11. Joe Ajuwa, 10. Gordon Ross ©, 9. Ben Stevenson
1. Tom French, 2. Vili Ma'asi, 3. Greg Bateman, 4. Gary Johnson
5. Adam Brown, 6. Lee Beach, 7. Mike Denbee, 8. Ed Jackson.
16. Dan George, 17. Shawn Pittman, 18. James Tideswell, 19. Matt Corker
20. Ben Russell, 21. Jack Moates, 22. Simon Whatling.
Esher - Mike Schmid has called for Esher to go out and ‘make history’ by pulling off a Houdini-style escape from Championship relegation.
Esher face Moseley at home on Saturday needing to win their final three play-off games to stand a realistic chance of avoiding the drop into National One.
Last week’s 27-15 defeat at Moseley leaves Esher with one foot through the relegation trapdoor after three successive defeats as they are now eight points behind London Scottish and a further point adrift of Plymouth and Moseley.
Esher chief Schmid admits Saturday’s crunch against Moseley is ‘do or die’ but insists they are capable of a repeating their spectacular finish to the regular season when they won their final three matches.
He said: “We have got to make our own little bit of history now by going out and winning our last three games.
“We know it’s do or die now. We know it’s got to be three from three to stand a chance but anything is do-able in sport and we have got to go for it, play with our hearts and try and get that result.
“We have got to show that intensity and desire and play the kind of game we know we are capable of. If we do that we can get the win and build from there.
“But we know it’s going to be a tough game because Moseley know that if they win, they are safe and will put us down.
“Quite simply, we have got to be better. We have got to retain the ball better, have better line speed in defence and we have got to be more accurate in controlling the ball.
“If you don’t have it between the ears then you are not going to win games, it’s as simple as that."
Full Story www.esherrugby.com
Moseley - For the second match in the back-to-back fixtures with Esher, Moseley have selected an unchanged side from that which gained a convincing victory last week in Birmingham. This match is crucially important for both sides, as a win for Moseley would ensure their Championship status, but almost certainly consign Esher to National 1 rugby next season.
Moseley Head Coach, Kevin Maggs, is under no illusions as to the task his team faces. “Whilst last week’s win was very satisfying, Esher will be more difficult on their own patch. We will have to put them under the same sort of pressure we did last Saturday, and play with the same pace and intensity. They are bound to react to last week’s defeat, and will be fighting for their Championship lives”, he said.
1. Marshall Gadd, 2.Adam Caves, 3. Colin Quigley, 4. David Lyon
5.Paul Spivey, 6.Neil Mason, 07.Ben Pons, 08. Michael Ellery
9.Ryan Glynn, 10.Brad Davies, 11. Brad Hunt, 12.Andy Reay
13. Greg King, 14. Ollie Thomas, 15. Anthony Carter
16. Anthony O’donnell,17. Lloyd Fairbrother, 18. Richard Stott, 19. James Tyass
20. Michael Maltman, 21. William Robinson, 22 Sam Brown.
Rotherham Titans head coach Andre Bester freely admits, anything other than a win against Cornish Pirates this weekend will end the Clifton Lane outfit’s dream of Premiership rugby.
Titans have three remaining Pool B games left and in order to secure a semi-final berth in the competition, all three are must win encounters.
Titans welcome the Penzance-based side to Clifton Lane on Saturday for a 2pm kick-off, following their 8-point reversal at The Mennaye last Sunday. That performance should give Titans some self–belief after being on top for significant periods and had individual errors not been made, a victory in Cornwall was on the cards.
Titans have made 4 changes to their side which sees Peter Homan coming back in on the wing. In the forwards Dan Baines starts at hooker, Neale Patrick gets an opportunity in the second row and Semisi Taulava returns at number 8.
Looking ahead to the crucial fixture coach Andre Bester said, “It’s always a tough game against a very physical side like Cornish Pirates.
We know we’ll have to face up to the physicality they will bring and match them in that area. There’s a lot more to them though than just being a physical side.
They are also an extremely good side with tremendous experience running throughout the squad. They have given us a hard time in the past year or so and we haven’t beaten them for a while.
“We also know, in all our recent matches against them we have had long periods where we were on top of them. However their experience has seen them through and enabled them to capitalise on our mistakes. The time has come for us to set the record straight.
“We know this is a must win game if we want to keep the dream alive, that point is not even negotiable. We understand that and if we don’t win this match the dream is over and we will be working for the future.
“However, like we have said all season, if we play well we don’t worry about the opposition because we believe we are good enough to beat anyone in the division.”
15 Tom Foden, 14 Peter Homan, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu
11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 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 Cliffie Hodgson.
Cornish Pirates - With three of six scheduled games in the RFU Championship Pool B play-offs completed, and with a record of having drawn one, lost one and won one, the second placed Cornish Pirates will be fully focused on achieving another victory away to Rotherham on Saturday.
Andre Bester's Titans will also inevitably be pumped up at their Clifton Lane home, as despite propping up the Pool B table they are still in with a shout of making the semis and they will also, of course, look to avenge last Sunday's 25-17 loss at the Mennaye Field.
The match at the 'Mennaye' was an entertainingly tough tussle between two evenly matched sides, and it was a great advert for Championship rugby. Similar is expected on Saturday, it a game not for the faint hearted.
Changes in the Cornish Pirates line-up from the side that started last Sunday are all in the pack. Kyle Marriott comes into the side at No. 8 and a fresh second-row pairing combines Mike Myerscough and and a fit again Laurie McGlone.
Speaking ahead of the game, Cornish Pirates high performance manager commented: "Clifton Lane is a very tough place to go to but we're hoping to put in a winning performance that'll see us make a positive stride forward in our bid to make the semis."
R. Cook, G. Pointer, S. Hill, A. Suniula, M. Evans
C. Thomas, G. Cattle (capt), K. Marriott, P. Burgess, C. Morgan
M. Myerscough, L. McGlone, A. Paver, D. Ward, C. Rimmer.
R. Storer, R. Elloway, R. Brits, M. Smith
B. Maidment, T. Kessell, T. Cooper.
London Scottish - Head Coach Simon Amor knows London Scottish will show 'passion and desire' going into Sunday's game against Plymouth at the Athletic Ground.
Having suffered a 35-7 defeat last Friday night at Plymouth in an encounter that Amor describes his team as ‘clearly second best’, Scottish are determined to right the wrongs in front of their passionate home crowd.
Amor: "We were clearly second best on the night. But we go into Sunday with renewed determination and the passion and desire to right the wrongs and restore the London Scottish pride."
There is only one change to the starting line up that beat Moseley in Scottish’s last home game; Matt Heeks comes in at scrum half for Amor.
15 Stuart Peel 14 Agustin Gosio 13 Ryan Westren 12 Charlie Hayter
11 Gerard Mullen 10 Dan Mugford 9 Matt Heeks
1 Alex Clarke 2 Adam Kwasnicki 3 Aaron Liffchak 4 Alex Karonias
5 Josh Thomas Brown 6 Adam Kleeberger 7 James Kellard 8 Mark Bright
16 Matt Johnson 17 Ollie Hayes 18 Alex MacKenzie 19 Steve Pape
20 Ben Lonergan 21 Jamie Stevenson 22 Ollie Grove
Plymouth Albion go into the fourth round knowing their place in the league for next season could be confirmed if they win at London Scottish.
Albion currently top Pool C after back to back victories over Esher and London Scottish.
However head coach Nat Saumi knows Scottish will be keen to make up for last week's 35-7 defeat at Brickfields.
"After losing badly last week they will want to put it right," said Saumi.
Albion and London Scottish will have the advantage of going into their game knowing the other result from Pool C, as Esher entertain Moseley tomorrow.
If Esher fail to win then Albion will know any kind of a victory on Sunday would be enough to secure their safety.
Saumi's side would also be safe if Esher fail to pick up a bonus point win and Albion did.
But Saumi said: "We are not looking at other results. We are just looking at ourselves."
Albion will hand Ed Lewsey his first start since May 2010. Lewsey, who will not be available after this weekend, replaces scrum-half Ruairi Cushion, who picked up a shoulder injury last week.
Fellow scrum-half Paul Rowley has returned to training after a month out with an ankle injury and is named on the bench.
Albion will give a late fitness test to hooker Jon Vickers, who, like Cushion, picked up a shoulder injury last Friday.
Other than that it is the same team for Albion who recorded their biggest win of the season last weekend.
15 Sione Tu'ipulotu, 14 James Love, 13 Paul Bailey, 12 Bevon Armitage,
11 Tyson Lewis, 10 Paul Roberts, 9 Ed Lewsey
1 David Morton, 2 Jon Vickers/Gareth Evans, 3 Rob Dugard, 4 Tyler Hotson
5 Sean-Michael Stephen (capt), 6 Herbie Stupple, 7 Wayne Sprangle, 8 Aaron Carpenter.
Paul Rowley, Mark Lee, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Andrew
Addison Lockley, Gareth Evans/Davy McGregor, Sam Hocking.
Other News From Albion
Plymouth Albion chairman Graham Stirling has refused to rule out a further boardroom shake-up at the club.
But Dr Stirling insisted there was "a job to be done" first, as the city's rugby side fights for both its Championship status and financial stability. When Albion issued a fundraising appeal in January they were facing the prospect of being driven out of business by a £250,000 black hole.
Fans and businesses have since pledged more than £200,000, leading Dr Stirling to tell a supporters meeting the club's future was now "secure".
But he emphasised that donations were still needed to boost cashflow at The Brickfields. "It's not job done," he told The Herald. "We're at a level now where it staves off liquidation, but we still need to raise that block of the money to give us the working capital.
Full Story www.thisisplymouth.co.uk