English rugby came up with a fair way to sort promotion after cancelled season

English rugby came up with a fair way to sort promotion after cancelled season
Kelvin Brown and Conor Glynn of Shannon line up a tackle on Miah Cronin of Highfield in the AIL at Thomond Park. Picture: Don Moloney

HIGHFIELD could be excused for looking at the fate of Newcastle Falcons with a degree of envy.

While both clubs are at the opposite ends of the rugby spectrum, one an amateur community based and the other full-time professional, the pair had the same goal this season.

The Cork club headed up energia All-Ireland League Division 1B at their first time of asking before the IRFU pulled plug and declared the season null and void following the coronavirus pandemic.

The Woodleigh Park club have never competed in the top tier of the national league here since its inception 29 years ago.

Newcastle occupied the same position in the English Championship, having been relegated from the cash-rich Premiership at the end of last season. But, instead of following Ireland’s example and effectively scrapping the season, the English RFU decided to go ahead and devise a formula to calculate final positions in the Championship table. 

Newcastle Falcons' Chris Harris and Worcester's Bryce Heem sprint for the ball. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire. 
Newcastle Falcons' Chris Harris and Worcester's Bryce Heem sprint for the ball. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire. 

Before sport was cancelled, Newcastle, who are coached by Dean Richards, had a perfect record of 15 wins from as many games and were 18 points ahead of their nearest challengers, Ealing Trailfinders, who had a game in hand.

Cornish Pirates were in third, a further point behind, having also played 15 of the scheduled 22 game-programme.

The English authorities introduced what they described as a ‘best playing record formula’ to determine the final standings.

We don’t know if a relation of Pythagoras was involved or not, but the decision they arrived at was made considerably smoother not only by Newcastle’s strong position but by relegation from the Premiership.

Newcastle, obviously, ended at the top of the pile while relegation was straight-forward, too, Yorkshire Carnegie dropping down a division after losing all 14 games.

The fact that Saracens were already condemned to relegation from the Premiership made sense for the English to come up with a replacement club.

As you will recall Saracens were bold boys, not only this season but in recent campaigns, too, for breaching salary cap rules.

They were hit with a massive points’ deduction, in addition to record fines, and propped up the table on minus 63 points. And Saracens were informed that they were going to be relegated even if the season was cancelled. They are going down, come what may.

So, it’s a simple transaction, Newcastle Falcons will be promoted instead of Sarries.

Highfield, it could be argued, would have benefited from a similar approach by the ruling body here, except it’s not as clear-cut.

While it’s generally accepted ’Field would have been promoted if the season hadn’t been cancelled, who they would replace in 1A was less so.

That’s because three clubs, UCC, Trinity and Ballynahinch were battling to avoid the automatic drop and the play-off series at the end of the regular season.

And it’s also the reason why unbeaten leaders, Cork Con, who had won all 14 games, could not be declared champions because of the top four scenario. Being top of the pile would earn Con a few quid in the bank and a home semi-final, but nothing else. The champion club is the league final winner.

In soccer, long-suffering Leeds United followers might have also seen a way out from their predicament, leading the Championship by seven points from third-placed Fulham after 37 of their allotted 46 games.

But, their position is impacted by relegation from the Premier and while it’s fine to say Leeds should go up, who should come down to make way?

Cork footballers would have also benefitted by a ‘best playing record formula’ in Division 3 of the league, having won all five games and heading straight back to Division 2.

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