It might be quarter-final weekend at the Rugby World Cup but the last Saturday before the first break in the National League Rugby season has plenty to offer. (Photo Credit: John and Ro Burridge)
Both Blackheath and Chinnor will be looking to head into the first break of the season reflecting on a job well done.
Before the start of the campaign, you might not have predicted that both teams would be occupying a spot in the top four at this stage but that is why credit must be given to ‘Club’ and the Black and Whites.
The cynics among us may look at Blackheath’s opening six games and point to the fact they’ve faced the current bottom four but you can only play what is in front of you, right? James Shanahan’s men have done exactly that and given they were promoted back into the third tier this season, winning these types of fixtures has to be seen as a massive tick in the box.
It is the reason why they sit third in the table while Chinnor are fourth, with their strong start underpinned by making Kingsey Road a fortress.
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In a run stretching back to February, Nick Easter’s men have lost just one of their last eight matches on their own patch – winning all three of their home games this term. Then on their travels last week, a brilliant display away at Rosslyn Park only enhanced their strong start to the campaign.
Two in-form sides then, but who can round off the first block of fixtures on the front foot?
Above this pair are league leaders Rams and Plymouth Albion and both will be looking to continue their fine form in Round Seven.
Rams will be out to make it seven maximums in a row when they face bottom-of-the-table Leicester Lions while Albion are targeting a sixth win on the bounce against Cinderford as they aim to stretch their best sequence of results for over three years.
Elsewhere, Sedgley Park will be keen to continue their steady beginning to life back in National One when they visit Bishop’s Stortford and Richmond (6th) go to Sale FC while Taunton Titans will be hoping Round Seven is where they can pick up their first win of the season against Rosslyn Park and Darlington Mowden Park host Birmingham Moseley.
National Two North
After finishing in fifth place last term, followers of National Two North might be surprised to see Otley sitting second from bottom.
The Yorkshire outfit have failed to recapture the heights of last term with senior players retiring or moving to other clubs, but they will be looking to end the first segment of the season by claiming their second win of the campaign.
A first victory at Cross Green would be the ideal way to head into the break, but Round Seven opponents Lymm will be itching to return to winning ways. Adam Fletcher’s boys left September behind on the back of successive wins so will have been disappointed to fall to a defeat at home to Sheffield last time out.
However, those of a Lymm persuasion may look at the table and be satisfied with 12 points from six games in their first-ever year at this level – especially when you throw in away fixtures against Rotherham and Fylde – but they would love for that total to be improved upon this weekend.
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Huddersfield are the club currently propping up the division and Neil Ryan’s men entertain Sheffield Tigers this weekend aiming to register a second win of the season while Tynedale (12th) will be looking to build on last week’s opening victory when they visit Fylde.
As we enter Round Seven, it might be a shock to see Hull Ionians towards the wrong end of the table considering they finished fourth last term so Graham Steadman’s troops will be eager to arrest a run of four successive losses when they host Wharfedale.
But that is easier said than done because Dale have won their last four and are keeping the top two of Leeds Tykes and Rotherham Titans in their sights.
The leading pair have won all six of their fixtures with table-toppers Tykes going for a seventh straight bonus-point success against Preston Grasshoppers on Saturday while Rotherham travel to Sheffield.
Elsewhere, Billingham will be out to extend their purple patch of form when they take on Hull at Chanterlands Avenue.
National Two East
Two sides who may well harbour title ambitions in National Two East meet at Molesey Road on Saturday with Esher taking on Henley Hawks.
The hosts, who came down from National One, might have been seen as favourites to bounce straight back up but two defeats from their opening six games – combined with the form of leading pair Dorking and Barnes – means they currently sit fourth in the standings.
Last time out, the EEEs lost against Bury St Edmunds but a win over Henley would certainly feel like ‘getting things back on track’ given the form the Hawks are in.
Last Saturday’s dramatic late victory over Tonbridge Juddians was Henley’s fourth win on the trot and Luke Allen’s side have built momentum nicely in the early weeks of the season.
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Having not faced any of the other teams in the current top four, this will be a test of where Henley are at but victory in Surrey would only add to the notion of them being in the promotion conversation.
Above Esher and Henley are the aforementioned Dorking and Barnes who will be keen to maintain their pace going into the break.
Dorking are six bonus point wins from six and will be targeting a seventh when they host Guernsey Raiders on Saturday while Barnes face Canterbury.
At the wrong end of the division, bottom-of-the-table North Walsham will be seeking their first points of the term when they entertain Westcombe Park while after dropping into the relegation places last week, Worthing Raiders will be eager to start progressing up the standings when they take on Old Albanian.
Also across National Two East, Bury St Edmunds (5th) will be looking to build on Round Six’s win over Esher when they go to Wimbledon while Tonbridge Juddians and Sevenoaks meet in an all-Kent affair.
National Two West
Both Camborne and Dudley Kingswinford came up to level four this season but are currently experiencing contrasting fortunes as they prepare to meet in the Midlands.
The visitors Camborne have impressed in the opening weeks and given their recruitment, some may not be surprised by their solid start. But new names need time to click and gel and on the face of it, Steve Larkins’ side look to have got things just right.
Four wins from six leaves them fourth in the standings while Dudley Kingswinford find themselves in the bottom two.
Despite this, DK could well be in decent spirits coming into this one after performances in recent weeks.
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A strong second-half showing against Exeter University (2nd) was followed by their opening victory against Newport (Salop) so while elements of DK’s defeat to Dings Crusaders last time out would have been frustrating, they still have reasons to be upbeat heading into their final game before the break.
Bringing it back to Camborne, they are part of a cluster of clubs currently behind the leading duo of Exeter and table-toppers Luctonians.
Clifton (3rd) and Chester (5th) are also involved in the chasing pack with the former visiting Hinckley this weekend while the latter are back on the road against Hornets.
As for the top two, after their meeting last week, Luctonians will be gunning for a seventh bonus point win on the trot when they host bottom-of-the-table Newport (Salop) while Exeter University will be looking to respond from Round Six’s setback when they travel to Bournville.
Elsewhere, there is a Bristol derby at Scotland Lane with Old Redcliffians facing Dings Crusaders while Redruth host Loughborough Students.
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