Yorkshire Carnegie will welcome London Welsh to Headingley Carnegie on Sunday for the British and Irish Cup final but it has been quite a journey for both sides to make it the show-piece event.

The cup began in November with 24 second-tier and reserve sides from across Great Britain and Ireland split into five groups.

London Welsh finished second in Pool 4 behind Cornish Pirates but made the final thanks to wins over Leinster A and Cornish Pirates in the knockout rounds.

Yorkshire Carnegie topped Pool 3 and then thrashed Moseley in the quarter-finals before scraping past Jersey in the semis.

The finalists, coincidentally, warmed up for this weekend’s showpiece with a Greene King IPA Championship fixture against each other last weekend.

Carnegie emerged victorious in a closely fought encounter, edging past their rivals 31-28 to come into the final with a possible psychological advantage.

The group stages of the competition began back in November, with Carnegie beating an Ospreys Premiership Select side 32-10.

The Exiles, on the other hand, kicked off with a 28-21 loss to eventual Pool 4 winners Cornish Pirates.
Carnegie lost their next fixture to Munster A but four consecutive wins led to them topping their pool ahead of London Scottish, with Munster A unexpectedly stumbling at the first hurdle.

After their initial loss Welsh went on their own four-game winning run and despite a final-game reverse against Pirates, qualified second from their pool.

Elsewhere in the group stages Leinster A romped through in Pool 1, winning all six games, with Moseley qualifying for the quarter-finals as runners up.

Bedford Blues topped Pool 2 but Bristol Rugby, despite finishing second, missed out on quarter-final qualification by one point.

And Doncaster Knights topped Pool 5 by virtue of earning one more bonus point than Jersey, who also progressed to the next round.

In the quarter finals Pirates eased to a comfortable 38-19 victory over Doncaster and Jersey upset Bedford Blues 19-15.

Carnegie then smashed Moseley 50-3 with Taylor Prell, Andy Forsyth and Chris Walker each scoring a brace of tries as the home side crossed the whitewash eight times in total.

Welsh, however, had a trickier path to the final but upset the unbeaten Leinster A thanks to a try after the 80 minutes were up from Josh Drauniniu, his second of the game.

The semi-finals almost saw another upset but, despite Jersey fighting back from a 12-point deficit at one point, Carnegie held on to secure a 33-32 victory and book their place in the final.

London Welsh secured their ticket to the party as they got revenge on Cornish Pirates for two defeats in the pool stage.

Kieran Murphy, starting at No.8 in Rob Elloway’s absence, touched down twice to give the Exiles the win when it really mattered.

Carnegie will head into the final, a home game for them, as slight favourites with last weekend’s win over Welsh in the bank and sitting three places above their opposition in the Championship table.

However, Welsh beat Carnegie when the sides met in November and, with just three points between the two in each of this season’s previous meetings, the game looks set to be another tight affair.