RFU Championship News. Previews of all the Round 9 games. All the teams plus news and comment
Plymouth face Moseley at Brickfields on Friday night with both sides in need of a pick- me- up following defeats at the weekend. The form book points to a Plymouth win as Albion have collected 13 points from a possible 20 in their four home games.
Leeds – seeking their fourth win in a row - will look to pile the pressure on a Bedford side that needs a big performance in front of their own supporters.
Traditionally a fortress, Goldington Road has not been such a happy place for the Blues this season, with just one win from three games there compared to four wins from five on the road. Incredibly, Mike Rayer’s men have managed 25 tries on their travels and only three at home.
At Old Deer Park London Welsh meet Cornish Pirates - their conquerors in last season’s Championship semi- final. The Exiles have won the last two league encounters on home soil.
Points may have eluded Esher this season but entertainment should not be in short supply when Doncaster visit Molesey Road.
The Knights narrowly came out on top in both of last season’s games, which produced an aggregate of 159 points.
Also on Saturday, Rotherham entertain leaders Bristol. The Titans recorded a double last term, but by narrow margins of victory: 24-26 and 22-21.
Sunday’s fixture sees Nottingham up against London Scottish in league action for the first time since the 1996/97 season – the year that Nottingham were relegated to the third tier of English rugby.
Plymouth Albion are looking for a scary night off the field on Friday evening but not on it as they entertain Moseley at Brickfields.
Albion's second Friday night match of the season is a Halloween Special, where children under-16 will be admitted free of charge into the ground if in fancy dress. Children in fancy dress will also be invited on to the field at half-time for a parade, where prizes will be awarded for the best costumes.
Meanwhile, on the field, Albion will be hoping to make it four wins out of five at Brickfields.
The club's only defeat at home in the league this season was a narrow 20-16 loss to the Cornish Pirates.
Albion are able to welcome back Canadian World Cup player Aaron Carpenter for the match.
The powerful number eight missed last week’s trip to Leeds due to a knee injury, but he has recovered to make his second appearance of the season for Albion, who will be looking to make it four home wins from five.
“Hopefully, he will bring all his international experience to the team,” said chairman of rugby Graham Dawe
Moseley. After last week’s heavy defeat by Rotherham at Billesley Common, Moseley coaches Kevin Maggs and Craig West are looking for a positive response in the visit to Devon.
They have made few changes for this match, with an unchanged back-line, and a pack in which David Lyons continues in the second row, alongside Richard Stott. Injuries to Ben Pons and Mike Ellery leaves the back-row with the same look for the third week in a row.
“We are looking forward to the Plymouth trip, and hope to maintain the tempo which we created in the last third of the match last week”, Maggs said.
“The players know that we are capable of more than we have shown over the last few weeks, and Craig and I will be looking for a good response on the pitch after an excellent week’s training”.
15 J Love, 14 S Johns, 13 B Armitage, 12 K Fisilau, 11 M McGrath
10 P Bailey, 9 R Cushion
1 R Dugard, 2 G Evans, 3 R Hopkins, 4 D Collier, 5 T Hotson
6 S Hocking, 7 W Sprangle, 8 A Carpenter.
16 D Farnham, 17 T Lewis, 18 D Morton, 19 D McGregor,
20 J Tyas, 21 H Stupple, 22 A Lockley, 23 C Grace
1. Tom Warren; 2.Adam Caves; 3. Anthony O’donnell; 4.David Lyons
5.Richard Stott, 6.Neil Mason; 7. Michael Maltman; 08.Chevvy Pennycook
9. Sam Brown; 10. Bradley Davies; 11. William Robinson; 12.Andy Reay
13. Greg King; 14. Mike Gillick; 15. Anthony Carter
16. Craig Voisey; 17. Colin Quigley; 18. Paul Spivey; 19. Charley Thomas
20.Callum Mcburnie; 21. Ryan De La Harpe; 22. Jack Adams
Bedford Blues return to home action this weekend when they welcome Leeds to Goldington Road. 2008/9 was the last time that the two sides met in the old National Division One and that season finished with Leeds being promoted back to the top flight.
During that campaign the Yorkshire side won 19-8 at Headingley, but they tasted defeat on the visit to Bedford as the Blues ran in four tries - including a memorable effort from winger Ryan Owen that started on Bedford's five metre line - to win 27-24.
Leeds made a rocky start to the Championship before picking up an impressive win over Bristol only to be humbled at Cornish Pirates the following week, but in recent weeks they have picked up important wins over London Scottish, Moseley and Plymouth to move into eighth place in the league.
Bedford currently sit third in the Championship having won their opening three games before losing to both Rotherham and Bristol. Since then Bedford have embarked on a four game unbeaten run, but they did draw 18 all with Doncaster in the last home game.
Looking ahead to the game Blues backs coach Paul Larkin said: "We welcome Leeds who come to us on the back of three positive performances but we feel that we are in a good position to match them following an excellent performance of our own down at London Scottish.
"We believe that this is a game that will be played with plenty of width as Leeds are very positive in their intent, but if we bring the intensity and relentless pressure that we have demonstrated in recent weeks then we should get the result that we are looking for."
Bedford make a number of changes to the team that started against London Scottish last weekend. Neil Cochrane misses out with a calf injury while Brendan Burke is given time to recuperate from a knock he picked up against the Exiles.
Chris Locke gets the nod at hooker while Tom Bedford returns at 12 and Ollie Dodge reverts to 13. Up front, Sam Pailor comes in at lock alongside Mike Howard while Sean Tomes moves to the bench where he is joined by dual registered hooker Harry Allen, Phil Boulton who returns from suspension and Handre Schmidt who was rested last weekend.
Leeds Carnegie Head Coach Diccon Edwards has made two changes to his side for this Saturday's trip to Bedford.
Edwards is able to name an unchanged backline to the side that beat Plymouth Albion at home last Sunday however the two changes come in the forwards.
Skipper Mike MacDonald has been ruled out with a shoulder injury so youngster Gareth Denman returns to the starting line-up.
The other change sees Tom Denton start in the second row alongside Sean Hohneck with Dominic Barrow moving from the second row to flanker in place of Dan Hemingway, who is amongst the replacements this week. Denman's place on the bench is taken by Sam Lockwood.
Carnegie have lost on their last two visits to Bedford in season's that they eventually finished at Champions. Leeds won at Goldington Road on their first visit back in 2001, 48-3, but in 2006, Stuart Lancaster's side lost 21-25, which was followed up two years later by a 24-27 defeat under Neil Back and Andy Key.
15. James Pritchard (c) 14. David Vincent 13. Ollie Dodge 12. Tom Bedford
11. Josh Bassett 10. Jake Sharp 9. Darryl Veenendaal
1. Sam Walsh 2. Chris Locke 3. Dan Seal 4. Sam Pailor 5. Mike Howard
6. Alex Rae 7. Sacha Harding 8. Don Barrell
16. Harry Allen, 17. Phil Boulton, 18. Sean Tomes, 19. Paul Tupai
20. Stefan Liebenberg, 21. Jamie Lennard, 22. Handre Schmidt.
15. Tommy Bell 14. Michael Stephenson 13. Iain Thornley 12. Joe Barker 11. Stevie McColl
10. Joe Ford 9. Craig Hampson
1. Gareth Denman 2. Phil Nilsen 3. David Young 4. Tom Denton 5. Sean Hohneck
6. Dominic Barrow 7. Chris Walker 8. Jacob Rowan
16. Scott Freer 17. Sam Lockwood 18. Phil Swainston 19. Richard Beck 20. Dan Hemingway
21. Robbie Shaw 22. Lee Blackett
Esher Manager Dave Page is backing Esher to end their nightmare run in Saturday's home clash with Doncaster Knights.The Surrey side are rooted to the foot of the Championship after eight successive defeats and have failed to collect a solitary bonus point.
But Page insists the attacking flair Esher showed in Sunday's 34-18 reverse at second-placed Cornish Pirates has lifted spirits ahead of the Knights showdown.
Canada World Cup star Phil Mackenzie capped a fine individual display with a try while an earlier score from hooker Kevin Corrigan edged Esher into an 18-17 half-time lead.
But Esher, with Charlie Walker impressing on the wing, also missed two gilt-edged chances in the second half and in the end of Pirates' powerful set-piece proved decisive.
Page insisted: "That was the best attacking rugby we have produced all season and we should have scored a couple more tries.
"It was a great try from Mackenzie. His return has been a big plus and Andy Wright is playing so much better with him alongside.
"Mackenzie is such a talented player. He has added that spark and it is starting to come together now and we really believe somebody will be on the end of a hiding.
"But I appreciate it's all very well saying that. We have got to put the all-round performance together in attack and defence.
"We have got a great bunch of guys and they are all hurting from this run. But they all believe they can get out of it and are all still upbeat.
"We haven't had any easy games in this run and have obviously been suffering from a lack of players with so many injuries.
"But I firmly believe the next four games against Doncaster, London Scottish, Leinster in the British and Irish Cup and Leeds at home are all winnable."
Esher are boosted by the availability of dual-registered Harlequins player Charlie Matthews for the Doncaster match.
England Under-20s lock Matthews, whose dad Stephen also played for Esher, has been a regular at Quins this season but is in line for his debut.
Esher have also added to their firepower up front with the loan signing of prop Cameron Zeiss from Leeds.
The 21-year-old South African-born player's chances at Headingley are expected to be limited following the return of United States prop Mike MacDonald from World Cup duty.
But Esher have suffered a big blow with the news that centre Tom Cheeseman is expected to be out until the New Year.
The former Bath and Harlequin star impressed on his return from a knee injury last month only to suffer a torn pectoral muscle in the defeat by Bristol.
Doncaster Knights are aiming to bounce back to winnings ways this weekend against bottom placed Esher, but Brett Davey is only to aware the Southerners present a massive banana skin.
The Knights were embarrassed in front of their home supporters as Nottingham exposed their defensive shortcomings, but DOR Davey is looking for a big response from his players after losing their unbeaten record since the second round.
“We need a reaction from the team; they are aware of what caused the problems against Nottingham, but the players have trained well this week and we’ve discussed the game a lot and taken a good look at ourselves.”
Despite Esher having yet to pick up a league win or even a point, their squad has been strengthened by the return of several loan players from parent club Harlequins, and according to Davey the side have ‘confidence’ and apparently have set themselves the target of beating Doncaster and their following three opponents.
“They’re a decent side who have got stronger as players have returned. This league is a very close one and poor performances are easily punished.”
Davey’s starting line-up hands Irish back-rower Michael Noone only his third start following some impressive performances from the bench.
Regular front-row starters Steve Boden, Stuart Corsar and Alex Brown return to the pack after being rested against Nottingham, and the injured Mike Whitehead is replaced at fly-half by Tom Luke.
The DOR has also called on his senior players to ‘shoulder the burden of responsibility’ with captain Chris Hallam, and expects more leadership under pressure from his experienced players come 3pm Saturday.
15 Kirby 14 Walker 13 Mackenzie P 12 Wright 11 Edgerley
10 Atkinson 9 Stuart – Smith 8 Goodman 7 Stitcher 6 Kench
5 Matthews 4 Parker 3 Boot 2 Mackie 1 Mines
16 Corrigan 17 Zeiss 18 MacFarlane 19 Synnott 20 Mackenzie J
21 Ingall 22 Mill
15 David McIlwaine 14 Dougie Flockhart 13 Oli Goss 12 PJ Gidlow 11 Michael Keating
10 Tom Luke 9 Chris Hallam
1 Stuart Corsar 2 Steve Boden 3 Alex Brown 4 Glen Kenworthy 5 Dominic Parsons
6 Latu Makaafi 7 Zack Farivarz 8 Michael Noone
16 Tom Davies 17 Jack Yeandle 18 Matt Challinor 19 Andy Boyde
20 Lee Audis 21 Ben Toft
London Welsh face the Cornish Pirates on Saturday at Old Deer Park for the first time since last season’s Championship semi-final meeting at Mennaye Field.
The Exiles will no doubt have a spot of revenge in mind, but will be even more eager to end a run of three consecutive losses, following Championship defeats to Bristol and Rotherham, and to Bedford in the British & Irish Cup.
Welsh will be particularly keen to wipe out the memory of their last outing at Old Deer Park when they went down 33-25 to the Titans. Head coach Lyn Jones got the response he was looking for at Bristol in front of the live Sky Sports cameras - although not the result thanks to Jack Tovey’s late try.
Jones makes four changes to the Welsh starting line for Saturday’s visit of the Pirates. One of those comes on the wing with James Lewis, who returns from injury to make his first appearance since the Exiles’ home win over Plymouth Albion, coming in for Liam Gibson.
There’s a double change in the front row with Shawn Pittman and Billy Moss coming in for Guillermo Roan and Greg Bateman, while Lee Beach replaces Jon Mills at blindside flanker. Gordon Ross takes over the captain’s armband.
Welsh will be looking to make it three wins in a row over the Pirates on home soil. The Exiles came out on top 23-16 last season at Old Deer Park, thanks to Dom Shabbo’s try and six penalties from Aled Thomas, while in 2009/10 Welsh won 34–10 with Rob Lewis crossing twice and the home side’s other tries coming from Simon Whatling, Shabbo, Errie Claassens and Dorian Williams.
The Pirates have to go back to 2008/09 for the last time they tasted victory at Old Deer Park, when they won 38-23.
Cornish Pirates. Over the years the Pirates and their supporters have always enjoyed their trips to Pagoda - picturesque Old Deer Park, although success on the field has not always been easy to come by. The team has lost on its last two visits to the famous 'Exiles' club, so Chris Stirling's side will be keen to record a 'W' there on Saturday.
Also, if a quick check of the records proves correct, then it would put the Pirates one win up on the win-loss account with reference to games played at Old Deer Park between the two teams since their first meeting at National One/Championship level stretching back to March, 2004. To date they have met eight times at 'ODP', each winning four and losing four, but with a points ratio of 182-151 in favour of 'The Dragons'.
For this encounter in west London the Cornish Pirates welcome back Jonny Bentley from injury, who will be making his second Championship appearance of the season, whilst the USA international centre Andrew Suniula also gets a starting role after making his debut off the bench last week against Esher.
Skipper scrum-half Gavin Cattle returns to the side, as to the starting line-up do loose-head prop Carl Rimmer and back-rower Blair Cowan, who is named at blind-side flanker.
Saturday's will inevitably be another highly charged game, with it expected that the home team will be especially keen to gain revenge for having lost last season's RFU Championship semi-final 18-10 back at the Mennaye Field.
The ingredients are certainly there for a thriller - we shall soon see.
15. Edd Thrower, 14. Will Hurrell, 13. Hudson Tonga’uiha*, 12. Simon Whatling, 11. James Lewis
10. Gordon Ross* ©, 9. Rob Lewis
1. Shawn Pittman*, 2. Dan George, 3. Billy Moss, 4. Adam Brown, 5. Martin Purdy
6. Lee Beach, 7. Mike Denbee, 8. Ed Jackson.
16. Saul Nelson/Vili Ma’asi*, 17. Greg Bateman, 18. Matt Corker, 19. Ben Russell
20. Jack Moates, 21. Alex Davies, 22. Ashley Smith.
R. Cook, G. Pointer, D. Locke, A. Suniula, D. Doherty
J. Bentley, G. Cattle (capt), B. Maidment, P. Burgess, B. Cowan
I. Nimmo, M. Myerscough, R. Brits, R. Elloway, C. Rimmer.
Rotherham Titans have made six changes ahead of table topping Bristol’s visit to Clifton Lane this Saturday.
There are three changes in the back line which sees Steve Hamilton start at outside centre, replacing Elliott Brierley, who had a fine game at Moseley. The half back combination of Garry Law and Jimmy Williams will return to the fray, in place of Cliffie Hodgson and Matt Rhodes.
In the pack Ted Stagg returns for Dan Baines at hooker and there’s a welcome return for fans favourites Sam Dickinson and Sean Dougall. The former starts at lock for Barney Maddison while the latter returns at open side flanker for last week’s star man Carl Kirwan.
Bristol will no doubt provide a stern test for the South Yorkshire side as they currently sit top of the pile with 7 wins from 8 matches played. Their only defeat came earlier in the season with the narrowest of defeats away to Leeds. Bristol can also boast to having the best defence in the Championship, having conceded just 128 points so far.
The overall league head to head between the sides sees Bristol hold a slender 6-4 advantage, although Rotherham achieved the league double over Bristol last term. Head Coach Andre Bester recognises what a difficult challenge Bristol will present but believes his charges are up for the task, Bester said, “Bristol are the leaders, but so were Bedford and London Welsh! But there’s absolutely no doubt Bristol are a good side, you don’t get there being a bad side. Bristol have consistency and they win matches and they win the close matches.
“They had a narrow loss away to Leeds earlier in the season, but they have learnt from that experience and kicked on. So there’s no doubt that Bristol are a very good side, exceptionally experienced and although they have brought some new guys in, they do have continuity.
“Bristol are one of the most traditional clubs in English rugby with exceptional history behind them. They have to carry the burden of that history around with them, because a club like that with the support they have should not be in the Championship, they should be in the Premiership.
“It’s our job however not to let them continue their charge on our watch. For us the important thing is this match, we know they want to come here and put one over on us and we will be ready for that challenge. But we know that is going to be tough because they are a good abrasive side who are very direct and can play the total game.Whether it’s a tight game or a loose game they can do everything very well.
“But we’ve worked very hard in training this week; I don’t believe the boys have worked as hard all season in preparation of this game. And for us, it’s about winning this match and us taking the points.”
Bristol Rugby. Liam Middleton makes four changes from the side that recorded a thrilling victory over London Welsh, as Bristol Rugby go in search of their sixth successive league win. Five points clear at the top of the RFU Championship, Bristol make the long journey to Clifton Lane on Saturday to face a resurgent Rotherham.
In the backline, Junior Fatialofa returns after a five-game absence to start alongside top-scorer Jack Tovey in the midfield. Matty James continues at fly-half with Tristan Roberts still unavailable through injury.
Middleton shuffles his pack in the forwards, making two changes in the front row. Darren Crompton and Ross Johnston replace Mark Irish and Rhys Lawrence, while Darren Barry makes his first league start of the season.
A very strong replacement bench, including Roy Winters and Rhys Lawrence, sees a five forwards and two backs split.
15 Tom Foden, 14 Ed Tellwright, 13 Steve Hamilton, 12 Pale Nonu
11 Shane Monahan, 10 Garry Law, 9 Jimmy Williams
1 Jamie Kilbane, 2 Ted Stagg, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Sam Dickinson (Capt.)
5 Adrian Griffiths, 6 Robin Copeland, 7 Sean Dougall, 8 Semisi Taulava.
16 Dan Baines, 17 Shane Cahill, 18 Ben Hooper, 19 Barney Maddison, 20 Carl Kirwan
21 Matt Rhodes, 22 Cliffie Hodgson, 23 Ben Harris, 24 Elliott Brierley.
Sean Marsden; George Watkins, Jack Tovey, Junior Fatialofa, Jon Goodridge
Matty James, Tom Slater; Darren Crompton, Ross Johnston, Jason Hobson
Mariano Sambucetti, Darren Barry, Josh Ovens, James Merriman, Iain Grieve (c).
Rhys Lawrence, Mark Irish, Wayne Thompson, Roy Winters, Marco Mama
Louis Silver, Mark Davies.
Nottingham are looking to continue their current run of good form when they host London Scottish at Meadow Lane on Sunday. The Green and Whites were very impressive in their win against the Doncaster Knights at Castle Park in their last outing and will be hoping to continue that momentum against the Exiles
Nottingham’s Director of Rugby, Glenn Delaney said: “Scottish have proven already this season that they’re a good side who haven’t been found wanting at this level. They have a good set piece, are strong up front and the addition of Gosio and Lallane, who were part of the Argentina squad at the World Cup, will see some top level experience and ability in their back line.”
“Our win against Doncaster was good for the team. The boys put in a good shift and showed good composure and control to close the game out once Donny started to push towards the end. It was good to get back to winning ways after four matches and I’m confident that if we play the way we’ve been training, then we’ll be in with a good shout on Sunday.”
Nottingham are still without many of their back three flyers, with David Jackson, Tim Streather, Andy Savage and Jack Cobden all on the injured list. Mike Penn will be looking to continue his recent run of form as he comes in and the strength of the squad means that Delaney has resources available.
The match on Sunday is also doubling up as Ladies Day at the club with a number of activities scheduled throughout the stadium to help raise money for Breast Cancer Care. To do their part, the players will be running out in a specially designed pink strip.
Captain Craig Hammond commented: “The shirts are certainly very pink! In all seriousness, it’s great that we’re able to help raise funds for a great cause by doing something fun like changing our strip. I know that a number of the shirts will be auctioned off after the match to help raise additional funds too.
“Some of the boys are quite taken with the colour, so it’ll take a good bid to get the shirts off their backs!”
London Scottish Head Coach Simon Amor has moved to plug some of the injury problems suffered by Scottish in recent weeks with three exciting new dual-registered signings set to feature at Nottingham on Sunday.
England Under 20 stars Elliot Daly of Wasps and Guy Armitage (brother of England Internationals Steffon and Delon Armitage) from London Irish have come into the centres following Ben MacDougall’s ongoing hamstring problems, and England U18 forward David Sisi, also from London Irish, starts at 8 following the injury picked up by Mark Bright at Plymouth.
All three players promise to add some vitality to a back line that has been stretched over recent weeks.
Elsewhere, Scottish’s two Argentine internationals, Agustine Gosio and Alfredo Lalanne retain their places after their try-scoring debuts last weekend, and Stephen Hihetah returns to the team following an injury disrupted start to the season.
There is a return to the bench for Scottish’s leading points scorer Dan Mugford after he was ruled out just before kick-off against Bedford.
Michael Holford, Joe Duffey, Ben Prescott, Craig Hammond (c), Nic Rouse
Sione Kalamafoni, Jonny Baird, Alex Shaw, Finlay Barnham, James Arlidge
Charlie Hayter, Juan Socino, Ayoola Erinle, Mike Penn, Kieran Hallett
Raphael Olive, Matt Parr, Matt Shields, Lee Morley, Phil Eggleshaw
Nathan Jones, Joe Cobden
15. Oli Grove 14. Agustin Gosio 13. Elliot Daley 12. Guy Armitage 11. Stephen Hihetah
10. James Brown 9. Alfredo Lalanne 8. David Sisi 7. Lewis Calder © 6. Anthony Andrews
5. Ben Thomas 4. Stephen Pape 3. Aaron Liffchak 2. Tom Standfield 1. Alex Clarke
16. Nick Auterac 17. Adam Kwasnicki 18. Lewis Thiede 19. James Kellard
20. Oli Brown 21. Matt Heeks 22. Dan Mugford