The leading trio in National One made no mistake on the opening weekend of 2020 as Rosslyn Park, Rams RFC and Richmond all secured victories. (Photo Credit: Phillipa Hilton)
Table toppers Park breezed past Canterbury whilst Rams did leapfrog Richmond into second place after their bonus-point win over Darlington Mowden Park.
The aforementioned Richmond had to settle for four points from their victory against Blackheath as the title race continues to catch the attention.
At the wrong end of the division, Rotherham Titans were left kicking themselves once again as they saw a lead slip away from them against Plymouth Albion in Round 17.
Elsewhere, Chinnor thrashed Hull Ionians, Old Elthamians edged past Sale FC, Cambridge made it three in a row at Cinderford and there were more home comforts for Bishop’s Stortford against Birmingham Moseley.
Canterbury 5-38 Rosslyn Park
National One leaders Rosslyn Park kicked off the New Year in style as they coasted past bottom of the table Canterbury.
Kieran Power’s side led 31-0 before Tom Best scored a consolation try for the hosts, who remain 22 points from safety.
FT@cantrugby 5-38 Park
— Rosslyn Park (@rosslynpark) January 4, 2020
Park showed their class in Kent as Arthur Ellis, Tom Vaughan-Edwards and the excellent Benji Marfo all crossed to establish a 19-0 interval lead.
The visitors added further tries through Hugo Ellis and Craig Holland as Park maintained their spot at the summit of National One.
Rams RFC 27-17 Darlington Mowden Park
Rams RFC stretched their winning run in National One to six games following a hard-fought victory against Darlington Mowden Park at Old Bath Road.
The hosts went over on three occasions during the first half with Jamie Gutteridge’s effort sandwiched in between two penalties tries, which saw DMP’s Joe Craggs and Euan McKirdy sent to the sin-bin.
Rams added to their advantage on 51 minutes as Robbie Stapley dotted down to make it 24-3 before the away side decided to mount a fightback.
Yellow cards shown to Conor Corrigan and Connor Stapley allowed David Nelson and Oliver Walker to capitalise on the extra man advantage as DMP cut Rams’ lead to seven points.
However, their hopes of salvaging anything from their trip to Berkshire faded away one minute from time as Andrew Humberstone slotted the conversion to wrap up yet another victory for Rams.
Richmond 19-8 Blackheath
Louis Molloy’s try and a superb kicking performance by Tom Hodgson helped Richmond beat old rivals Blackheath at the Athletic Ground.
Although the National One title challengers led 9-0 at the break thanks to three Hodgson penalties, Blackheath were still in the contest when Mark Cooke pinged over the first points of the second-half.
Good morning Richmond fans! 😍
Here's how the @nca_rugby table looks after another fascinating weekend of matches. 👇
— Richmond Rugby (@RichmondFC1861) January 6, 2020
The ‘Club’ fly-half so nearly narrowed Richmond’s lead even further, but his penalty sailed wide and that miss proved costly as the hosts took the game away from their visitors.
Molloy rounded off a fine break from Toby Saysall before Hodgson increased his tally to 14 points for the afternoon with a conversion and a further penalty.
Blackheath did hit back with a Ben Ransom try, but it was too little, too late as Richmond remain firmly in the hunt for a return to the Championship.
Hull Ionians 7-54 Chinnor
Chinnor head into Friday night’s intriguing clash with promotion candidates Rams RFC on the cusp of the title race following a resounding win over Hull Ionians.
The visitors wrapped up the bonus point shortly after half-time as a penalty try was followed by scores from Josh Pieterse, Laurence May and Josh Hodson.
Ehize Ehizode, Nick Selway, Jason Worrall and Sam Yawayawa added further tries as Matt Williams’ side surged to victory.
Jack Colbourne had initially given Hull Ionians the lead on 25 minutes, but the hosts were unable to contain a rampant Chinnor side, who are now nine points behind the leading duo of Rosslyn Park and Rams.
Old Elthamians 28-21 Sale FC
Old Elthamians held off a spirited Sale FC comeback to ensure Gavin Lach’s side began 2020 with a victory at College Meadow.
Tom Concu crossed after 11 minutes for the hosts before Fergus Mulchrone’s try brought Sale FC level. However, OEs would hold a seven-point lead at the break as Harry Ledger rounded off a flowing move.
The home side then seemingly took control following a sublime try from Ollie Claxon and a score via Austin Hay, but on the hour, Sale rustled up a response.
Ollie Longmore got the ball rolling with his try and on 69 minutes, Jake Pope barged his way over to cut OEs’ lead to just seven points.
With one-minute remaining, Old Elthamians nerves were jangling when Mike Kovacic was yellow-carded, but Sale were unable to take advantage of their attacking line-out in the corner as the hosts held on for the win.
Cinderford 3-8 Cambridge
Cambridge secured their third win on the bounce as they narrowly defeated Cinderford, who experienced a frustrating afternoon on their own turf.
The only try of the game came when Cambridge fly-half Ben Penfold went over after an excellent step.
Penfold also kicked a penalty to give the Blood and Sand an 8-3 lead at the break, whilst James Butler got Cinderford on the board.
An attritional second-half then followed, but in the final 20 minutes, Cinderford failed to turn pressure into points when camped on the Cambridge five-metre line.
The visitors also conceded five penalties and two yellow cards during this period, but somehow, Richie Williams’ side held out for the victory.
Bishop’s Stortford 29-15 Birmingham Moseley
Bishop’s Stortford recorded their fifth consecutive home win in National One with a bonus-point victory over struggling Birmingham Moseley.
Prop Seb Brownhill burrowed over to open the try scoring after Cliffie Hodgson had given Moseley the lead from the tee.
Nick Hankin then scampered under the posts to extend Stortford’s advantage, but the visitors struck back before half-time as Louis Roach dotted down.
Stortford flanker Baxter Wilson swapped tries with Moseley’s John Davetanivalu as the game remained in the balance, but a penalty from home fly-half George Cullen was followed by a Sam Winter score as the hosts sealed the win.
Rotherham Titans 32-38 Plymouth Albion
Plymouth Albion conjured up a storming second half display to condemn Rotherham Titans to another defeat as their battle against relegation rages on.
Converted tries from Dan Leake and Sam Boxhall, plus two penalties from Sam Hollingsworth, helped the hosts into a 20-10 lead at half-time.
Koree Britton had dotted down either side of Rotherham’s two scores, but second-half efforts from Rus Tuima, John Kelly, Shea Cornish and George Mills made it 38-20 as Albion roared back.
The Titans did respond to salvage two points as Zak Poole and Jamie Cooke went over, but this was another lead which slipped away from Rotherham.
The Yorkshire club also made changes to their coaching staff over the Christmas period as Anthony Posa was replaced by former coach Steve Salvin to work alongside Martin Jenkinson.