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The Championship
Pirates dent Bristol's promotion hopes
ESPN Staff
May 7, 2012
Newcastle's James Fitzpatrick reflects on his side's defeat to Wasps, London Wasps v Newcastle Falcons, Aviva Premiership, Adams Park, Wycombe, England, May 5, 2012
The Falcons' despair at losing their Premiership relegation showdown with Bristol may yet turn to delight © Getty Images
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Cornish Pirates dented Bristol's hopes of promotion to the Aviva Premiership with a thumping 45-24 victory in their Championship semi-final first leg clash at Mennaye Field.

Bristol finished the regular season at the top of the table and having reportedly met the Premiership's minimum standards criteria, they went into the game as favourites to replace Newcastle in the top flight after the Falcons lost their relegation showdown with London Wasps on Saturday.

However, the Pirates, who are not eligible for promotion as their stadium lacks the necessary facilities to host top-flight rugby, upset the odds with five second-half tries putting them firmly in control of the contest.

Tries from James Merriman and Will Helu helped Bristol into a 17-9 half-time lead with three penalties from Rob Cook keeping the Pirates in touch. Cook would cross for his side's first try shortly after the break and his side would add four more with prop Carl Rimmer adding two and wingers David Doherty and Grant Pointer also crossing. Bristol threatened to make a game of it with Helu's second try but they had little answer to the Pirates' late onslaught.

The Pirates are on course to meet London Welsh in the two-legged final (May 23 and 30) after the Exiles claimed a 13-3 victory over Bedford Blues in their opening semi-final clash at Goldington Road on Friday night.

Centre Hudson Tonga'uiha crossed for the game's only try in the first half with a conversion and two penalties from fullback Alex Davies taking them out to a 13-0 lead at the break. The hosts could only register a second half penalty courtesy of captain James Pritchard and therefore have it all to do in the second leg at Old Deer Park next Sunday.

London Welsh are understood to pursuing possible promotion with the exact detail of a possible groundshare with Brentford FC an apparent sticking point. Other reports suggest they are considering a legal challenge to the criteria laid down by Premiership Rugby.

Premiership Rugby and the RFU are expected to make an announcement regarding promotion to the Premiership before the first leg of the Championship final on May 23.

RFU Championship semi-finals, second legs:

Sunday, May 13, 2012
Bristol v Cornish Pirates (KO 12:45)
London Welsh v Bedford (KO 15:00)

RFU Championship Final - May 23/30

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