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

Chris Hewett
Sunday 13 May 2012 21:03
Comments

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.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in