Title race twists and survival bids enhanced – This campaign could go down to the wire
Rams RFC and Sedgley Park were stopped in their tracks, Chinnor, Taunton, Preston and Sevenoaks all picked up key results and Stourbridge live to fight another day. (Photo Credit: Andy Hall)
Taunton Titans gave their survival hopes a major boost as they defeated Darlington Mowden Park 35-26 to move out of the relegation places.
Taunton led 12-3 at half-time as Charlie Wright and Issac Dalton powered over, but DMP then roared into life thanks to Ben Frankland and Louie Johnson.
Alex Rodd’s try for the Titans made things all square but scores via Ratu Vakalutukali and Harry Strong, as well as two George Worboys’ penalties, earned Taunton the win.
Tony Yapp’s side are now two points clear of the bottom three after they leapfrogged Esher, who were beaten 24-22 by Chinnor on Friday night. The EESs had held a 17-point advantage at the break but Nick Easter’s side showed their powers of recovery to turn the game around at Molesley Road.
There were also twists and turns at the top of National One as league leaders Rams RFC suffered just their third defeat of the campaign as they lost 27-24 to Plymouth Albion at Brickfields.
This fixture always had the makings of being a potential banana skin for the table-toppers and a blistering first half saw Albion lead 24-5. Rams did try and fight back, but it wasn’t enough and now their lead at the summit has been cut to six points after Sale FC beat Bishop’s Stortford 31-7 to earn their fifth successive victory.
Fellow promotion challengers Cambridge weren’t in action after their match with Birmingham Moseley was postponed but now only nine points separate the top three. The Blood and Sand also have a game in hand while Rams and Sale are set to meet on April 1st in what could be a huge game in this thrilling title battle.
Elsewhere, Cinderford halted a run of three straight losses as they beat already relegated Hull 50-0 while Leeds Tykes vs Rosslyn Park was called off.
National Two North
Tynedale once again threw a spanner in the works of a National Two North title contender as Sedgley Park’s 20-match unbeaten run came to an end after they lost 14-11 in the North East.
Rhys Henderson crossed the whitewash and Ollie Glasse kicked six points as Sedge led 11-0 at the break.
The league leaders still had the same cushion going into the final quarter, but replacements Seamus Hutton and Jake Rodgers came off the bench for Tyne to stun The Tigers as their tries turned this contest around.
After beating second-placed Fylde two weeks ago, Ben Woods’ troops produced another ‘upset’ meaning Sedge are now just seven points clear at the summit having played the same number of games as their nearest rival.
Down at the bottom, Preston Grasshoppers took a potentially significant step towards safety after securing a 34-17 bonus-point win against Harrogate.
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Hoppers began the day 13 points clear of the bottom two – and with Harrogate one of those sides in the drop zone – a third successive home victory would leave the Lancashire outfit on the cusp of another season in National Two North.
First-half tries from Jacob Browne, Jake Maher and Alastair Murray helped them on their way and despite Harrogate gaining a foothold in the second period, Ben Pearson’s try in the final play of the game clinched a maximum for Preston.
The result also meant that bottom-of-the-table Blaydon were relegated despite their fixture with Otley being postponed. As for Harrogate, they are now 18 points adrift of safety going into their game in hand against Huddersfield this weekend.
The only other match in National Two North which went ahead in Round 22 was at Hare Lane, and a last-gasp penalty from fly-half Liam Reeve snatched a pulsating 34-32 victory for Chester over Hull Ionians.
Sheffield Tigers v Rotherham Titans, Sheffield v Wharfedale and Huddersfield v Fylde were all called off.
National Two East
Winger Ben Adams scored 20 points to help Sevenoaks record a vital 33-26 victory over Guernsey Raiders as Adam Bowman’s side continues to climb away from the relegation places.
Adams was off target from the tee in the first half after tries from Aidon Higgins and Elliott Munnelly had given the hosts a 10-7 lead.
After the break, Sevenoaks pressed home their advantage as two penalties and a converted try from Adams put them 23-14 up.
Another score for Adams – either side of Guernsey tries from Anthony Armstrong and Bradley Webb – kept his side in front before a penalty from Jake Martin sealed the win.
After arresting a run of four straight losses, Sevenoaks are now seven points clear of the relegation zone after North Walsham lost 57-22 away at second-placed Worthing Raiders. The Norfolk outfit did manage to clinch an excellent try bonus-point but they just couldn’t live with winger Curtis Barnes who scored four tries in the first period to help the Raiders on their way.
Rivals Rochford Hundred came from behind and settled for a 21-21 draw against Old Albanian, and the two points Danny Cleare’s men were able to collect have kept them above the dreaded dotted line.
At the top, Blackheath are edging closer and closer to an immediate return to National One but they had to come from behind to beat Tonbridge Juddians 48-19 at Well Hall. James Shanahan’s side locked in their 12th successive win and it keeps them 12 points clear at the summit with just five games to go in their campaign.
Elsewhere, Barnes blasted their way to a sixth win from their last seven games as they ran in 13 tries to beat Westcliff 81-3, Bury St Edmunds have now lost just one of their last nine matches after defeating Canterbury 28-11 and Dorking’s recent dip continued as they suffered a 19-14 home loss to Henley Hawks.
National Two West
Stourbridge live to fight another day in National Two West after they earned just their second win of the campaign following a 19-15 win over Old Redcliffians.
Neil Mitchell’s men knew they could be relegated from level four if they failed to win at Stourton Park, and perhaps the magnitude of the result was highlighted by Rickie Aley’s four first-half penalties which opened up a 12-3 lead.
It got better for the hosts when Dallas Ororo galloped over but second-half efforts from Sam Rees and Edward Harvey set up a tense finish in the Midlands.
However, the home side were able to see out the victory as they continue to fight for their National League Rugby status.
In the end, the two points that Bournville collected in their thrilling 39-36 loss away at Loughborough Students didn’t impact the destiny of Stour but nevertheless, the result keeps the Chocos heading on the right path towards safety.
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— Loughborough Students RFC (@LboroRugby) March 11, 2023
Mitch McGahan’s men looked as though they had saved a draw when Sam Herrington crossed six minutes from time but a late penalty from Tom Smith snatched the win for Loughborough after a breathless encounter.
Bournville still have a game in hand and are also now five points clear of Barnstaple, who remain in the bottom two after their 26-3 loss away at Clifton. The hosts were able to secure a bonus-point win with the help of Alex Howman’s brace but the second-placed side know their pursuit of the title is almost up after league leaders Leicester Lions sealed a 16th successive win.
Tries from Oli Taylor, James Stubbs, Luke Bouchier and Nick Cairns (2) saw Gareth Collins’ men sweep past Redruth to record a 33-7 win away from home and victory against Loughborough on March 25th will confirm their promotion to National One.
Meanwhile, Joe Hawkesby was at the double as Dings Crusaders got the better of Exeter University 28-22, Hinckley beat Newport (Salop) 36-12 despite having winger Luke Hibberd sent off after just 25 minutes and Luctonians secured their fifth win in a row as they defeated Hornets 26-14 away from home.