We’ve arrived at Round 10 and the penultimate weekend of regular matches as Ealing become the first team to conclude their season…for now.
Saturday provides one of the games of the campaign, but there are big fixtures throughout as the Championship gets set to offer another generous serving of action and drama.
Strap in tight as the home straight is fast approaching…
Venue: Alpas Arena
Kick-off: Saturday 22nd May, 13:30
The weekend’s action gets underway as eighth-placed Hartpury host Jersey [7th] with both teams seeking to overhaul Ampthill in sixth for what would be a solid mid-table finish.
Both have been involved in some exciting fixtures this season, providing great entertainment and competition, but they have come out on the wrong end of a few more results than they would have hoped for.
Jersey had been looking to make it three wins in a row last time out but couldn’t repeat the trick of feeding off the energy from their home crowd whilst Hartpury have lost six of their last seven, meaning this one provides the perfect opportunity for a bounce back for either side.
Apart from one Jersey blowout [52-14], this has been a notoriously tight contest since Hartpury’s promotion into the division in 2017/18. The Reds have had the best of it winning three of the last four, with the most recent encounter ending in a 10-9 victory for the Channel Island side.
You’d have to be brave to confidently predict much in this league, but you can certainly expect fans to get their money’s worth as per usual.
Venue: Trailfinders Sportsground
Kick-off: Saturday 22nd May, 15:00
This one needs no introduction… but I’ll give it one anyway.
First plays third as two of the play-off contenders go head-to-head for what should be an absolute barnstormer in London.
There are permutations with bonus points in play and Donny with another fixture to come next week whilst Ealing are on a bye, but these two could still end up facing each other for a place in the Gallagher Premiership should Saracens somehow crumble at the last.
Ealing are in the driving seat having racked up try bonus points in all eight of their wins, whilst the Knights have managed three in their seven meaning it will take a big away victory to halt the Trailfinders at the final hurdle.
TEAM NEWS with @mfhire— Doncaster Knights ?? (@DoncasterKnight) May 21, 2021
4?? Changes to the starting XV
2?? Games left this season
?? Points to keep play off hopes alive ??
KO tomorrow ?? @ealingtfrugby 15:00.
?? Preview ?? https://t.co/nH9IrIwCgT
?? Tickets ?? https://t.co/pakeShJQ1x
?? Live Stream ?? https://t.co/LL40P1eKYN pic.twitter.com/7HNwfurudr
That said, the visitors have been overcoming challenges all season, but this is an entirely different proposition.
Form is of course a strong suit for both. They had their 100 per cent records ended at the hands of Sarries, but they responded with back-to-back maximum hauls heading into this showdown.
History certainly favours the hosts, with the Trailfinders winning six of the last seven between the sides and the Knights yet to record a Championship victory down at Ealing.
But it is only history. This one will shape the near future and a shot at the top-flight.
Venue: Butts Park Arena
Kick-off: Saturday 22nd May, 17:00
The final game of Saturday’s trio of offerings sees Saracens rock up at Butts Park for what should be another fine occasion as two of the league’s form teams do battle.
Cov have won four of their last five, with their only slip up in that run coming against Cornish Pirates who they will hope to overhaul if they are to finish fourth this season.
Saracens, meanwhile, are on the whitest of hot streaks. Seven successive bonus-point wins has made it more and more of a procession back towards the top tier with each passing week.
Sadly for the league as a whole, this will prove to be the only regular away game that Sarries will face with fans this season, though that should make it even more of a spectacle.
Cov expect a reduced capacity of up to 1,400 through the gates, which they hope will buoy them to what would be a shock result in the last action at this venue until next season.
Sarries finally moved into the top two after winning against Ampthill on Monday night, meaning this provides an opportunity to guarantee a play-off space despite the short turnaround, with the other two teams in the top three facing off against one another.
As they all are, this one should be a belter.
Venue: Dillingham Park
Kick-off: Sunday 23rd May, 13:00
Onwards to Sunday and we begin with what should be another fascinating fixture.
Ampthill are currently positioned in sixth, which is likely to be the highest place they will be able to finish, but that would provide another really positive season in the second tier.
On the other hand, Richmond are sat at the foot of the table and whilst relegation is of course on hold for a year, they will not want to finish bottom on their return from National One.
Ampthill have been in topsy turvy form of late, managing two tight wins before suffering a pair of comfortable defeats in fitting with the tumultuous nature of the league.
Their visitors have suffered five losses on the bounce without picking up so much as a losing bonus point. Their closest margin in this run has been 17 against Nottingham last week, whilst they have scored just 11 tries and 94 points in the season so far.
This will be a first-ever Championship clash between the last two National One champions and as with all the other teams, a final flourish would be welcomed ahead of what should be a much fuller season next time out.
Venue: Lady Bay Sportsground
Kick-off: Sunday 23rd May, 15:00
Concluding the weekend’s action is a ding-dong between second and third bottom which can propel the potential victor away from the foot of the table.
Nottingham finally secured a long overdue win last time out against Richmond to end what had been a testing sequence of losses stretching throughout the season and in fact, back to February 2020.
Bedford again entertained in Round 9 and put up a great fight against Ealing, but the Blues came away with nothing for their efforts, as has often been the case.
As with their league positions, these two are the second and third lowest try scorers in the division so this is the ideal opportunity to cut loose and stretch their legs before a summer off after next week.
Bedford have had by far the best of this fixture over the years, dominating the head-to-head, though Nottingham won the only game between the sides last season at this very venue.
It will be a welcome sight to have fans in to conclude Nottingham’s home campaign and it feels like an excellent bookend to another tantalising round of Championship action.
Pirates are the final side to take a bye with another regular fixture ahead of them.
They concluded this season’s Mennaye action with a handsome win against Hartpury and will finish their campaign with a trip to Jersey next week as they seek to hold off Coventry to secure a top-four spot.