After a decade away, Sedge are closing in on National One while relegation dominates the East and West
The National Two North title is within touching distance for Sedgley Park while North Walsham take on Rochford Hundred in the biggest game of the National Two East campaign. (Photo Credit: Matin Gray)
National Two North
Sedgley Park are nearly there. A decade after they were relegated from National One, Scott Barrow’s side are on the brink of a return to the third tier.
Over the last 10 years, The Tigers have come close to waving goodbye to National Two North but have fallen short on a number of occasions – most notably in play-off clashes against Old Albanian (2016) and Chinnor (2018) – but now their wait could be over.
A victory against Sheffield Tigers at home on Saturday would see the North-West outfit clinch the title and if they are to get over the line, no-one could argue with their achievement. They have lost just one of their 24 games this season and while second-placed Fylde have pushed them all the way, Sedge are on the verge of completing the job.
They head into Round 25 having won their last 22 matches at Park Lane so if the champagne was to remain on ice for another week, it would be a serious upset.
🐅 The Tigers have a well earned break today but next Saturday is a BIG ONE at Park Lane!
🕝 Gates 1pm, KO 2:30 Get in early!!!
If we win the battle of the Tigers, we top #Nat2N and are promoted to National 1 (Level 3)
Come on down and #BeATiger 🐅🐅🐅 pic.twitter.com/X8Qv0ENu4o
— Sedgley Park Tigers (@SedgleyTigers) April 8, 2023
Sheffield Tigers will be keen to spoil the party, though. The Yorkshire outfit have won three of their last four games and they made life very difficult for Fylde last time out but they haven’t beaten Sedge in any of their last nine meetings. However, records are there to be broken…
Fylde will be hoping that is the case if this title race is to go to the final day of the season. The Lancashire club need to focus on their own job and anything less than three points from their clash against Otley (4th) at Woodlands would see their promotion hopes fade away for another year.
Elsewhere in National Two North on the ‘official’ penultimate weekend of the term, Hull Ionians (3rd) will be looking for a third straight win when they host Tynedale, Chester (5th) will want to finish the campaign strongly when they take on Wharfedale and Rotherham Titans will be going for four wins in a row when they entertain Preston Grasshoppers.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield take on Sheffield at Lockwood Park while the division’s bottom two – Blaydon and Harrogate meet in the North-East.
National Two East
Those of a North Walsham persuasion did not want to enter this particular weekend still in the relegation zone and their encouraging recent form means they find themselves above the dreaded dotted line ahead of Round 25.
They come into this arguably ‘winner-takes-all’ battle with rivals Rochford Hundred off the back of slaying Sevenoaks, and 13 points from their last seven games suggests the force is with the Vikings.
Jamie Knight’s men are one point clear of Rochford – who they leapfrogged in Round 24 – and the visitors to Norwich Road on Saturday know how crucial a victory would be.
Danny Cleare’s troops might be without a win in five, but they have collected points in all but one of those fixtures which highlights there is still plenty of fight left in the Rochford ranks.
The two sides met as recently as February and a blistering end to the first half from North Walsham helped them to a 49-26 win in Essex.
A repeat of that result would mean North Walsham would confirm their safety but there will be plenty of ups and downs throughout the afternoon.
A reason for this is that Sevenoaks are the third player in this relegation scrap. Adam Bowman’s side are three points clear of the drop and this weekend, they are away to Tonbridge Juddians (8th).
FULL TIME: Sevenoaks 23 – 24 North Walsham#SEVNOR #Pitcherohttps://t.co/EaTVq9XL4W pic.twitter.com/7cEEklzUKI
— North Walsham RFC (@NorthWalshamRFC) April 1, 2023
The Kent outfit have won just one of their last eight games but if they were to scoop up three or more points from their short trip to The Slade, then it could be enough to secure their spot in National Two East for another season. Sevenoaks’ last game of the campaign does come against already relegated Westcliff, but if there is a chance for them to avoid the final day nerves, they will grab it with both hands.
Sevenoaks – Remaining Fixtures: Tonbridge Juddians (A) (8th), Westcliff (H) (14th)
Rochford Hundred – Remaining Fixtures: North Walsham (A) (12th), Tonbridge Juddians (H) (8th)
North Walsham – Remaining Fixtures: Rochford Hundred (H) (13th), Canterbury (A) (10th)
The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice North Walsham still have to play Canterbury – who are the side directly above this relegation battle – but The City Men will not be looking over their shoulder after Round 24’s win over Guernsey Raiders secured their safety.
For their final away game of the season, they visit Henley Hawks (5th) while National Two East’s action kicks off on Friday night when the aforementioned Guernsey host Bury St Edmunds under the lights at Footes Lane.
Elsewhere, Blackheath are back at Well Hall for the first time since becoming champions and they entertain third-placed Worthing Raiders while the current occupants of the silver-medal spot, Barnes, go to Old Albanain and Dorking (4th) face Westcliff.
National Two West
Relegation is once again the theme in National Two West but on paper, it seems much more straightforward than what will play out in National Two East.
Barnstaple are teetering on the edge and after their eighth successive loss last time out, the Chiefs could have their fate sealed this weekend.
Barum are currently nine points behind nearest rivals Bournville so they must pick up no less than a victory on Saturday and hope the Chocos stumble badly at home to Hornets if they are to delay the drop for another week.
On a positive note for Barnstaple, they are facing already relegated Stourbridge who they did beat 31-15 in the reverse fixture back in December but on the negative side of the coin, Bournville have two games in hand and require just two points from their final four matches to confirm their own safety.
It's a HUGE close to proceedings for the current season here at Avery Fields as the last home games take place, and we're making a real weekend of it with a double whammy as our Men's First XV & Women's Golds sides both take on Hornets of one variety or another. pic.twitter.com/5V77fQoZDi
— Bournville Rugby (@BvilleRFC) April 11, 2023
Added to this, Mitch McGahan’s men have won three of their last four games – picking up 16 points in the process – so the form guide suggests this fight to stay in National Two West is a foregone conclusion but never say never in National League Rugby.
Also across the division this weekend, Leicester Lions will lift the title at Westleigh Park once their clash with Exeter University has concluded but the newly-crowned champions will want to do it in style by securing a 19th straight win while the scrap for second continues as Clifton (2nd) go to Luctonians (4th) and Dings Crusaders (3rd) host Newport (Salop).
Elsewhere, Hinckley visit Old Redcliffians and Loughborough Students – who will also be preparing for their BUCS Super Rugby University final against the aforementioned Exeter on Wednesday – go to Redruth.