- Victories for Bedford, Yorkshire, Doncaster, Cornish Pirates and London Welsh
- London Irish remain top after narrow victory at Richmond
From historic hat-tricks to late drama via brave victories and more, round 12 of the Greene King IPA Championship had plenty of thrills and spills. Here are six stories from the festive period's fixtures.
Harris’ historic hat-trick in vain
A replacement hooker is certainly not the most likely man to grab a hat-trick, yet that is exactly what Nottingham’s TJ Harris did on Boxing Day.
Happy captain after tense finish pic.twitter.com/HVTfR8wwjN— Yorkshire Carnegie (@carnegierugby) December 26, 2016
The 22-year-old front-rower came off the bench and notched a nine-minute treble for the hosts at Lady Bay – becoming the first replacement in Nottingham history to cross the whitewash three times.
Yet Harris could not stop his side slipping to a 24-17 defeat to Yorkshire Carnegie, who earned their 11th win in 12 Greene King IPA Championship games to maintain a stranglehold on second place in the table.
TJ's hat-trick is the FIRST hat-trick from a replacement at Nottingham!— Nottingham Rugby (@NottinghamRugby) December 26, 2016
Richard Mayhew, Rob O’Donnell and a penalty try helped Carnegie into a 24-0 lead and although Harris dotted down on 71, 78 and 80 minutes, it was not enough.
Jake is Sharp to clinch thriller
Jake Sharp’s last-gasp conversion handed Bedford Blues the most dramatic of victories over Jersey Reds as they edged a post-Christmas cracker 39-37 at Goldington Road.
With the clock seeping into the red, winger George Perkins crossed the whitewash to level proceedings at 37-37 and Sharp kept his cool to add the pivotal conversion.
A see-saw match, played in front of a bumper Boxing Day crowd of 4,621, had seen Jersey lead 21-17 at half-time and move 37-27 ahead with three minutes remaining.
But Bedford were relentless in pursuit of their fourth Greene King IPA Championship victory of the campaign as firstly Matt Gallagher dived over before Perkins’ late effort drew the teams level and Sharp became the hero.
Knights take Yorkshire bragging rights
Doncaster Knights won the battle of Yorkshire as they earned a first league win at Clifton Lane since 2011 by beating Rotherham Titans 23-12.
Doncaster’s Declan Cusack crashed over from close-range for the game’s first try before Tyson Lewis grabbed a double to put the Knights further in control.
The boot of Caolan Ryan had kept Rotherham just about in touch and a fourth penalty from the full-back narrowed the deficit to 20-12, but a Dougie Flockhart three pointer put the result beyond doubt once and for all.
Off-field issues put aside by Welsh
London Welsh entered liquidation and were recently deducted 20 points – but having been granted a temporary licence to fulfil their festive fixtures, they took full advantage in the Exiles derby.
Welsh lost half their playing squad during the uncertainty surrounding their future yet London Scottish were put to the sword in an emotional 37-5 win at Old Deer Park.
Winger Robbie Nairn grabbed two tries, while Nathan Morris, Charlie Beckett and Jesse Liston also crossed the whitewash in a virtuoso display.
The victory was perfect tonic for everyone involved with the club following the recent struggles.
Richmond give Irish mighty scare
A top versus second-bottom clash was not an obvious candidate for a thrilling finale but a superb performance from Richmond meant they came perilously close to ending London Irish’s perfect start to the season.
Scores from Blair Cowan, Fergus Mulchrone and Sebastian de Chaves had Irish on cruise control at 26-13 ahead with 20 minutes remaining, only for Richmond to come roaring back.
Henry Cheeseman’s converted try narrowed the deficit to six points and the underdogs pounded away at the Exiles’ line for the final 10 minutes.
However, Nick Kennedy’s table-toppers did just enough to hold firm – ultimately triumphing 26-20 to stretch their winning streak to 16 games, 12 of those coming in the Greene King IPA Championship.
Pirates back on track at Ealing
Cornish Pirates got their play-off ambitions back on course and ended their recent hoodoo in tight games by overcoming fellow top-four hopefuls Ealing Trailfinders 22-16 at Trailfinders Sports Club.
Pirates had lost five of their last six Greene King IPA Championship matches by a combined total of only 16 points but edged past Trailfinders in a tense Christmas Eve encounter.
The boot of fly-half and former Pirate Aaron Penberthy, plus a Curtis Wilson try, put Ealing in a 16-15 lead with 12 minutes remaining, only for Pirates prop Tyler Glendall to crash over when it mattered most and move the visitors to within two points of their hosts in the standings.