RFU Championship News

Play-Offs 3

23rd March 2012


RFU Championship News Friday 23rd March 2012

Play Offs Round 3

Friday, 23 March 2012
Plymouth Albion 37-5 London Scottish, Pool C 19:45

Saturday, 24 March 2012
London Welsh v Doncaster, Pool A 14:30
Moseley v Esher, Pool C 15:00

Sunday, 25 March 2012
Cornish Pirates v Rotherham, Pool B 15:00
Leeds Carnegie v Bedford, Pool B 15:00
Nottingham v Bristol, Pool A 15:00

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Play Offs Round 3
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Pool A
The tradition of tight matches between Bristol and London Welsh continued on Sunday with a 12- all draw fought out at the Memorial Stadium between two of the leading promotion contenders. A crowd of 4,721 watched as both sides traded kicks at goal throughout, two penalties apiece from Bristol's Tristan Roberts and Matthew Jones - the second coming in stoppage time - being cancelled out by Alex Davies' three penalties and a drop goal from Gordon Ross.

Bristol remain on top of Pool A, though, heading into this weekend's clash against Nottingham at Meadow Lane. Liam Middleton's men did the double over the Green & Whites in the regular season, winning 18-15 and 24-35.

Nottingham fell one try shy of picking up a bonus point in a 30-3 win over injury- hit Doncaster. Just three James Arlidge penalties were all Nottingham had to show for their efforts at half- time, but they came to life after the break to register scores from Michael Holford, Ayoola Erinle and Tim Streather before time ran out.

A daunting trip to Old Deer Park to face London Welsh awaits the Knights who failed to pick up any points against their Pool A rivals in the regular season, a fate which could repeat itself in the play- offs if they are not careful. Doncaster were well beaten at Welsh's famous home ground in a midweek match one month ago, and they also lost 21-10 when the sides met at Castle Park on November 5th.

Pool B
Bedford go into the third week of the play- offs holding a seven- point lead at the top of Pool B. The Blues pulled off an extraordinary win at home against Cornish Pirates to put themselves in pole position to qualify for the semi- finals. On a night of high drama, Bedford brilliantly overturned a 19- point half- time deficit to snatch victory when James Pritchard converted Brendan Burke's last- gasp try. The 26-25 victory sets the Blues up perfectly for Sunday's away game at Leeds, who are still very much in contention for the runners- up spot despite a woeful performance at home to Rotherham.

Carnegie lost 20-3 at Headingley in front of their lowest home league crowd of the season and they will need an immediate response if they are to maintain their promotion hopes. Luckily for Leeds, only two points separates the three sides chasing Bedford and they can take heart from the fact they defeated Bedford home and away in the regular season.

Rotherham, meanwhile, travel to Cornish Pirates looking to reverse the 30-13 defeat they suffered at the Mennaye Field at the beginning of November. Memories of last season's televised 67-14 drubbing by the Duchy outfit in the play- offs will also serve as motivation for the Titans who will miss captain Sam Dickinson because of the arm injury he sustained against Leeds. When Pirates drew 14- all with Leeds in the opening round of the play- offs it was only the second time they have failed to win at home all season.

Pool C
London Scottish recorded their third win against Moseley this season to go top of Pool C in the relegation play- offs. Both sides scored two tries apiece and the respective kickers cancelled each other out with ten points coming from the boots of Dan Mugford and Ollie Thomas, meaning that James Brown's drop goal proved decisive in the final outcome.

Scottish face Plymouth at Brickfields on Friday night where they will hope to take another giant leap towards safety with victory over Albion. Just four points separated the two sides when they met during the regular season, the home side winning on each occasion. Albion's 29-25 win in October came courtesy of a try from the last play of the game deep into injury- time.

Scottish were one of six scalps taken by Plymouth on home soil in Stage 1 of the Championship campaign and they added to that tally further in the play- offs with an 18-11 win over
Esher at the weekend. Albion were indebted to the accurate goal kicking of James Love for all of their points in a win that puts them four points clear of Esher with four games to go.

Esher travel to Moseley on Saturday knowing that they need to convert losing bonus points into wins. Mike Schmid's men have been within one score of their opponents in the first two play- off games but nothing less than victory will do at Billesley Common unless Albion lose. Moseley did the double over Esher in the regular season

Friday 23rd March 2012

Plymouth Albion v London Scottish 19:45 (Pool B)

Plymouth Albion


Plymouth Albion Plymouth Albion will be hoping to make it two wins in a row in the Championship play-offs when they entertain London Scottish at Brickfields tonight.

Albion boosted their hopes of staying in the Championship with a 18-11 win over Esher at Brickfields last Friday.

Head coach Nat Saumi is keen for his team to build on that victory, which ended a run of five losses for Albion.

Saumi is able to name the same starting XV for tomorrow's game against a Scottish side who have won their opening two play-off matches.

However, there are changes on Albion bench, with Luke Cowan-Dickie returning from England Under-20 duty and Steve Johns and Davy McGregor coming back into the squad.

Johns was Albion's hero when Albion last hosted Scottish at Brickfields. He scored a last-gasp try to help his side to a 29-25 win.

Both regular league matches between the two sides were close with Scottish winning 21-17 on their home patch.

Plymouth Albion
15 Sione Tu'ipulotu, 14 James Love, 13 Paul Bailey, 12 Bevon Armitage
11 Tyson Lewis, 10 Paul Roberts, 9 Ruairi Cushion
1 David Morton, 2 Jon Vickers, 3 Rob Dugard, 4 Tyler Hotson
5 Sean-Michael Stephen (capt), 6 Herbie Stupple, 7 Wayne Sprangle, 8 Aaron Carpenter.

Mark Lee, Steve Johns, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Addison Lockley
Davy McGregor, Sam Hocking, Gareth Evans.


Other News From Albion

Nat Saumi told Herald Sport that hopes to keep the bulk of Plymouth Albion's squad together - should the club survive relegation.

As the club do not know which division they will be definitely playing in next season, it makes it difficult for them to offer any firm contracts.

But Saumi insists he has held discussions with the current squad and the players will know whether there is a contract on the table, or not, once the club's future has been confirmed

"The players in the club know where they stand, as I have told them," said Saumi

Full Story www.thisisplymouth.co.uk


London Scottish


London Scottish travel to Albion aiming to make it three wins from three and take a huge leap towards securing survival in the RFU Championship.

The 23-20 win over Moseley confirmed Scottish at the top of the Relegation Pool, and go into the double header with Plymouth full of confidence. The sharp turn around from Sunday's game going into the Friday night fixture has seen changes in the squad in both the backs and the pack.

Double try scorer against Moseley Gerard Mullen retains his place with Agustin Gosio and Stuart Peel in the back three and the centre partnership of Westren and Hayter continue.

Half backs James Brown and Matt Heeks come in for Dan Mugford and Simon Amor.

In the pack, three changes see Ben Lonergan, Steve Pape and Matthew Johnson step up into the starting XV.

London Scottish
15 Stuart Peel 14 Agustin Gosio 13 Ryan Westren 12 Charlie Hayter
11 Gerard Mullen 10 James Brown 9 Matt Heeks 8 Mark Bright
7 Ben Lonergan 6 Adam Kleeberger 5 Josh Thomas Brown 4 Steve Pape
3 Aaron Liffchak 2 Adam Kwasnicki 1 Matthew Johnson

16 Ollie Hayes 17 Alexander MacKenzie 18 Alexander Karonias 19 Ben Thomas
20 James Kellard 21 Jamie Stevenson 22 Oli Grove



Saturday 24th March 2012

London Welsh v Doncaster 14:30 (Pool A)

London Welsh


London Welsh's draw away to Championship favourites and play-off Pool A rivals Bristol may have teed up the sides’ return meeting at Old Deer Park on April 15, but Exiles flanker Lee Beach is refusing to look beyond Doncaster.

Welsh welcome the Knights to Old Deer Park, with the Exiles having come within a last gasp Matthew Jones penalty of leaving the Memorial Stadium with all four points tucked neatly under their arm, before the following weekend making the return trip to Castle Park.

Three Alex Davies penalties and a Gordon Ross drop goal looked like they might be enough to give Welsh victory on Sunday, only for Jones to strike late and ensure a 12-12 draw.

Doncaster, meanwhile, are still searching for their first points, having conceding 95 points in their opening two Pool A games against Bristol and Nottingham.

However, Beach, a veteran of Welsh’s Championship semi-final defeats at the hands of Bristol in 2010 and the Cornish Pirates last year, is adamant that Exiles will be taking nothing for granted.

“We have two games against Doncaster which are not going to easy,” said Beach, who captained Wales to World Cup Sevens glory in 2009. “They’ll be looking to just go out and play and that makes them very dangerous.

“As a squad we’ve got to think about Doncaster home and away, and then we’ll think about Bristol after that.

“Doncaster will be coming down to try and upset the applecart and if they can do that it’ll be a big plus for them.

“We can’t think about the Bristol score and the Nottingham score - we’ve just got to get our own house in order.”

Sunday’s draw ensured the status quo at the top of Pool A, with the Exiles still trailing Bristol by a point. It was a result, though, that left Beach and his team-mates with mixed emotions, particularly in light of Welsh’s narrow defeat at the Memorial Stadium earlier in the season.

I’d like to think we can get to the final with the squad of players we’ve got - everyone’s singing off the same hymn sheet. I think we can keep building and progress.”

Full Story www.london-welsh.co.uk

London Welsh:
15. Edd Thrower, 14. Nick Scott, 13. James Lewis, 12. Hudson Tonga’uiha
11. Ashley Smith, 10. Alex Davies, 9. Jack Moates
1. Shawn Pittman, 2. Saul Nelson, 3. Greg Bateman, 4. Adam Brown
5. Gary Johnson, 6. Lee Beach ©, 7. Michael Hills, 8. Ed Jackson.

16. Dan George, 17. Tom French 18. Matt Corker, 19. Ben Russell
20. Ben Stevenson, 21. Gordon Ross, 22. Will Hurrell.




Doncaster Knights DOR Brett Davey has announced a near to full strength squad as they look to claim their first Championship play-off win against London Welsh this weekend at Old Deer Park.

The Exiles have started their own bid for the Premiership strongly by beating Nottingham and holding favourites Bristol to a draw at the Memorial Ground, whilst the unseeded Knights have been convincingly defeated by the two former Pool A opponents so far.

The Doncaster front row has been boosted by the return of loose-head prop Tom Davies, who was feared out for the season after leaving the field in an ambulance against Bristol two weeks ago. Captain Chris Hallam has edged past another fitness test to lead his troops back into battle.

Following the promising debut of Toby Berridge against the Green and Whites, the former Cambridge utility back holds his full-back position. The Knights still lack depth in the back division with David McIlwaine, Tom Luke and PJ Gidlow all injured and former London Welsh fly-half Mike Whitehead having made the decision to retire this week.

But the man who knocked Whitehead out of the side, 20-year-old Irishman Gareth Quinn-McDonogh, spoke this week of his side’s desire to claim a few ‘big scalps’ in their remaining games despite the odds of progressing to the semi-finals being stacked against them. The Knights belief hasn’t dwindled and they are more than capable of causing a Pool A upset this weekend.

Doncaster Knights
15 Toby Berridge 14 Dougie Flockhart 13 Oli Goss 12 Fred Burdon
11 Michael Keating 10 Gareth Quinn-McDonogh 9 Chris Hallam (C)
1 Tom Davies 2 Steve Boden 3 Alex Brown 4 Matt Challinor
5 Dominic Parsons 6 Latu Makaafi 7 Zack Farivarz 8 Michael Noone

16 Royce Burke-Flynn 17 Jack Yeandle 18 Adam Kettle 19 Andy Boyde
20 Chris Planchant  21 Michael Heaney 22 Ben Toft



Moseley v Esher 15:00 (Pool C)



Moseley - For the visit of Esher to Birmingham this weekend Moseley field a largely unchanged side from that which gained a losing bonus point at London Scottish in the last round.

Dual-registered scrum-half Ryan Glynn returns at the expense of Sam Brown, and in the back-row there is an injury doubt over Chevvy Pennycook, with Ben Pons ready to come in as open-side flanker and Mike Ellery shuffling across to number eight.

Regular season matches saw Moseley take the honours in both fixtures, but they will be prepared for an Esher backline with increased potency from those faced earlier in the year.

Head Coach Kevin Maggs is also aware of the Surrey side’s defensive capabilities. “Esher have only conceded one try in the Play-offs so far” he said. “We will have to work extremely hard to break them down”.

1. Marshall Gadd, 2.Adam Caves, 3. Colin Quigley, 4. David Lyons
5.Paul Spivey, 6.Neil Mason, 7.Ben Pons, 8. 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. Charley Thomas, 18. Richard Stott, 19. James Tyass
20. Michael Maltman, 21. William Robinson, 22 Sam Brown





Esher - Mike Schmid has warned his Esher side that they will be relegated from the Championship unless they sort out their indiscipline.

Esher travel to Moseley on Saturday rooted to the foot of the relegation play-off group after successive defeats by London Scottish and Plymouth.

But it was last Friday’s 18-11 reverse in Devon that angered Schmid as Esher gave away a series of needless penalties to hand Plymouth the initiative.

That leaves Esher four points adrift of Plymouth with four play-off games remaining and the spectre of National One rugby looming on the horizon.

Director of Rugby Schmid fumed: “We talked all week about not giving away soft penalties in the middle third of the park but at Plymouth we had eight.

“Yet we’ve given only one try away in two games so we have to have more confidence in our defence than that to risk silly penalties.

“It’s an individual putting his needs in front of the team. It’s happened too much in the last two weeks, when the games are always going to be tight and we know Plymouth have a goalkicker who kicks everything within 50.

Full Story www.esherrugby.com


Sunday 25th March 2012

Cornish Pirates v Rotherham Titans 15:00 (Pool B)

Pirates TV

Cornish Pirates


Cornish Pirates - After drawing one and losing one in the first two promotion play-offs, the Pirates will be focused to seek their first victory when they play Rotherham Titans at the Mennaye Field on Sunday.

The task will not be easy, as the Titans will no doubt have upped their mood for the long trek to the far south west following their 20-3 points win away to Leeds last weekend, but there are also clearly positives for the Pirates to consider.

They won 30-13 at the Mennaye Field when the two teams met in Stage 1 of the RFU Championship competition, and on Sunday they will welcome back Centre Sam Hill who returns from England U20s duty.

With a good forecast this game should provide entertaining and seriously hard-fought rugby action and clearly one for true and dedicated rugby supporters not to miss.

Cornish Pirates:
R. Cook, G. Pointer, A. Suniula, S. Hill, M. Evans
C. Thomas, G. Cattle (capt), B. Maidment, P. Burgess, C. Morgan
I. Nimmo, L. M. Smith, A. Paver, D. Ward, C. Rimmer.

R. Storer, R. Elloway, M. Myerscough, K. Marriott
T. Kessell, A. Penberthy, T. Cooper.

Match Officials
Referee: Darren Gamage (RFU)
Assistants: Nick Williams & James Minards
4th. Official: Andrew Bickle


Pirates' backs coach, Harvey Biljon, fully expects the Titans to travel to Penzance in confident mood and warned: "They have come off the back of a really good win at Headingley and will fancy themselves against us. You can bet that they have been talking about that all week."

He explained that emotions in the Pirates' camp were still running high at the start of the week after their 26-25 loss at Bedford, but the squad will be ready for Sunday.

"There was a lot of frustration and anger because we had performed pretty well and the boys had delivered most of what we had asked for," Biljon said.

"But they wanted to get the Bedford review done quickly so that they could focus on Rotherham and that is the best way to deal with a setback. We will be ready."

Full Story www.thisiscornwall.co.uk


Rotherham Titans


Rotherham Titans are ready for what head coach Andre Bester believes is the “Toughest Challenge in the Championship,” when they travel to Cornwall to face Cornish Pirates on Sunday.

Following Titans impressive 20-3 victory away to Leeds Carnegie last week, the Clifton Lane outfit are ready to give their all as they chase a semi-final berth in the promotion play-offs.

The only change to Andre Bester’s 22 sees Neale Patrick come in at lock forward for injured skipper Sam Dickinson. Dickinson’s season was ended prematurely in last week victory at Headingley after sustaining a broken arm.

With just 5 victories from a previous 18 encounters, Titans Andre Bester is under no illusions as to the difficulty of the challenge that lies ahead for his troops. Bester said, “I think most clubs in the Championship would agree that the toughest assignment in the division is away to Cornish Pirates.

However, we have always believed our application in what we do and we are playing better and better every week. We are focused on what we have to do in the play-offs and making sure that we do the little things well.

“We are probably a little bit unlucky not be at the top with Bedford right now, but as long as we learn, we know we can compete with the top clubs in the division.

“We know Leeds probably had an off day last week, but we also know that Pirates at home won’t have an off-day. Therefore we know it will be a much closer game and if we are going to win down there, it will be very close.

“But we also know that we can back ourselves and believe in ourselves. We need to go down there and go and apply what we believe in and the result will look after itself. It’s not an insurmountable challenge and life without a challenge is a life that’s not worth living. Our challenge is to go down there and turn them over.”

Rotherham Titans:
15 Tom Foden, 14 Stephen Hamilton, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Pale Nonu,
1 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 Matt Rhodes, 22 Peter Homan.


Guy Williams writing in the Star says: 'The biggest challenge of the lot' that is how Championship clubs, such as Rotherham Titans, describe what it is like playing Cornish Pirates in front of a passionate crowd at the Mennaye Field Stadium in Penzance.

It is not just the round trip of several hundred miles which teams find so tiring, but once players take on the Pirates, they are also fighting against all of Cornwall where rugby union is the expression of the Duchy’s personality.

So this Sunday, in their third promotion play-off, Rotherham will achieve a miracle if they were to beat the Pirates, but after playing so well to defeat Leeds on Sunday, the Titans could not be in a better shape mentally.

Full Story www.thestar.co.uk


Leeds Carnegie v Bedford Blues 15:00 (Pool B)

Leeds Carnegie


Leeds Carnegie Head Coach Diccon Edwards has made three changes to his side for this Sunday's massive Championship Play off game against Bedford Blues at Headingley Carnegie.

Having recorded a draw and a loss in their opening two pool games, Leeds will be hoping of a repeat of their home and away wins of pool leaders Bedford in the regular season in their next two games to get their promotion push back on track.

Experienced winger Lee Blackett returns to the side in place of Pete Lucock, who is amongst the replacements, whilst the other two changes come in the pack. Jon Pendlebury and Sean Hohneck are both recalled after injury and replace Tom Denton and Dan Hemingway in the second row.

Leeds are still without Michael Stephenson, Mike MacDonald, Lachlan MacKay, Joe Barker and Phil Swainston through injury.


Leeds Carnegie
15. Tommy Bell 14. Stevie McColl 13. Iain Thornley 12. Scott Barrow
11. Lee Blackett 10. Joe Ford 9. Will Cliff
1. Sam Lockwood 2. Andy Titterrell (c) 3. Halani Aulika 4. Jon Pendlebury
5. Sean Hohneck 6. Ed Williamson 7. Jacob Rowan 8. Ryan Burrows

16. Phil Nilsen 17. Mo Mustafa 18. Dan Hemingway 19. Richard Beck
20. Robbie Shaw 21. Jordan Davies 22. Pete Lucock




Bedford Blues - Despite being two out of two in Pool B of the Championship play-offs, Bedford Blues know that they have everything to do on Sunday with a trip to Headingley to face Leeds.

The Blues haven’t enjoyed their last two outings against Carnegie with the Yorkshire club racking up a 28-45 win at Goldington Road in October and a 21-17 victory in January’s reverse. That defeat was Bedford’s last in the Championship though and they have gone on to win five in a row including a thriller against Cornish Pirates last Friday night.

Looking ahead to the game, Bedford Team manager Rob Crowle said: “Last Friday was a big effort for all the boys and although it wasn’t the prettiest of performances, we got the result that we wanted and now we have to continue building on that.

“We are very aware that we haven’t done as well as we would have hoped against Leeds this season, but the previous results are irrelevant in the play-offs and we need to make sure that we step up to the challenge at Headingley on Sunday afternoon. Leeds are coming off a painful derby defeat to Rotherham last weekend and we have to expect some form of a backlash.

“That said, if we can show as much grit and determination as we have done in the last five games then I’m sure that we’ll be in for a cracking contest on Sunday afternoon.”

Bedford make several changes to the team that came from 6-25 down to win against the Cornishmen last weekend as they look to continue their good run of results

Bedford Blues
15. James Pritchard (c) 14. Ollie Dodge 13. Brendan Burke 12. Ian Vass
11. Josh Bassett 10. Jamie Lennard 9. Darryl Veenendaal
1. Sam Walsh 2. Chris Locke 3. Ben Cooper 4. Paul Tupai
5. Alex Rae 6. Jon Fisher 7. Sacha Harding 8. Don Barrell

16. Neil Cochrane, 17. Ricky Reeves, 18. Mike Howard, 19. Darren Fox
20. Luke Baldwin, 21. Jake Sharp. 22. Handre Schmidt


Blues Director of rugby, Mike Rayer speaking to James Heneghan of Bedford today said, “It’ll be another tough game at the weekend. They (Leeds) won’t be happy with their performance against Rotherham and they’ll be looking to put that right because another loss at home will make it extremely hard for them.

“It’s make or break for them whereas there’s a little bit less pressure on us now and hopefully we’ll put in a better performance and we’ll get the result.”

“They’ve got some real talented, young players. Some of them are potential England internationals and that’s what makes them so dangerous - they play without fear.”

Full Story www.bedfordtoday.co.uk


Nottingham v Bristol 15:00 (Pool A)



Nottingham's meeting with Bristol at home looms as the biggest 80 minutes of rugby this season for the Green and White.

It's how Nottingham deals with the side that finished the regular season clear at the top of the table on Sunday, March 25, that will give the clearest indication of the side's premiership ambitions.

Considering the sides play the return fixture six days later (Friday, March 30) at the Memorial Stadium, the outing will be doubly important.

While Nottingham is yet to savour victory against Bristol, going down by three points away in October and crashing to a 35-24 loss at Meadow Lane in late December, the Green and White have since risen to new heights.


The Nottingham Post says The Green and Whites will go into the match with their confidence restored after brushing aside Doncaster Knights last week.

"Bristol are a good all-round team. They are strong up front and have a pretty direct back division but while I have a huge amount of respect for them, we don't fear them," said Delaney.

"They were the form horse in the league but the play-off situation is pretty unique. The fact they left it so late to secure a 12-12 draw in their last game against London Welsh shows, perhaps, they are not the all singing and all dancing team people think."

Delaney accepts the pressure is on his side to win to keep alive their Group A play-off hopes but he saw enough in the 30-3 victory over Doncaster to suggest the Green and Whites have the firepower to cause an upset.

"We would always back ourselves at home. We enjoy playing at Meadow Lane," said Delaney.

Full Story www.thisisnottingham.co.uk




Bristol Rugby make two changes to the pack ahead of Sunday's crucial clash with Nottingham at Meadow Lane on Sunday.

Liam Middleton's side, who drew 12-12 with London Welsh last weekend, currently top Pool A with ten points ahead of the Exiles.

Jason Hobson returns to the front row in place of Wayne Thompson, while Darren Crompton replaces Mark Irish.

In the backline, Tristan Roberts recovers from a dead leg to form a familiar half-back partnership with Ruki Tipuna.

The replacements bench sees a five forwards and two backs split, with Rhys Lawrence and Mark Lilley included in the 22-man squad.

Bristol Rugby
Jon Goodridge, Jack Tovey, Fautua Otto, Luke Eves, Will Helu
Tristan Roberts, Ruki Tipuna, Darren Crompton, Ross Johnston, Jason Hobson
Glen Townson, Roy Winters, Josh Ovens, Marco Mama, Iain Grieve (c).

Rhys Lawrence, Mark Lilley, Dan Montagu, Henry Vanderglas
Tom Slater, Matthew Jones, George Watkins