With National One’s top three sides all picking up bonus-point wins in Round 26, it means Cambridge can gain promotion to the Championship this coming weekend if they secure a maximum against Birmingham Moseley. (Photo Credit: Phillipa Hilton)
Rams RFC’s National One title hopes remain alive after securing a hard-fought 33-19 victory that saw Esher relegated from the third tier.
A lightning-quick start from the EEEs was punctuated by Pierre Thompson as he grabbed himself two tries as the league leaders failed to settle in Surrey.
Rams’ Axel Kalling-Smith and Esher’s Josh Jordan traded scores but Connor Stapley’s drive over the line got the visitors back in the game just before the break.
Three tries in 12 minutes then turned the contest in Rams’ favour as Drew Humberstone, Zach Clow and Ollie Monye all scored to earn Seb Reynolds’ side the bonus-point win while this defeat for Esher means their one year stay back in National One is over.
With Rams collecting a maximum, Cambridge knew the same outcome against Plymouth Albion would keep the destiny of the title in their hands.
Considering Albion had lost just twice at home all season, this was a big hurdle for Richie Williams’ side to overcome but the Blood and Sand got off to the perfect start with Ben Brownlie and Joe Green going over.
Morgan Stone did respond for Plymouth but this game was won either side of the break as Anthony Maka, Kieran Frost and Kwaku Asiedu all crossed for a 31-10 triumph.
With the men from Granchester Road matching the result of Rams, it is now all on Cambridge as another bonus-point win from their game in hand against Birmingham Moseley this coming Saturday will see them promoted to the Championship. Anything less would see Rams clinch the title.
📺 The National League Rugby Review Show: Round 26
— National League Rugby (@Natleague_rugby) April 24, 2023
Sale FC entered the weekend needing to better the results of both Rams and Cambridge to keep their title dreams alive so despite a 49-18 bonus-point success over Birmingham Moseley proving not to be enough, Jonathan Keep’s side can still reflect on another superb campaign.
‘The Dogs’ led 14-13 at the break thanks to tries from Josh Brown and James Robins while Ryan Roach and Freddie Painter had given Moseley the lead during the first period.
However, the North West outfit dominated the scoreboard in the second half – scoring on five occasions – as they concluded the term with more wins and more points than last season which highlights why Sale will most certainly be challenging again in 2023/24.
Bringing it back full circle, and Esher’s defeat meant Taunton Titans’ 59-28 bonus-point triumph over Leeds Tykes secured their safety in National One for another season.
The Titans got off to a blistering start as tries from Ratu Vakalutakali, Jordan Venter and Noah Fenton gave them a 21-0 lead.
Despite Leeds Tykes replying via Jacob Mounsey and Harry Jukes, Bath loanee Ewan Richards dotted down for the crucial bonus-point score for Taunton.
Alex Spurdle’s try made things even more comfortable for the hosts and further efforts from Harry Strong, Ben Oliphant-Thompson, Charlie Wright and Isaac Dalton completed the nine-try haul for the Titans.
Elsewhere in National One, Rosslyn Park completed their campaign in fourth place after battling to a 38-31 win over Cinderford, Jake Morris starred as his hat-trick guided Bishop’s Stortford to not only a 44-17 victory against Hull but their highest-ever finish in National League Rugby and Chinnor concluded the term with an entertaining 38-29 triumph over Darlington Mowden Park.
National Two East
Rochford Hundred have been relegated from National Two East after falling to a 27-26 defeat against Tonbridge Juddians on the final day of the season.
Tom White and Duncan Tout helped the visitors into a 12-7 lead before Matt Walsh and Tom Kendrick quickly added two more tries after the restart.
Rochford then clawed their way back into this contest via Rob Gardner and Harry Phelps-Knights – either side of a White penalty for TJs – but despite Seth Mokuolu touching down late on, it wasn’t enough for Danny Cleare’s side to avoid the drop.
In truth, they needed to better the result of Sevenoaks to evade the trapdoor but a cutting edge performance from Adam Bowman’s side – including a dazzling display from winger Ben Adams who scored 32 points – secured a thumping 62-0 bonus-point win for the Kent outfit against Westcliff.
The final piece of this relegation jigsaw took place in Canterbury and before the start of the day, North Walsham required just one point to stay in this division.
The final Try of the Week vote for the season…
But Round 26 did deliver some absolute corkers 👏
Cast your vote via the Tweet below and we'll announce the winner on Friday 🥇
— National League Rugby (@Natleague_rugby) April 25, 2023
And the Vikings completed their mission inside 23 minutes as tries from Shaun Blyth, Ethan Holmwood, Frank Scott and Ryan Oakes helped them move into a 33-5 lead.
With their main objective now complete, the visitors seemingly took their foot off the gas as Canterbury overturned that 28-point deficit to lead 40-33 heading into the hour.
Tries from Charles Kingsman and Harvey Furneaux ultimately sealed the win for Canterbury but despite seeing a strong lead slip away, North Walsham did what they needed to do.
Elsewhere, Blackheath’s Jake Hennessey produced an excellent display as the champions defeated Dorking 45-38 and Alex Davies’ late penalty snatched a final day 25-24 victory for Worthing Raiders over Barnes. Bury St Edmunds secured their highest-ever finish in National League Rugby as they came from behind to beat Henley Hawks 41-32 and Old Albanian ended a positive home campaign with a 48-21 win against Guernsey Raiders.
National Two North and West
In National Two North, Hull Ionians blasted their way to the bronze medal position following a 80-26 victory over Blaydon, with Sam Wilson grabbing a hat-trick while champions Sedgley Park lifted the National Two North trophy in style following a 28-10 win away at Otley.
Rotherham Titans (5th) and the aforementioned Otley still have one or two more fixtures they may want to fulfil before their respective seasons are officially complete and the Titans could leapfrog the fourth placed side after their 45-17 success over Harrogate.
Also across this division, second-placed Fylde concluded their strong campaign with a 40-25 victory against Chester, with fly-half Greg Smith scoring 20 points, while it was No.9 Elliott Fisher who shone for Sheffield as his 21 points helped them defeat Tynedale 36-33 at Abbeydale Park.
Elsewhere, Huddersfield survived four yellow cards as they beat a Sheffield Tigers side 31-24 who also had Tom Calladine sent-off while Preston Grasshoppers ended the term on a high with a 27-12 win against Wharfedale.
In the West, National One-bound Leicester Lions completed the season with a 21-match winning streak but the champions only achieved that thanks to a late penalty from Luke Bouchier. His three points snatched a 15-12 victory over Hornets while Dings Crusaders finished in the runners-up spot after sealing an excellent 34-20 win away at Luctonians.
That result meant Clifton had to settle for third-place but the Lavender and Blacks couldn’t end another strong term on a winning note as they lost 53-38 away at Loughborough Students, who concluded the season in sixth.
Hinckley (5th) edged an entertaining Midlands derby 34-28 against Bournville while Exeter University came from behind to defeat a spirited Barnstaple side 34-26.
Elsewhere, Stourbridge rounded off a challenging 22/23 campaign on a positive note as they beat Redruth 48-28 and Old Redcliffians’ excellent end of season form continued at Forton Road as they clinched a hard-fought 37-31 victory against Newport (Salop).