Round-up: Newcastle's top-flight future now in London Welsh's hands

Newcastle, winners of the inaugural Premiership title in 1998 but bottom of the heap this time round, are 50 per cent out of the mire. Bristol's 29-18 victory over Cornish Pirates in the second leg of their Championship semi-final at the Memorial Ground yesterday was not enough to avoid an aggregate defeat and, as a result, one of only two contenders capable of replacing the Tynesiders in the elite league fell by the wayside.

The other contender, London Welsh, lost 24-17 to Bedford at Old Deer Park but prevailed 30-27 on aggregate, and as they insist they are in a position to meet the Premiership's stadium criteria and step up – they will switch from Richmond to Oxford according to current rumours – Newcastle's immediate future depends on whether the Exiles can win the home-and-away final against the Pirates, who cannot meet the stadium criteria, later this month.

Bristol, bolstered by new money if not exactly awash with it, had emerged as the most obvious promotion candidates: no one could argue that they would meet the stadium criteria and with some decent imported talent available to them – the Maori scrum-half Ruki Tipuna and the Samoan centre Fautua Otto – they fancied their chances of overturning the 21-point deficit with which they had saddled themselves by playing dumb in Penzance six days previously. If they could just create some broken-field situations for themselves, they might have a shot at it.

Those situations duly arose, but – irony of ironies – it was the Cornishmen who capitalised through two long-range individual tries. The first fell to the full-back Rob Cook, who gathered Tristan Roberts' chip for Otto and cruised in from 50 metres. The second, killer Pirates try was claimed by the eye-catching flanker Phil Burgess a quarter of an hour from time. Tipuna's break from a wheeled scrum looked threatening, but when Jon Goodridge, with two tries already to his name, failed to hold the ball on the right, Burgess sensed a parting of the waves and sailed all the way to the line.

At that moment, Bristol pretty much knew they were toast. Two points up at 17-15, they needed another 20 from somewhere, and even though their wings, George Watkins and Will Helu, managed late tries, a penalty from Cook sealed the deal for the visitors, who qualified for their second successive Championship final.

It was a bruising moment for Bristol, a great club fallen on difficult times. With last season's relegated club, Leeds, a long way off the pace and two of the more obvious title contenders, Bedford and the Pirates, either unwilling or unable to meet the promotion standards, this was a major opportunity. From now on, it will only get harder. If Newcastle drop down, they intend to make damned sure they bounce up again at the first opportunity. What is more, the investors behind the Pirates are moving ever closer to building a stadium in Cornwall that will underpin a meaningful challenge for elite status.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project