Bristol v London Welsh, RFU Championship play-off
Bristol face a promotion mountain
ESPN Staff
June 4, 2014
London Welsh's Nick Scott runs most of the pitch to score, London Welsh v Bristol, Championship final, first leg, Kassam Stadium, May 28, 2014
London Welsh's Nick Scott runs most of the pitch to score in the rain last week © Getty Images

Few expected Bristol to head into the second-leg of the Championship play-off so far off the pace, but they will have to mental scars as well as a 19-point deficit to overcome when London Welsh visit tonight. The loss of the talismanic Ryan Jones, injured in the first half last week, is a major blow to Bristol however much they claim it is not.

After taking an early lead, Bristol fell apart in the first leg, undone by appalling conditions which hampered their style and a simple but effective approach by the Exiles. They again face poor weather. Even so, it seems unlikely they can be as bad tonight, but they need to score early to put pressure on the visitors.

One of their mistakes last week was to target Exiles' fly-half Gordon Ross. He was far from perfect first time round but his kicking when he got it right caused no end of problems and Bristol need to concentrate on their strengths and not their opponents' perceived weaknesses.

Much depends on how much the pressure gets to Bristol. They have spent heavily in anticipation of promotion and until hitting the buffers at the Kassam Stadium had a not unjustified confident swagger about them. That has given way to nervous desperation.

Bristol will not lack support. The match, the last at the Memorial Ground after 94 years, has been sold out for weeks and the passionate home fans will make life hard for London Welsh.

Bristol: Wallace; Amesbury, Tovey, Mosses, Short; Robinson, Tipuna (capt); Traynor, Johnston, Cortes, Glynn, Townson, Koster, Mama, Eadie. Replacements: Lawrence, Hall, Hobson, Skirving, Grindal, Jarvis, Hughes . London Welsh: Awcock, Stegmann, May (capt), Jewell, Scott, Ross, Cook, Trevett, Morris, Edwards, Spencer, Corker, Lees, Kirwan, Thorpe. Replacements: Vella, Bristow, Tideswell, West, Stedman, Lewis, Crane.

TV Sky Sports 3 from 7.30pm

Weather as last week, rain is forecast throughout the day and that will play into London Welsh's hands

Odds Bristol are 1/5 to win on the night but you can get 5/2 on them overturning the deficit and securing promotion. London Welsh are 1/4 on to do enough to go up.

Key Stats

  • Bristol finished top of the Championship, eight points clear of second-placed London Welsh. Both teams won 19 and lost 4 but Bristol accrued more bonus points
  • Bristol finished the season with a club record equalling 13 straight wins
  • London Welsh won 22-7 at the Kassam Stadium when the sides met in November, but Bristol avenged that loss by winning 25-21 at home in April

    Prediction Home advantage and staring into the abyss means Bristol will win, but it is not certain they will be able to claw back all 19 points. Expect them to prevail by between 10 and 15.

    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. If they fail then Robinson may be shown the door.

    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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