After the first break in the season, there was no sluggish return to levels three and four as battles at the top of National One and National Two West took a twist. (Photo Credit: Paul Clark)

National One

Rams RFC suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time in almost 12 months as Darlington Mowden Park stunned the league leaders by securing a 41-36 victory at Old Bath Road.

Before the first break of the season in October, Seb Reynolds’ side had lost to Leicester Lions but on their return to action, the Berkshire outfit were once again on the wrong end of the scoreline.

DMP were 29-17 ahead at half-time thanks to scores from Harry Yates, Louie Johnson, Oliver Fletcher and Corben Ollivent but only after Rams had taken an early lead via Max Hayman and Jak Rossiter.

Ollie Cole had also gone over for the hosts in the opening 40, and Hayman was able to reduce the deficit to seven points with his second try on 46 minutes.

However, a brace from DMP’s Yaree Fantini saw his side pull clear of the table-toppers and despite a late revival from Rams – in which Hayman completed his hat-trick and Steven Bryant also dotted down – the visitors were able to hold out for a second away success on the spin.

This setback for Rams means their lead at the summit is now only three points as Chinnor (2nd) recorded a fourth victory in a row. Nick Easter’s men had to come from behind though, as they scored 41 unanswered points in a scintillating second-half display against Taunton Titans.

Thrid-placed Plymouth Albion returned to winning ways in Round Eight as three tries in a 12-minute window helped them defeat Blackheath 28-15 while Sedgley Park have now won three games on the bounce after seeing off Leicester Lions 28-20.

Sale FC remain rooted to the foot of the table as despite a spirited performance, they fell to a 22-14 defeat at Birmingham Moseley while elsewhere, Joe Winfield’s boot guided Cinderford to an excellent 24-7 win away at Richmond and four tries from the unstoppable Charlie Walker helped Rosslyn Park to a welcome 48-22 success against Bishop’s Stortford.

National Two North

A try from James Pitcher four minutes from time saw Lymm snatch a 31-30 bonus-point win against Hull Ionians to move away from the foot of the division.

A first-half score from Alex Forth and 11 points from the boot of Lewis Minikin put Hull Ionians 16-15 up, with Tom Shard and Matt Hand responding for Lymm.

Harry Martin touched down to nudge the home side in front early in the second period, but two tries in five minutes from Lucas Powell and Frankie Gascoigne put The I’s 30-20 ahead.

However, Lymm would have the final say as two penalties from Shard cut the lead to four points before a slick line-out move saw Pitcher sneak into the corner to clinch a third win of the term for the North-West outfit.

Huddersfield are the side currently propping up the table after they fell to a sixth straight defeat away at Fylde. Neil Ryan’s troops lost 62-19 at Woodlands with home hooker Ben Gregory helping himself to a hat-trick while the three teams directly above Field in the table all failed to win in Round Eight.

A last-gasp try for hat-trick hero Barney Goatley saw Sheffield Tigers clinch a dramatic 41-39 win at Preston Grasshoppers, Otley saw a 25-14 lead disappear as second-placed Rotherham Titans came from behind to win 34-32 at Clifton Lane and Tynedale were denied a victory at home to Sheffield as Matt Adcock’s try and an ice-cool conversion from Elliott Fisher rescued a draw for the Yorkshire outfit.

Elsewhere, despite it being 0-0 at half-time against Billingham, league leaders Leeds Tykes hit their attacking stride to record a 29-12 victory – their ninth successive bonus-point triumph of the season – while Wharfedale (3rd) deservedly surged to a fifth win from their last six games after seeing off Hull 35-6 at The Avenue.

National Two East

Second-placed Barnes remain in hot pursuit of league leaders Dorking after a hard-fought 28-11 victory over Guernsey Raiders in challenging weather conditions at Footes Lane.

In an encouraging start for the hosts, Guernsey fly-half Dan Rice opened the scoring from the tee but Barnes hit back with two penalties via Ben Cook. A yellow card shown to James Burger was punished by the visitors when Cameron Ruddock rumbled over on the stroke of half-time.

Shortly after the interval, the best move of the match ended with Paul Webb scoring Barnes’s second and despite Ciaran McGann landing a penalty for the Raiders, another yellow card – this time shown to Brad Webb – allowed the away side to once again take advantage of the extra man.

Rory Kassapian was able to dot down a third for Barnes but Guernsey didn’t roll over as former Jersey Reds centre Dan Barnes got one back for the hosts.

With Barnes down to 13 men after both Matt Humphreys and Len Ashcroft-Leigh were sin-binned, a strong finish from the Raiders was ultimately in vain as Jack Heald’s boys departed with the victory.

Just like Barnes, all of their fellow top-four rivals didn’t manage to secure a bonus point in Round Eight. Table-toppers Dorking came away from Old Albanian with a 23-10 victory as Armand Roux’s side were denied a maximum for the first time this season, late tries from Sam Morley and Dan Rowland snatched a 22-18 triumph for Esher away at Sevenoaks and a score one minute from time from Will Benning saw Henley Hawks edge past Wimbledon 23-19.

Bury St Edmunds (5th) were the only team to secure all five points in National Two East as they produced a dominant display to see off Worthing Raiders 49-12 and a brace from James Stephens helped Canterbury to a 25-19 victory against Westcombe Park. Tonbridge Juddians’ meeting with North Walsham was postponed due to flooding.

National Two West

Luctonians’ perfect start to the season came to a halt in Round Eight as a late Ciaran Donoghue penalty clinched a 17-15 win for Dings Crusaders.

Charlie Grimes’ try put Lucs ahead before Jacob Perry reduced the deficit to a single point from the tee.

Dings went in front after the break through Gabriel Goss and another Perry penalty, but that was matched by the league leaders as James Wheeler’s effort was followed by three points from the boot of Louis Silver.

But there was to be one final twist as Donoghue landed an excellent penalty two minutes from time to end Luctonians’ 100 per cent record.

A first defeat of the campaign for Ryan Watkins’ side allowed the chasing pack to close in on the table toppers. Doubles from wingers Tomos Ormsby and Zakaria Hamid helped Clifton (2nd) to a comfortable 45-7 win over Dudley Kingswinford, Exeter University (3rd) bounced back from successive defeats to see off rivals Loughborough Students 40-31 and a blistering first half display from fourth-placed Camborne set the platform for a 45-26 triumph over Old Redcliffians.

It means the top four are now separated by just five points with Luctonains hosting Camborne this coming Saturday.

Elsewhere, Hinckley returned to action by returning to winning ways as they departed Chester with a solid 22-10 victory, Redruth recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this season as a late penalty try sealed a 38-36 triumph away at Hornets and Newport (Salop) fended off a strong Bournville revival to clinch a much-needed second win of the campaign after securing a 32-16 success at Forton Road.

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