It might be a reduced fixture list this weekend, but there are still plenty of big matches to look forward to as teams aim to capitalise on games in hand. (Photo Credit: Shawn Pearce)
Chinnor look as though they have put a challenging February behind them but if they are to take another step towards confirming their status in National One for next season, then Nick Easter’s men may consider a third straight win against relegation-threatened Leeds Tykes a must.
Successive bonus-point triumphs against Cinderford and Esher have significantly boosted not only Chinnor’s survival hopes but also their belief after they came from behind in both fixtures to clinch victory. As for Leeds Tykes, since beating already relegated Hull at the end of January, Jon Callard’s side have failed to win any of their last four games meaning the Yorkshire outfit are now 14 points from safety with two games in hand.
Granted, the Tykes have played three of the top six sides in that period but their next two fixtures against Chinnor and then 10th-placed Birmingham Moseley – who currently sit three points clear of the drop – could be season-defining. Leeds did beat Chinnor back in October, and something similar would breathe new life into their survival bid.
The aforementioned Birmingham Moseley will be watching with interest, but they could start to move away from the trapdoor when they take on Hull on Saturday. Adam Balding’s men have lost their last three but by an average margin of just two points so they will be keen to turn those near misses into a welcome victory.
National Two North
This weekend, Sedgley Park will be targeting an immediate response against opponents Hull Ionians after their 20-match unbeaten run came to an end last Saturday. The Tigers have led the way for large portions of this season but their promotion bid was stopped in its tracks in Round 22 by Tynedale. It means Sedge now hold a seven-point gap at the summit ahead of nearest challengers Fylde.
Scott Barrow’s troops are still in control of this title race but after stumbling in the North-East last time out, they will want to overcome the obstacle of Hull Ionians to stop any possible doubts creeping in. That is easier said than done though, as Graham Steadman’s side are currently third in the table and have lost just once at Brantingham Park in the past 15 months.
When this fixture was originally scheduled in January, the I’s were in the conversation for top spot but inconsistency on their travels has seen them fall away. However, the hosts on Saturday are more than capable of disrupting Sedge’s goals for the rest of the season so will there be another twist in the title race?
After losing to Tynedale, can the #Nat2n leaders bounce back on Saturday?
We head to Brantingham Park for our Key Game on The National League Rugby Review Show!
— National League Rugby (@Natleague_rugby) March 17, 2023
There is also plenty on the line 57 miles up the road when Harrogate welcome Huddersfield to Rudding Lane. After last week’s loss to Preston Grasshoppers, the home side remain firmly in the relegation places and enter this weekend 18 points adrift of safety with five games to go in their season.
A defeat for Martyn Wood’s men would leave their hopes of beating the drop hanging by a thread but after three successive home wins, Harrogate will be up for continuing the fight.
Elsewhere in National Two North, Otley (4th) travel to Sheffield Tigers.
National Two East
After recording a 12th successive victory last time out, Blackheath remain the red-hot favourites to claim promotion and an instant return to National One. As things stand, ‘Club’ are 12 points clear and this weekend’s game in hand against Bury St Edmunds could present them with the opportunity to win the title next Saturday when they travel to bottom-of-the-table Westcliff.
But for all of Blackheath’s control and momentum, thoughts of silverware and glory will be quickly parked because a trip to Suffolk on Saturday will not be straightforward.
Bury St Edmunds are one of the in-form sides in the division and eight wins from their last nine games has seen the Wolfpack deservedly move into the top four. Director of Rugby Jacob Ford has called on his side to show “courage” if they are to become just the third team to beat Blackheath this term, stating that Bury will have to “twist rather than stick” if they are to continue their own winning run.
After this weekend, Blackheath face the other three sides in the top five (Barnes, Worthing Raiders and Dorking) between now and the end of the season, but a result this Saturday would leave them on the brink.
The latest chapter in the thrilling fight for survival in National Two East will also be written this weekend with Sevenoaks, Rochford Hundred and North Walsham all in action.
Sevenoaks – fresh from an important bonus-point win over Guernsey Raiders – entertain a confident-looking Barnes while Rochford Hundred host Dorking and North Walsham travel to Henley Hawks. Meanwhile, Old Albanian take on already relegated Westcliff.
.National Two West
Newport (Salop) will be looking to bounce back this weekend after their defeat against the 14-men of Hinckley last time out. In truth, it was the first noticeable blip for Bob Adams’ side since the middle of January and the Forton Road outfit will hope it is just a minor bump in the road as they look to secure their safety in National Two West.
The Shropshire side are currently 11 points clear of the relegation zone and their home form is the main reason behind their recent movements away from danger. Newport have won their last three games on their own patch – including against third-placed Dings Crusaders – so they have it in their locker to get the better of Redruth (6th).
A fitting finale to the best league in the land. 🏆
— BUCS Super Rugby (@BUCSSuperRugby) March 15, 2023
The Reds come into this weekend having lost their last four matches – two of which came against Old Redcliffians and Bournville – so Nigel Hambly’s side will want to stop their slide. A lengthy injury list has been a major factor in their recent downturn in form but can Redruth taste success on the road for just the second time in 2023?
The other two fixtures taking place in National Two West this weekend see an in-form Luctonians travel to Old Redcliffians while there is also a Midlands derby when Loughborough Students – whose university side were crowned BUCS Super Rugby league champions this week – take on Hinckley.