Hull have also effectively been relegated from National One after suffering a defeat in Round 21 while contrasting fortunes leave survival hopes on different ends of the scale. Photo Credit: (John Ashton)
Second-half tries from Josh Hodson and Reece Marshall saw Chinnor arrest a run of three straight defeats as they beat Cinderford 26-22 in another thriller between the old foes.
Hodson and Max Heathman tries for the hosts got them off to the perfect start but a yellow card shown to the latter was punished by Cinderford.
Morgan Adderly-Jones, Nathan Taylor and Mike Austin all crossed in Heathman’s absence as they led 21-12 at half-time but scores from Hodson and Marshall put Chinnor back ahead.
The visitors put pressure on the home side as they looked to snatch the win, but Chinnor held on for what Director of Rugby Nick Easter described as “a big five points”.
The victory for the Black and Whites leaves them five points clear of the bottom three and the result also effectively relegated Hull from National One.
Mike Umaga’s troops knew they had to match Chinnor’s result to avoid the drop at the weekend, and they started like a side that meant business against promotion-chasing Sale FC.
They did lead 12-0 but a score from Ollie Longmore and two from Josh Brown turned the game around for the North West outfit. With three teams currently scheduled to be going down, it means that in that eventuality, Hull will drop into National Two after just one season in the third tier.
Sale’s win keeps them in the title conversation but both league leaders Rams RFC and Cambridge picked up maximums in Round 21. Both clubs had hat-trick heroes on Saturday afternoon with Rams’ Jak Rossiter scoring three in a 52-24 victory over a spirited Leeds Tykes side while Kwaku Asideu starred for Cambridge in their 56-22 triumph away at Esher.
The gap at the summit stays at seven points while Sale are now nine points behind Rams.
The aforementioned loss for Esher didn’t have an impact on their league position. They remain two points clear of the relegation places after rivals Taunton Titans fell to a 39-7 defeat at Bishop’s Stortford, with centre Francis Moore at the double once again.
Unlike Taunton and Esher, Darlington Mowden Park were able to move further away from danger after securing a fourth successive win. Garry Law’s boys beat Plymouth Albion 33-26 in the North East but Birmingham Moseley are still looking over their shoulder after falling to another narrow defeat, this time 21-19 against Rosslyn Park.
National Two North
Fylde and Sedgley Park played out an engrossing National League Rugby encounter in Round 21, but there was nothing to separate the top two in National Two North as they drew 19-19 at Woodlands.
Sedge were unable to extend their winning run to 20 successive matches and take a significant step towards the title while Fylde remain undefeated at home this term.
However, that record looked under threat heading into half-time as tries from Oscar Crowe and Danny Maher gave league leaders Sedgley Park a 12-0 advantage.
The table-toppers were well organised in defence and blunted any Fylde attacks but a yellow card shown to scrum-half Sam Stelmaszek – combined with waves of pressure – eventually saw David Fairbrother crash over before the break.
The second-placed side then flipped this contest on its head and sent the swathes of home support into raptures when Tom Grimes and Connor Wilkinson went over in a six-minute window.
Sedge responded almost immediately through George Bordill and despite both Steve Collins and Greg Smith having penalty attempts to perhaps win this contest, both sides had to settle for a share of the spoils.
— National League Rugby (@Natleague_rugby) March 6, 2023
The result means there is no change at the top with Sedgley Park still holding a six-point lead with a game in hand.
Down at the bottom, Blaydon were able to collect two bonus points in a 28-26 defeat against Sheffield Tigers. Zack Thompson and Ethan Clarke crossed in the final 15 minutes for the division’s bottom club, but Sam Stuart’s men are now 21 points from safety with 25 left to play for.
That is because Preston Grasshoppers secured consecutive victories as they picked up a 40-34 bonus-point win over Tynedale. Hoppers are now 13 points clear of the relegation places but Harrogate continue to hunt down the Lancashire outfit after sealing a 21-17 triumph over Chester to record a third straight success at Rudding Lane.
Martyn Wood’s men do have a game in hand to come, but Harrogate travel to Preston this coming weekend knowing a win at Lightfoot Green would significantly boost their survival hopes.
Elsewhere, Hull Ionians returned to the top three after defeating the 14-man of Otley 41-35 at Brantingham Park. The visitors had Sam Waddington sent off on the hour and still led on 71 minutes but the hosts were able to clinch the victory.
Also in National Two North, Rotherham Titans were back in the winners’ lounge after they beat Sheffield 36-26 and a blistering first 40 for Wharfedale proved to be the difference as they defeated Huddersfield 32-21 at The Avenue.
National Two East
Westcliff had their regulation from National Two East confirmed in Round 21 after falling to a 55-3 defeat against Tonbridge Juddians.
The Southend-on-Sea outfit knew they had to pick up two points or more to stand any chance of avoiding the drop at the weekend, but TJs were in a rampant mood and ran in nine tries.
Full-back Ryan Taylor-Dennehy scored a hat-trick and kicked three conversions while Hugo Watson (2), Luke Talbot, Bryan Hotston, Charlie Self, Tom Kendrick and Duncan Tout also got in on the act.
Now only one relegation spot remains and it is currently occupied by North Walsham, but Jamie Knight’s men certainly gave promotion favourites Blackheath a run for their money at Norwich Road before falling to a 35-25 loss.
George Loose and Dan Smith had gone over to help the hosts into a 15-0 lead and they also held an eight-point advantage when Connor Dudley scored after half-time. However, the league leaders pulled through as tries from Freddie Owen and Chris Bell saw them get over the line and also deny North Walsham any bonus points.
The two clubs directly above North Walsham – Rochford Hundred and Sevenoaks – concluded the weekend empty-handed after suffering defeats against Bury St Edmunds and Old Albanian, respectively. Rochford were beaten 52-7 away in Suffolk while Sevenoaks lost 49-8 at Woollams with Tom Wilton and Andrew Nurse influential for OAs.
Worthing Raiders remain 12 points off the summit as the second-placed side defeated Henley Hawks 34-24 in an entertaining contest at Dry Leas while Dorking’s promotion hopes were dented by Guernsey as the Raiders prevailed 31-27.
Elsewhere, Barnes were able to lift themselves to third thanks to a fifth win from their last six games as they beat Canterbury 38-15 in Kent.
National Two West
Bournville moved out of the bottom two in National Two West after beating Redruth 52-40 in a frantic contest in the Midlands.
Tom Burrows, Rhys Williams and Sam Grimshaw (2) secured the bonus point for the hosts before half-time, but only after they had initially trailed 14-0 following scores from Sam Stevens and Harry Andrewartha.
Jamie Harding and Williams went over again for Bournville before Grimshaw completed his hat-trick just after the break.
Stevens and Burrows then traded tries before a late flurry from Dean Bonds and Jack Simmons saw Redruth conclude the scoring for the afternoon.
— Rhys Williams (@RhysPWilliams) March 4, 2023
Back-to-back victories for Mitch McGahan’s men leaves them three points above the drop zone with a game in hand while Newport (Salop) were also able to edge closer to safety after clinching a third home win on the bounce as they defeated Hornets 34-19.
Barnstaple are the club who have dropped into the relegation places after they lost 40-12 away at league leaders Leicester Lions while Stoubridge’s 52-12 defeat against Dings Crusaders means if Bournville pick up two points more than Neil Mitchell’s side this coming weekend, then Stour will go down.
At the top, while the aforementioned Leicester Lions took another step towards the title, Clifton are not throwing the towel in just yet after they hammered Hinckley 71-31 away from home. Scrum-half Blake Boyland scored four as the Lavender and Blacks remain 16 points off the summit.
Elsewhere, Luctonians moved into the top five with a fourth straight win as they beat Exeter University 59-28 and Loughborough Students halted Old Redcliffians’ recent good form as late tries from Finlay Doyle and Charles Cadogan helped them to a 36-32 win.