Winners take all for Bristol and London Welsh
May 28, 2014
London welsh celebrate semi-final success ... but Bristol will be an altogether tougher nut to crack © Getty Images
Last weekend's Championship play-off was tagged the £120 million match, such are the rewards on offer to football clubs who manage to scramble into football's Premiership. The prize for the team which wins promotion to rugby's Premiership might pall into insignificance financially, but the passion and pride of the teams and players from London Welsh and Bristol will be no less intense than was seen at Wembley.
That it is those two sides battling to replace Worcester is fitting. They finished one and two in the Championship. Both, however, come into the winner-takes-all two-leg play-off on the back of hard-fought semi-finals.
Bristol had to win well away at Rotherham after only managing a 17-14 victory in the home leg and then trailing 11-3 at half-time in the second leg. The Exiles lost at Leeds and then appeared down and out in a largely lacklustre performance at home until two oh-so-late late tries saw them scrape through.
The first leg tonight is at the Kassam Stadium with the second leg on June 4 at the Memorial Ground.
London Welsh: Stegmann; Crane, May (capt), Jewell, Scott; Ross, Cook; Trevett, Morris, Edwards, Spencer, Corker, Browne, Kirwan, Browne. Replacements: Vella, Bristow, Tideswell, West, Thorpe, Lewis, Awcock.
Bristol: Wallace; Watkins, Tovey, Mosses, Short; Robinson, Baldwin; Traynor, Johnston, Hobson, Glynn, Townson, Koster, Mama, Jones (capt). Replacements: Lawrence, Hall, Eadie, Skirving, Tipuna, Jarvis, Hughes.
TV Both legs can be seen live on Sky Sports. The first leg is on Sky Sports 3 from 7.30pm
Weather After two days of rain, the forecast is for light drizzle tonight. The pitch is likely to play more like it was February than almost June
Odds London Welsh are 6/5 to win at home, Bristol 4/6 with the draw 20/1
Prediction London Welsh must win at home, and win well, to keep their chances alive. Against a team in such good form it is hard to see them managing more than a narrow margin even if they do.
Prospects for the winner Under billionaire owner Steve Lansdown, Andy Robinson has been allowed to spend at Bristol and has assembled a squad which has the look of a side aiming at remaining in the Premiership rather than trying to get there. London Welsh, aiming to bounce straight back after their one-season in the top flight, still look lightweight and even a summer of bargain hunting might not be enough to stop them taking on the feel of a yo-yo.
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