This was a potentially pivotal weekend for Leicester Lions and Worthing in their respective fights for survival while for the first time since the end of September, there is a new leader in National Two West. (Photo Credit: Phillipa Hilton)

National One

Leicester Lions (11th) scored three unanswered first-half tries to secure a vital 29-21 victory over Taunton Titans (14th) in their bid to avoid relegation from National One.

James Stubbs finished off a sublime Lions move before Joe Patrick raced over to double the lead. Jamel Hamilton then latched on to a perfectly executed Dan Lewis chip to leave Gareth Collins’ troops in command.

Connor Banks got one back for Taunton but a Lewis penalty and a score from Nick Cairns tightened the home side’s grip on proceedings.

Taunton rallied with tries from Charlie Wright and Oscar Stewart, but the hosts had done enough to boost their survival hopes.

With four games remaining, the win for the Lions leaves them seven points clear of the drop while Taunton stay bottom of the standings and eight points from safety following another damaging setback.

Alongside Taunton, Cinderford (13th) remain in the relegation places after they suffered a 38-14 home loss against title-chasing Rams RFC (2nd), while Bishop’s Stortford (12th) were also unable to improve on their position as they were humbled 80-10 away at league leaders Chinnor (1st).

Elsewhere, Blackheath (8th) and Sale FC (9th) both picked up excellent home victories to all but confirm their place in National One. ‘Club’ produced a fine performance to defeat Birmingham Moseley (4th) 36-12 while Sale flicked a switch in the final quarter as they came from behind to claim a 35-24 success over Sedgley Park (10th).

Also in National One, Benji Marfo’s try four minutes from time helped Rosslyn Park move up to third in the standings following a 36-30 victory at Darlington Mowden Park (6th) while Plymouth Albion (5th) edged past Richmond (7th) to record an 18-10 win.

National Two North

Preston Grasshoppers (10th) fly-half Will Hunt kicked 16 points – including two late penalties – as Alex Keay’s men came from behind against Billingham (12th) to claim a 26-22 victory.

The visitors from the North-East found themselves seven points up at the break as tries from Sam Heron and Matt Kirby cancelled out Izaak Gosling’s early score.

It was first blood to Preston in the second half as Hunt converted Scott Richardson’s try before the No.10 slotted a penalty to nudge Hoppers in front.

Michael Walton’s try on the hour put Billingham back ahead and the away side – who are embroiled in a relegation battle – were on course for a first away victory since September but Hunt’s deadly boot steered Preston to victory.

Billingham’s losing bonus point keeps them outside of the bottom two with rivals Hull Ionians (13th) also collecting one point in their 36-26 home loss to Tynedale (6th).

At the top, Leeds Tykes (1st) and Rotherham Titans (2nd) both recorded comprehensive victories to tee up this coming Saturday’s top-of-the-table battle.

The Tykes roared to their 22nd win from 22 matches as they ran in 12 tries to dispatch Lymm (11th) 78-17 while another storming second-half display saw Rotherham defeat Hull 47-29 to seal their 11th consecutive bonus-point victory.

The standard the leading pair have set this season has been nothing short of phenomenal and they will do battle at Clifton Lane in Round 23 with Rotherham five points behind their title rivals.

Elsewhere, Huddersfield’s time in National League Rugby looks to be coming to an end as the division’s bottom club suffered their latest loss (36-15) at home to Sheffield (3rd). The result leaves Field 15 points from safety with 20 points left to play for.

Sheffield Tigers (7th) just about held on for their latest home success as they defeated Wharfedale 20-18, with the visitors missing a last-minute conversion which would have rescued a draw. Meanwhile, Otley (9th) recorded back-to-back home wins as an impressive display by Kyle Dench’s charges garnered a 46-22 success over fifth-placed Fylde.

National Two East

Worthing Raiders (12th) clinched a crucial victory as they beat Sevenoaks 40-28 despite centre Barney Stone scoring four tries for the visitors.

Curtis Barnes, Jack Doorey-Palmer and Jack Forrest all ran in tries as Worthing led 19-14 at half-time, with Stone going over for two scores in two first-half minutes.

The Sevenoaks man wrapped up his hat-trick in the opening stages of the second period but Worthing recaptured the lead when Forrest and Ben Fearthersone dotted down either side of the hour.

Stone kept things interesting with his fourth two minutes from time but a rapid response from Barnes sealed victory for the the home side.

The win means Worthing are now 10 points clear of the ‘danger zone’ after Wimbledon (13th) failed to add to their points total in Round 22. The Dons were beaten by an in-form Tonbridge Juddians (4th) 36-21 while for fellow bottom two side North Walsham, their fate was sealed.

Niall Lear’s spirited troops were beaten by league leaders Esher 48-12, which confirmed their relegation from National Two East following just one victory all term.

As for Esher, they were able to return to winning ways to maintain their one-point lead at the summit. Title rivals Barnes (2nd) and Dorking (3rd) both secured bonus-point triumphs with Barnes scoring four tries in nine minutes to set the platform for their 47-34 success over Bury St Edmunds (6th).

In terms of Dorking, a late Toby McRae try settled an entertaining contest against Henley Hawks (5th), with the Red and Whites running out 39-27 winners.

Also across National Two East, Canterbury (7th) scored five tries in their 33-19 win over Guernsey Raiders (11th) while Westcombe Park (8th) may well have a top-half finish in their sights as they came from behind to defeat Old Albanian (10th) 33-26.

National Two West

Dings Crusaders (1st) are the new leaders of National Two West after rivals Luctonians (2nd) suffered a narrow 10-8 home defeat against Clifton (4th).

Mitch Spencer’s cross-field kick was collected by Zakaria Hamid who found his way into the corner to put Clifton 7-0 up, but Luctonians responded with a Tom Jones penalty and a Seb Robinson-Hall try.

However, a penalty nine minutes from time from Clifton fly-half Luke Cozens sealed a hard-fought victory for the visitors.

The defeats means Luctonians have been knocked off top spot for the first time since Round Five as Dings ran out comfortable 43-10 winners against Loughborough Students (9th) to leave Stean Williams and Luke Arscott’s side two points clear at the summit.

At the other end of the table, despite both losing, the bottom two clubs were able to add to their respective survival bids in Round 22. Newport (Salop) (14th) claimed two bonus points from their 29-24 defeat to Exeter University (3rd) but Bob Adams’ side were 24-15 up at one stage. As for Dudley Kingswinford (13th), they also saw a lead vanish against Hornets (11th).

The Midlands club were nine points in front heading into the final 10 minutes but two late tries from Hornets meant DK had to settle for two bonus points.

Due to the format of relegation this term, both Newport (Salop) and Dudley Kingswinford are still fighting for their National League Rugby status with four matches to go.

Elsewhere across the division, an inspired performance from Callum Dacey – who scored 18 points – helped Hinckley (5th) clinch a 23-23 draw away at Redruth (8th), a 38-29 victory over Chester (10th) saw Old Redcliffians climb to seventh in the standings while Bournville (12th) chalked up their third home win on the bounce as they beat an injury-hit Camborne (7th) 46-35 to book their place in National League Rugby for another season.

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