Old Redcliffians will be looking to build on their improvement in form this weekend as they take on another side battling for survival in National Two South.
Saul Nelson’s men host bottom of the table Wimbledon on Saturday with both sides in need of a victory to stand any chance of beating the drop. The hosts are 11 points adrift of safety, but they are in a stronger position than they were just under a month ago while this fixture is a ‘must win’ for the Dons who are still without a victory.
The other side in the relegation places is Broadstreet and after their crucial triumph against Wimbledon in Round 14 they host Redruth this weekend. Elsewhere, Worthing Raiders and Barnstaple clash in Sussex, London Irish Wild Geese host Henley Hawks, Clifton take on an in-form Redingensians and Tonbridge Juddians and Taunton Titans meet at the Slade.
At the summit of National Two South, Chinnor will be hoping to stay on top of the pile when they entertain Canterbury, but waiting in the wings if the league leaders fail to get their desired result will be second placed Cinderford if they get their job done against Bury St Edmunds as four of the top seven meet this weekend.
Chinnor v Canterbury
Chinnor secured their 13th straight victory in National Two South last weekend to remain on top of the division, but they were made to work hard to maintain their unbeaten record this season. Matt Williams’ side edged past a spirited Bury St Edmunds to stay one point clear at the top of the division as we arrive at the halfway point of the campaign and next on the agenda for Chinnor is a home clash with Canterbury.
The visitors know how difficult this fixture will be for them and when you add in the fact that Chinnor have not lost at Kingsey Road for 25 matches – a run which stretches back to January 2016 – it makes getting a result in Oxfordshire even harder. Canterbury head into Round 15 on the back of a defeat against Redingensians, but they have won three of their last five matches which has lifted them to fifth place in the table. The quality is there, but can the City Men become the first side to inflict a defeat on the league leaders this term?
Cinderford v Bury St Edmunds
Cinderford can do nothing more at the moment. Since their loss to Chinnor in October, the men from the Forest have been faultless. Paul Morris’ side have won their last eight matches, with their most significant victory coming last Saturday against third placed Taunton Titans. The win for Cinderford means they are still right on the heels of Chinnor, but also they are 13 points clear of their nearest challengers and they head into the second half of the season firmly on course for a top two spot.
Wolfpack players pick up International Capshttps://t.co/PbDcJ1yc5h
— BSE Rugby Club (@BSERugby) December 14, 2017
However, there are still four months in the season to go and Cinderford will know they cannot afford to get complacent, especially when Bury St Edmunds visit Dockham Road this Saturday. Ollie Smith’s men nearly upset Chinnor last weekend but fell to a 27-24 defeat. The Wolfpack currently sit seventh in the table following a tough run of fixtures, but if they produce another strong display in Gloucestershire this weekend, then Bury could claim their first win of December.
Tonbridge Juddians v Taunton Titans
It is supposed to be the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, but for Taunton Titans it has felt like the complete opposite as we hit the halfway point in the season. Tony Yapp’s side began the season in scintillating form as they won their first nine fixtures, but the Titans now travel to Tonbridge Juddians this Saturday having won just one of their last five matches.
Defeat against Cinderford last weekend leaves Taunton with a lot of work to do if they are to challenge for a top two spot and their recovery needs to begin at the Slade this weekend. The hosts will be satisfied with the progression they have made after promotion from National Three London and SE last term as they currently accommodate 11th in the table and are already 17 points clear of the bottom three. Peter Dankett’s side have won three of their last five matches and against a Taunton side which is trying to recapture their best form, TJs may fancy their chances of heaping more misery on the Titans.
Redingensians v Clifton
With Chinnor and Cinderford absolutely flying, it is easy to forget that one of the stories of the season so far in National Two South has to be Redingensians. Following promotion to this level in 2015, the Rams have not looked back and after two seasons of finishing in the top half, they are on course for a spot in the top four. Owen Root’s men have won eight of their last nine games, including an excellent display against Canterbury last weekend, which leaves the Redingensians eight points clear of their nearest challengers and level points with third placed Taunton.
In contrast, Redingensians’ opponents this weekend could do with a sequence of victories. Clifton saw a potential win snatched away from them by London Irish Wild Geese last Saturday which would have been their third win since the start of October, but now Darren Lloyd’s men head to Old Bath Road having won just one of their last seven matches. The Gloucestershire outfit are 11 points clear of the drop, but despite that being a relatively comfortable gap, a second away win of the season would be most welcome.
London Irish Wild Geese v Henley Hawks
Henley Hawks are slowly heading in the right direction. Pete Davies’ side arrive at the halfway mark in the season having won four of their last five games and they have also manoeuvred their way into the top half of the table thanks to their excellent recent form. After relegation from National One in 2016, the Hawks struggled to bounce straight back, but this year, they are building slowly and they will be hoping their progression continues when they visit London Irish Wild Geese.
— Henley Hawks Rugby (@HenleyHawks) December 13, 2017
The word ‘progression’ can certainly be used to sum up the Wild Geese’s first half of the season. Lee Starling’s men beat the drop in the final month of the 2016/17 season, but the men from Hazlewood are on course to avoid the same scenario this time around as they currently sit 16 points clear of the bottom three. The Geese are back in Sunbury-On-Thames this weekend aiming for their fourth home win of the campaign as they look to pull clear of the teams in trouble.
Broadstreet v Redruth
An early Christmas present arrived in style last weekend for Redruth as a disappointing run of three straight defeats came to an end. Pale Nonu’s side thrashed Tonbridge Juddians 45-11 to stay in the top half of this division, but after a couple of seasons of finishing towards the promotion places, a mid-table finish looks a realistic goal for the Reds this season.
This is understandable after a change at the helm in the summer and Nonu and his coaching staff will be keen to end 2017 on a high, beginning with trip to Broadstreet. Redruth have won just one of their six matches on the road this season, but they may fancy their chances against their hosts who currently occupy a place in the bottom three. However, Paul Hurst’s men will welcome Redruth to the Midlands in a positive mood after they clinched an important victory over fellow strugglers Wimbledon in Round 14. The win for Street leaves them 12 points from safety, but back on home soil is where they will feel most comfortable and one more triumph before the Christmas break would instil more belief in the Broadstreet ranks that could beat the drop.
Worthing Raiders v Barnstaple
After three straight wins, Worthing Raiders’ recent good form suffered a minor dent last weekend following a defeat to Henley Hawks. Jody Levett’s side were second best for the opening 40 minutes at Dry Leas and that ultimately cost them, but the Raiders have the chance to immediately respond when they host Barnstaple this Saturday.
Worthing are a place and three points above Barum heading into Round 15 and the home side have won their last three at Roundstone Lane. As for Barnstaple, they travel to Sussex on a three game unbeaten following victories over Tonbridge Juddians and Broadstreet and a draw last week against Old Redcliffians. In fact, this is the Devonshire side’s best run of form in this division since October last year so they may well be confident of gaining a third away win of the season this weekend.
Old Redcliffians v Wimbledon
A victory over Broadstreet and a draw with Barnstaple has given Old Redcliffians a fighting chance of digging themselves out of the bottom three in the second half of the campaign. Saul Nelson’s men are currently 11 points from safety, which is still a lot of work to do, but the Old Reds have shown a gritty determination in December which may give them some belief. The men from Scotland Lane have won just once all season and they have the chance to beat one of their fellow strugglers again when Wimbledon visit Bristol this weekend.
— Wimbledon RFC (@WimbledonRFC) December 9, 2017
In truth, you would have to say this fixture for the Dons is a must win if they have any chance of pulling off a great escape as they are 22 points away from climbing out of danger following a defeat to 15th placed Broadstreet last Saturday. The division’s bottom club are still without a victory to their name since promotion in April and now is the time for them to put that right otherwise any glimmer of hope may well be extinguished.