Sevenoaks were another big winner across National League Rugby in Round 18 with February set to be another exciting month in levels three and four. (Photo Credit: David Purday)
Rams RFC remain hot on the heels of league leaders Sale FC after coming back from 15 points down in the final 14 minutes to dramatically beat title rivals Cambridge 33-27.
A victory for the Blood and Sand would have seen them leapfrog Rams, but a remarkable turnaround means the Berkshire club continue to be Sale’s nearest challengers.
The hosts looked to be in a very healthy position when tries from Anthony Maka and Ben Brownlie (2) helped them into a 24-5 lead.
Two Steff James penalties – either side of Ben Henderson’s score – kept Richie Williams’ troops in control, but Rams hit back in devastating style to display their title credentials.
With Ben Adams in the sin-bin, the visitors took advantage of the extra man as Henry Bird touched down but it was after Matt Hema’s yellow card when Rams delivered the one-two punch.
Will Partington collected his own clever chip to score on 78 minutes before Bird scorched clear from inside his own half to complete the turnaround.
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Seb Reynolds’ side are now two points behind Sale and they also have two games in hand, but the current table-toppers were able to take care of their own job in Round 18 as a brace from Tom Walsh helped them to a 24-17 victory over Cinderford.
Third-placed Rosslyn Park are seven points off Sale but they had to fightback from 21-7 down to defeat Darlington Mowden Park at The Rock. Tries from Benji Marfo and Jared Saunders set them on their way before a late double from Joe Luca Smith sealed the deal.
It was also a big weekend towards the bottom of National One as both Leeds Tykes and Taunton Titans moved to within five points of safety.
The Yorkshire club produced a blistering opening 40 minutes at West Park Leeds as they beat Hull 36-12 in a ‘basement battle’ while Taunton recovered from a slow start against an in-form Esher to claim a much-needed 27-18 triumph.
Chinnor – the side directly above the bottom three – looked on course to continue their fine start under the stewardship of Nick Easter but two Kyle Speare tries helped Plymouth Albion turn things around as they clinched a 28-12 success.
Elsewhere, it was an eventual afternoon for Birmingham Moseley’s Ollie Stedman as he scored a hat-trick before receiving a second yellow card in their clash against Bishop’s Stortford. Adam Balding’s side were left to rue their indiscipline as Ryan Jackson’s late try rescued a 34-34 draw for Stortford at Billesley Common.
National Two North
Preston Grasshoppers were able to clinch a try bonus point in their 34-22 loss at Sheffield Tigers as they shuffled further away from National Two North’s relegation places.
First-half tries from Tom Calladine, Josh Redfern and Joe Fitzsimons helped the Yorkshire outfit into a 24-10 lead at the break, but only after Preston had gone ahead via Ben Dorrington and Harry Swarbrick.
A penalty try extended The Tigers’ advantage but in the final quarter, Dan Orwin’s side were able to regather themselves as scores from Alastair Murray and Jacob Browne ensured the Lancashire club departed Dore Moor with something to show for their efforts.
This result means Hoppers are 13 points clear of the bottom two after Harrogate fell to a 21-10 loss away at Sheffield, with scrum-half Will Hodgson scoring 11 of the hosts’ points at Abbeydale Park.
The division’s bottom club – Blaydon – were on the wrong end of a 75-0 thumping from title-chasing Sedgley Park in which winger Rhys Henderson scored four of their 11 tries. Scott Barrow’s men remain two points off the top with a game in hand after league leaders Fylde overcame a tough test against Rotherham Titans to secure a hard-earned 30-23 triumph.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield’s recent upturn in form continues to gather momentum after they produced an excellent display to see off third-placed Hull Ionians 33-17 at Lockwood Park. Will Milner kicked 18 points as Gareth Lewis’ men secured their fourth win on the spin.
Elsewhere, a superb first-half showing helped Otley (4th) to a 36-22 victory over Chester (5th) and Chris Wearmouth was the hero for Tynedale as his try 10 minutes from time secured a 21-20 win against the 14-man of Wharfedale, who had Rob Baldwin sent off in the opening quarter.
National Two East
Sevenoaks clinched a 35-19 bonus victory over Rochford Hundred to move 10 points clear of the drop zone in National Two East.
An early double from Matt Holmes and a try by Scott Sedgwick put the hosts 17-0 in front before Kyle Johnson responded for the visitors.
Ben Adams and Rob Gardner swapped scores before the break, but it was the Sevenoaks winger who helped his side take the game away from Rochford.
Adams scored a second try immediately after the interval and Sevenoaks’ mission was made slightly easier when Ben Thomas was sent-off for the away side.
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Adams took control as two penalties made it 35-12 and while Damien Brambley did pull a try back for Rochford, Sevenoaks were able to see out the victory and they also denied Danny Cleare’s side any points in the process.
Table rivals North Walsham and Canterbury were also left empty-handed in Round 18. The Norfolk outfit lost to possible promotion challengers Barnes 38-19 – with hooker Alex March at the double – while The City Men were simply bamboozled by Dorking winger Tobermory McRae who scored five tries in a 50-21 win.
The Red and Whites remain third in the table behind Worthing Raiders (2nd) who left it late to beat Bury St Edmunds 27-22. Frank Taggart (2) and Curtis Barnes had helped them into a 17-0 lead, but the Wolfpack were able to level things up at 22-22. However, replacement Will Rigelsford sniped over to steal the win with a minute remaining.
It means the Raiders enter this coming weekend eight points behind table-toppers Blackheath. The two sides meet on Saturday but ‘Club’ were able to tighten their grip on pole position following a 33-21 victory over Old Albanian in Round 18.
Meanwhile, Anthony Armstrong scored a hat-trick as Guernsey Raiders beat Westcliff 41-13 and Henley Hawks moved up to fifth following a 24-17 win over Tonbridge Juddians.
National Two West
Bournville managed to secure a try bonus point from their 64-40 loss to Clifton as they continue to try and avoid the drop in National Two West.
In an enthralling contest at Station Road, Clifton – who currently occupy second place in the standings and are nine points off Leicester Lions (1st) – found themselves 33-26 behind at the break as Michael Ho, Owen Williams, Callum Thompson and Sam Grimshaw all went over for the visitors.
But after scoring four tries of their own in the first period – via Alex Kilbane, Matt Ward, Alex Howman and Zac Ward, Clifton turned things around after the interval.
Further tries came from Max Woodward (2) while Matt Ward completed his hat-trick before Joe Owen and Blake Boyland also dotted down after Thompson had responded for the away side.
Bournville’s rivals in the standings – Newport (Salop) – also picked up a try bonus point in their 45-31 defeat away at Loughborough Students thanks to a stunning late score by winger Charlie Gamble.
Sticking with the bottom half, Barnstaple fell to a 31-19 home loss against Dings Crusaders, Hornets were beaten 29-19 by Exeter University and Old Redcliffians, who had started strongly against league leaders Leicester Lions following tries from Francisco Souto and Dom Sprague, eventually lost 36-14 in the Midlands.
Elsewhere, Redruth recorded their fourth win on the trot as they defeated Luctonians 21-3 while bottom-of-the-table Stourbridge recovered in the final quarter to collect a try bonus point in their 52-28 loss to Hinckley.