Round 7: GK IPA Championship Review

2015/16 Championship winners Bristol have won all seven of their matches this term

TRU Contributor Connor Hickinbottom takes a look back at the season so far in the Championship

Championship Rugby returned last Friday night after two weeks out for the British and Irish Cup.

Friday 27th October:

Nottingham 34 Richmond 17

A dominant second half performance from Nottingham proved to be the difference in Friday night’s encounter, the Green & Whites scored twice after the break to secure the bonus point victory moving them into third place.

It was an action packed first half at The Bay; Darryl Veenendaal, Oli Evans and Joe Cobden all dotted down for Nottingham. Richmond kept their hosts within arm’s reach thanks to two tries of their own from Jordan Simpson-Hefft and Luc Jones.

Unfortunately for Richmond the half time score was as good as it was going to get, Nottingham came out for the second-half firing on all cylinders and went over for the bonus point try after just three minutes, Shane Buckley the scorer.

With the lead secured Nottingham controlled proceedings, pinning Richmond back in their own half and forcing the amateur side to kick possession back to them. The Green & Whites game management was rewarded once more before the full-time whistle as Billy Robinson scored in the corner.

Saturday 28th October:

Jersey Reds 17 Bristol Rugby 36

Bristol got back to winning ways with a bonus point victory over Jersey Reds in blustery conditions.

The West Country outfit suffered their first defeat of the season in the British & Irish Cup last weekend, this was put behind them as a first-half hattrick from Rhodri Williams all but secured victory.

Bristol opened the scoring on the 18th minute as former All Black Steve Luatua, who has just been named in the Barbarians squad to face New Zealand next week, went over at the back of a catch and drive.

The floodgates had been opened and by the 27th minute Bristol found themselves 29-0 up.

A six-minute hattrick from man of the match Williams crushing any hope Jersey had of inflicting a first league defeat on their visitors.

The hosts didn’t go into the break empty handed, Tom Pincus was somehow able to pluck a cross-field kick out of the air at full stretch to score in the corner – certainly one to watch on the highlights.

Jersey had a mountain to climb going into the second half, in front of a season-high home crowd they gave it their best shot. Tries from Nick Selway and then Joel Dudley allowed the Channel Islanders some hope of securing a losing bonus point but this was abruptly ended as Luatua touched down for his second try of the game, earning Bristol their 7th win of the season.

Rotherham Titans 18 Ealing Trailfinders 23

It wasn’t a performance that will live long in the memory of the travelling Ealing fans but they left Clifton Lane with four points, keeping the pressure mounted on leaders Bristol.

The visitors made a quick start, Harry Casson went over the whitewash six minutes in after the Trailfinders stole a Rotherham lineout.

Rotherham, looking for their first win of the season, came straight back at Ealing. First came a penalty from Caolan Ryan before a Will Porter try gave the Titans the lead.

Ealing scored twice more before the break, captain Mark Bright going over from close range before an excellent team move was finished off by Will Harries sending the teams into the break with the visitors leading 17-13.

The second-half was dominated for the most part by Ealing, a Peter Lydon penalty extended the Trailfinders lead by seven but the Rotherham spirit remained and they were back in contention shortly after.

The Titans turned over an Ealing scrum on their own five-yard line and raced downfield into the visitors 22, the ball was quickly recycled to Porter who went over for his second try of the match. Rotherham missed their opportunity to draw the game level as the conversion went wide.

Another Lydon penalty secured the game for the travelling Ealing side leaving them five points behind Bristol.

London Scottish 13 Hartpury College 15

Hartpury scored with the final play of the game to deny London Scottish their second victory of the season.

London Scottish have played their best rugby when at home and they followed that trend again Saturday afternoon. It was, however, Hartpury who capitalised on their chances. The Gloucestershire-based side scored after just five minutes, Luke Eves finding himself in an abundance of space to walk into the corner.

Despite the early score the pressure continued to come from Scottish, the home side put points on the board with two penalties but this was as good as it was going to get during the first half.

Scottish broke down the Hartpury defence shortly after the restart, Ed Hoadley going over from short range.

The home side continued to dictate proceedings until substitute Danny Kenny was red carded for a high tackle on Ed Sheldon.

Hartpury, spurred on by the extra man looked to capitalise but Scottish continued to prove that they are far superior than what their current record suggests.

It was, in fact, the home side who threatened next. Scottish won a scrum under the Hartpury posts that was repeated three times, the home side may feel a little hard done by that a penalty try was not awarded, on the fourth attempt Scottish attempted to play the ball out wide but Hartpury were able to counter.

Scottish knocked the ball on and Hartpury raced downfield, several pick and go’s followed from close range before the ball was flung out wide to Mike Wilcox to clutch victory from defeat.

Sunday 29th October:

Doncaster Knights 29 Cornish Pirates 46

The Pirates picked up their second win of the season in an 11-try thriller at Castle Park.

It was a slow start for both teams, the visitors controlled possession but were unable to threaten the Knights in any kind of way.

The first try of the game came just before the half hour mark, the Knights found themselves backtracking after a high tackle from Junior Bulumakau, the visitors quickly exploited a panicked defence as they spread the ball out wide to Toby May to score.

The Pirates added another try just moments later, a Declan Cusack kick was called back for crossing and from the resulting penalty a missed tackle allowed Kyle Moyle to give the visitors a seventeen-point advantage.

The Knights got points on the board before the half-time whistle, a slick line out move allowing Ben Hunter to capitalise down the blindside for the hosts first try of the afternoon.

It was the visitors who struck first after the break, Alex O’Meara intercepted a loose pace and ran the length to score. The Pirates continued to grow in confidence and added their fourth try of the day ten minutes later, Tom Lawday the scorer this time.

Donny hit straight back as Matt Challinor went over from short range, with twenty minutes left to play both teams decided to go in all-out attack mode.

Nick Coronel exploited some weak defending by Doncaster but once again the hosts hit straight back with Lloyd Hayes going over in the corner, the centre turned provider shortly after as he broke through midfield before offloading to Tom James for the home sides fourth try.

Despite the clock showing 80 minutes there was still time for another two tries, firstly Lawday scored his second of the day before Doncaster academy prospect James Wright scored with his very first touch of the ball on his home debut.

Yorkshire Carnegie 38 Bedford Blues 36

Sunday proved to be a thriller of a day for Championship rugby as Yorkshire Carnegie triumphed over Bedford Blues in the most dramatic of endings.

Carnegie ran in six tries, including a hattrick from Mike Mayhew, to continue their unbeaten run at Headingley.

Mayhew went over for his first after just six minutes, the visitors hit back shortly thanks to former Carnegie player Jarad Williams who went under the posts.

This set the tone for the rest of the game, a back and forth encounter which both teams could have won. Mayhew added his second after 24 minutes as he scooped up a loose ball before squeezing through a gap to score.

Once again it was quickly cancelled out, Dean Adamson cut a line through the hosts defence to score in the corner to put the Blues into the lead. Harry Sheppard extended their lead minutes later with a penalty.

Bedford’s lead was short lived, a minute before half-time Chris Elder went over following an outstanding break from deep by Jack Whetton.

The hosts added another try shortly after the restart, Ollie Stedman crashing over for the bonus point try but once again Bedford hit back, Will Hooley picking out Adamson with a pin-point chip over the top allowing the wing to race in for his second try of the game, drawing the game level.

Carnegie earned a penalty try shortly after as the Blues were punished for bringing down the maul, shortly after Mayhew drove over for his hattrick and there was finally some daylight between the two sides.

The Blues had a 14-point deficit to overturn in the final ten minutes and took the first steps to their comeback after 73 minutes, full-back Chris Czekaj powered through Andy Forsyth to score in corner making it a seven-point game.

It went all the way to the dying moments of the game, the Blues pressure continued with Carnegie finding themselves down to 13-men after Whetton and Richard Mayhew found themselves in the bin. The visitors numerical advantage was rewarded as Alex Penny stretched out to get the ball over the line, the try was initially ruled out for a knock on but was awarded after consultation with the touch judge.

Substitute fly-half Will Hooley stepped up with the opportunity to level the scores, his kick struck the upright and gifted victory to Carnegie who let out a sigh of relief.

 After a blistering weekend of rugby, the Championship teams take a well-deserved break next weekend, the next round of fixtures commence on Friday 10th November. 

RFU Championship 2018/19 - Points Table