Things are hotting up both figuratively and literally.
In a week where the pubs reopened and the sun occasionally reared its glow, the Championship served up yet another round of exhilarating action as last orders for the play-offs edged ever nearer.
The battle for second took a huge twist as one of the Championship’s strongest ever lineups dominated and elsewhere, the game of the season unfolded.
Here’s what took place in Round 6:
Pirates bounced back to winning ways with a bonus-point victory following successive defeats.
The game looked to be secured by half-time before a Nottingham fightback which ultimately came to nothing.
The hosts opened the scoring when Alex Dolly knocked over an early penalty, but from there it was almost exclusively one-way traffic through the remainder of the opening period.
Dan Frost showed some nice footwork to score and quickly wrestle the lead for the visitors and this was soon followed up by a fine Harry Davey double.
?? Match Report— Cornish Pirates (@CornishPirates1) April 17, 2021
A bonus point win away from home will do us nicely. A few work ons for next week but lots to be proud of.Harry Davey's 1st start & bagging a brace, seeing TCD back on the field after injuries & 5 tries away from home!
Full Report Below??https://t.co/Hy9tOfDcy2 pic.twitter.com/OHsVnizxDI
The bonus point was in the bag for Pirates as half time approached when Tommy Wyatt bounced his way to the line, Will Cargill added a third conversion to establish a commanding looking 26-3 lead for the Cornishmen.
Nottingham weren’t about to go down without a fight, though. Try scorer Frost was sent to the bin for Pirates almost as soon as the second half had begun and Karl Garside made them pay by crashing over, with Dolly adding the extras.
The gap was closed further when Jake Farnworth raced over from his own half to make it 26-15 heading into the final quarter.
It made the next score a vital one and it was Pirates replacement Paddy Ryan who got it, coasting under the sticks to allow Cargill an easy conversion.
There was still time for another late Nottingham consolation with Jordan Coghlan scoring in the final minutes, but that was to be that. Maximum points for Pirates and the hosts were left empty-handed.
Rinse and repeat.
Ealing have been completely and utterly dominant through the opening six rounds of the season, adding another bonus-point win along with 10 tries against Jersey.
The Reds did manage three scores of their own, having some joy either side of the interval, but will now be looking forward to their long-awaited first home game next week after this heavy defeat.
In what has become a regular template now, Ealing opened the scoring with an early try from Bill Johnson just minutes into his debut, adding the conversion for good measure.
Simon Uzokwe followed up with a second for the hosts and when Shaun Malton went over from the back of the maul on the half-hour mark, things were looking ominous.
Jersey did fire the first-half shot when Brendan Owen chased through a grubber kick to dot down, but Ealing had the final say of the half as skipper Rayn Smid helped himself to his first of what turned out to be a hat-trick. 24-5 to the hosts into the half.
The Reds looked to have come out firing as Matti Williams powered over for his own debut try, with Brendan Cope converting to close the deficit to 12 just minutes into the second period.
Smid had other ideas, quickly adding his second, before turning provider to put Craig Hampson over.
Brendan Owen profited from another attacking Jersey kick to notch his brace and move his side into a reasonable position for at least a bonus point with over 20 minutes to play, before a nasty looking clash put paid to that.
As well as a lengthy delay, the outcome was a red card, the first of this Championship season, to Jersey’s Apakuki Ma’afu whilst Dean Hammond was stretchered off for the hosts.
From there, Ealing unleashed their full box of tricks and made good use of the man advantage.
Guy Thompson’s effort was swiftly followed by further scores for Jordan Burns and Max Bodilly, leaving Smid to have the final say, with his third and Ealing’s 10th try.
Jersey were unable to find even the comfort of a try bonus point in the closing stages, meaning Ealing have left every opponent empty-handed up to now.
Bedford put on a clinic to secure their first bonus-point win of the campaign, whilst Richmond struggled to make a second-half impact having briefly fought back before the interval.
The Blues hit the front early when Pat Tapley crossed inside the opening 10 minutes before Richmond reduced the deficit thanks to a Ted Landray penalty.
Bedford took control from there with Rich Lane first to race clear before Oli Robinson bundled over a third for the hosts.
?? We’re looking for our third @Champrugby Try of the Week win from 3?? home matches ??— Bedford Blues (@BedfordBluesRFC) April 19, 2021
?? Let’s complete the ?? ?? and recognise Reece Marshall’s quality show and go on debut to set up @RichLane1’s 4th try of the season.
You know what to do #BluesFamily ?? https://t.co/q6tu7XMBtI
The visitors did manage to close the gap once again as half-time approached, with Myles Scott eventually finding his way over the line after Bedford's Oli Curry had been sent to the naughty step.
That left the score at 17-10 to the Blues at the half-time whistle, but that was as good as it got for Richmond.
Josh Gillespie secured the bonus point for the home side soon after the break before the game was put to bed when Jacob Fields added a fifth with half an hour to play.
Richmond were unable to muster any further reply despite plenty of effort and with full-time approaching, Fields added even more gloss to the Bedford victory, scampering over for his brace to secure a handsome winning margin for the hosts.
Without a doubt the game of the season. Ampthill were behind from minute one until the closing stages but pulled off a comeback for the ages to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Hartpury had secured a try bonus point by half-time and led by 19 points at one stage in the second half but ended up taking a dose of their own medicine, having won with the final play last week.
The stage was barely set when Hartpury sent Luke Eves over inside the opening minute, with James Williams converting for the earliest of 7-0 leads.
The A’s soon responded through Will Foster’s effort, which started a manic period of try-scoring shared by both sides.
Hartpury managed a quickfire double when Ehize Ehizode’s charge down was quickly followed by Morgan Monks galloping over.
But back came Ampthill with a pair of tries of their own. Syd Blackmore and Tom Hudson went over, those scores sandwiching a Pury penalty goal from Williams.
There was still plenty of drama left in the half when both Ampthill locks in Charlie Beckett and Llewelyn Jones were sin-binned, allowing Hartpury to make use of their two-man advantage with a fourth try courtesy of Jack Johnson.
There was no let up after the break as Hartpury skipper Will Crane rolled over to extend their lead further, but then came the fightback.
Another Ampthill maul resulted in another Blackmore try and both sides had the try bonus within 50 minutes.
James Williams hit the upright with a penalty attempt before Ampthill then capitalised on a turnover with Will Brown the beneficiary in a footrace to the other end of the pitch.
Williams made amends with a successful penalty to stretch Hartpury’s lead to 10 heading into the grand finale.
However, the momentum was with Ampthill and Billy Johnson dived over after an A’s lineout had been upgraded to a penalty in an incident which also saw a member of the Hartpury bench shown a yellow card.
Hartpury’s indiscipline cost them further points and, ultimately, the game. With the clock heading towards red, Williams was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, but more crucially, Ampthill were awarded a simple penalty.
Captain Louis Grimoldby made no mistake, securing a smash and grab for Ampthill in what was an unbelievable encounter. Hartpury will wonder how they lost….
Saracens came to town to face unbeaten Doncaster with a squad that it’s still difficult to believe are playing in the Championship.
The Knights battled bravely but ultimately had little answer to a dominant Sarries who contained British & Irish Lions, including the current England captain, a World Cup winner and several other internationals.
Such was their grip on the game that Mark McCall was able to remove his star men from the field before the hour mark with the job done, wrapping them up for the weeks ahead.
It spoke volumes of the talent on display that Lions coaches Gregor Townsend and Steve Tandy were in attendance to cast their eye over proceedings at Castle Park.
Doncaster were well in the opening exchanges and the first points of the match came their way on the 10-minute mark. Some great counter-attacking work at the ruck from Sam Graham allowed his namesake Olver a simple shot at goal for an early 3-0 Doncaster lead.
That advantage lasted a matter of minutes and was as good as it got for Doncaster, as they would ultimately have to wait until the closing stages for their next points.
After winning a free-kick at scrum time and then a penalty advantage soon after, Sarries spread the ball wide for Alex Lewington to race over. Despite the first of three successive missed Owen Farrell conversions, it was a lead that they never came close to relinquishing.
The hosts did battle their way back to the corner after a succession of Saracens indiscretions, but once the maul was repelled after some great work from Tim Swinson and Maro Itoje, momentum fully swung their way for the rest of the opening period.
They again kicked for touch from a penalty and after swinging the ball back and forth across the pitch, Farrell threaded a sumptuous kick through for Maitland to gather and score.
Saracens DOR Mark McCall next :— Callum Wood (@CallumW18) April 18, 2021
“Our senior players were magic today, in the last few weeks they’ve really come back and embraced this new challenge as you saw today.”
“We want to enjoy this journey that we’ve got but to enjoy it we’ve got to play like today.”
Just after the half-hour mark, the visitors added a third, though they made hard work of it.
First a final pass to Lewington was off target with the line begging, and then somehow Elliott Obatoyinbo was held up by Jack Spittle with the line seemingly at his mercy.
A few phases after the scrum and those chances were quickly forgotten as Itoje jumped over for this third try in two Championship outings.
The bonus point was in the bag for Sarries soon after. A great exchange from Nick Tompkins and Mako Vunipola brought the former close to the line, and the ball then found its way out to Lewington who offloaded back inside for Michael Rhodes to dive over. Farrell added the extras this time to make it 22-3.
There was no let up into the second period as Sarries England contingent, as well as Tompkins particularly, continued to wreak havoc.
A brace from scrum-half Aled Davies in the first 10 minutes put the game to bed and that begun the start of the mass Saracens changes as all six England players, plus Vincent Koch, were removed over the next few breaks in play with a quarter of the game left.
Substitute James Mitchell didn’t help the Doncaster cause, finding himself sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, his indiscretion amplified when Tom Woolstencroft added another try from the catch and drive which followed, a third Vunipola in Manu this time adding the extras.
Doncaster showed some real fight from there in the closing stages, finally notching their first five-pointer when Jack Davies crashed over.
They followed that up with the score of the afternoon. Charlie Foley started the move after picking up a loose ball on the edge of his 22 before finding Spittle, who raced away. He played a lovely 1-2 with James Newey and then slid over to give Donny some consolation from the afternoon.
Still there was time for Saracens to have the final say. Kyle Evans made a huge break for Doncaster before being hauled down on the 22, but the ball went loose.
Obatoyinbo got a toe on it, leaving Tom Whitley to show off his footballing skills and dribble downfield before scooping up the ball and diving over the line. Manu Vunipola’s successful conversion brought up the half-century for Saracens and, with it, the full-time whistle.