The Championship play-offs exist to decide two issues — who goes up and who goes down — and one of these issues was decided, at Molesey Road on Saturday.
Unless Esher can win with a try bonus point from their last two games, and London Scottish fail to pick up a single point from theirs, the Surrey side will be playing their rugby in National League One next season.
However, despite his disappointment at basic errors and failing to score a try that he considered any third team would score, Chairman of Rugby John Inverdale conceded that the outcome was fair enough. Inverdale told The Rugby Paper: “…we were bottom of the league and we were a club to have campaigned for the bottom to go down without play-offs, so we have no argument.”
Moseley now share top stop of Pool C with a rejuvenated Plymouth, following the Midlanders’ comfortable 25-13 win over Esher. Seb Stegmann’s last minute try gave the home side a hint of respectability, but Moseley were in control throughout with tries from David Lyons, Bradley Davies and replacement Daniel Sanderson.
On Sunday at Richmond, London Scottish were denied at least a draw in the last play of the game when the final pass allowing Agustin Gosio to touch down was ruled forward. Before this, a try from Albion No8 Aaron Carpenter had separated the sides. This left the final score at 6-11 and Scottish had to settle for a losing bonus point. Barring a miracle or a disaster for the Exiles and Esher — whichever way you look at it — there’s little other than pride left to play for in this group.
And it’s beginning to look a bit like that in Pools A and B as well. Progression to the semi-finals for Leeds now looks unlikely by virtue of their failure to record their second away win of the season at Bedford. On Saturday at Goldington Road, Mike Rayer’s side emerged from an enthralling but often scrappy affair to win 26-20 and become the first club to ink themselves a place in the last four.
Josh Bassett and Luke Baldwin crossed for the home side, with James Pritchard and Jake Sharp contributing 16 points with the boot. Carnegie were never out of the hunt with tries from Mike MacDonald and Richard Beck, but coach Diccon Edwards’ post-match comments confirmed acceptance that the result leaves their fate in the hands of the sides ahead of them in the group.
Elsewhere in Pool B, the Cornish Pirates made it two wins out of two over Rotherham and took four points home from the potentially tricky trip to Yorkshire.
The Titans, who lost the influential Gary Law due to a rib injury, went down 14-17, and will now find qualification to the semis virtually an impossible task. A try by Phil Burgess and four Rob Cook penalties were enough to leave the Pirates needing two more points from their remaining two games to be certain of a place in the semis. Scotsman Law, who has been metronomic with the boot this term, and lists mince and tatties as his favourite food, will see no further action until the return match against Leeds in a fortnight.
Bristol may well be the hot favourites for promotion but, with a second consecutive home draw, they still need to convince themselves — as well as their supporters —of their Premiership credentials. It could have been a lot worse had James Alridge’s final play drop goal attempt from in front of the posts not sailed past the right-hand upright.
Bristol were in the driving seat at 16-6 at the turnaround through a Will Helu try and three penalties and a conversion from Matthew Jones, but the Green & Whites drew level through a Sione Kalamafoni try and eight points from the boot of Alridge.
Finally, as Bristol relinquished the leadership of Pool A, London Welsh appeared to be hitting a rich vein of form, disposing of Doncaster 19-40 at Castle Park on Saturday.
The contest was closer that the score would suggest with the Exiles’ backs being the difference between the sides. Winger Nick Scott bagged a hat-trick and his second try, shortly after the interval, put some daylight between the teams. This pretty much means that London Welsh and Bristol will progress from this group to the final stages.