Hull Ionians will be hoping to take another step towards safety when they travel to Rosslyn Park in National One on Saturday afternoon.
Following a superb win over Plymouth Albion in Round 27, the I’s find themselves four points clear of the relegation places as the conclusion of the campaign approaches. Alex Crockett’s side have only lost two of their last seven games which has given them a great chance of beating the drop once again.
Rosslyn Park, meanwhile, have been on a disappointing run of late and are eight points clear of the bottom three as things stand, although a victory against one of their rivals this weekend could confirm their place in National One for next season.
Elsewhere, Loughborough Students will be ready to pounce on any mistake made by Hull Ionians as they look to move out of the drop zone in Round 28. Students’ dramatic win over Esher last Saturday leaves them four points off safety, but the Midlands club do have a game hand.
Loughborough have lost three of their last eight games which is an improvement for Alan Buzza’s side and they can leapfrog Hull if they secure maximum points against Bishop’s Stortford and the I’s stumble at the Rock.
Old Albanian, currently occupying one of the relegation spots, face a tricky trip to Old Elthamians as they look to continue their survival bid.
Also across National One this weekend, Esher head to Cambridge, Ampthill and District entertain champions Coventry and Darlington Mowden Park host Fylde. Meanwhile, Blackheath visit Caldy and Plymouth Albion face Birmingham Moseley.
Ampthill and District v Coventry
Even though Coventry secured promotion to National One over a month ago, Director of Rugby Rowland Winter is still demanding the best from his newly crowned champions. Cov could have been forgiven for thinking about their holidays before a crack at English rugby’s second tier but after their narrow win over Rosslyn Park last week, Winter still wants his side to
Post match reaction from DoR @RowlandWinter ???— Coventry Rugby (@CoventryRugby) April 9, 2018
“We got the bonus point and scored some good tries, but it wasn’t a performance to the high standards we’ve had all season.” ??
Read his take here?? https://t.co/HNbtANjcXe pic.twitter.com/1SAWAS0XYW
And Cov will need to be at their excellent best when they travel to Ampthill and District this weekend if they are to extend their winning streak to 11 matches. The A’s suffered their first loss in four matches last Saturday when they were beaten at home by Darlington Mowden Park, but Plymouth Albion’s surprise defeat at Hull Ionians means Ampthill are still in a good position to secure another third placed finish. The Bedfordshire side are eight points clear of Albion and fourth placed Blackheath so an immediate reaction at Dillingham Park against Coventry would strengthen their top three aspirations.
Darlington Mowden Park v Fylde
Darlington Mowden Park’s tight win over Ampthill and District in Round 27 has edged them closer to securing a second placed finish this term. Danny Brown’s men have been brilliant in this campaign and the progress the north-east side has made has been superb. With three games to go, DMP are nine points clear of Ampthill and with the A’s playing a Coventry side that has lost just once all season, Darlington could secure the silver medal spot this weekend.
The odds are also stacked heavily in their favour to pick up a fifth win on the spin when already relegated Fylde travel to the Northern Echo Arena. Warren Spragg’s side have known they will be playing in National Two North next season for a while now, but a humbling 71-24 loss at Bishop’s Stortford last weekend is not the way Fylde will want to end their time at this level. The Lancashire side performed brilliantly against DMP back in December when they narrowly lost 13-10 so Spragg and his squad will be aiming for another spirited display as they look for an improvement on the road.
Caldy v Blackheath
Last week, Blackheath moved up to fourth place in National One following a victory over Cambridge. ‘Club’ battled back to clinch their first win since March 10th and now a top four finish could be achievable. It would highlight a successful maiden season in charge for James Shanahan and a win on their first visit to Caldy in Round 28 would only enhance their chances.
Blackheath have not won on their travels since the start of February whereas Caldy have lost just one of their last four matches at Paton Fields as they prepare for their penultimate home fixture of a very positive debut season in National One. The Wirral outfit have certainly been one of the surprise packages since promotion from National Two North and with three games to go, they sit 10th in the table. A run of two wins in six matches has dented their hopes of a top eight finish so Caldy will be aiming to end an excellent campaign on a high, starting with another triumph on their own patch this weekend.
Plymouth Albion v Birmingham Moseley
Plymouth Albion head coach Kieran Hallet claimed his players “were already on holiday” as they fell to fifth place in National One following a shock defeat to Hull Ionians in Round 27. This was Albion’s second away defeat on the trot leaving them with a lot of work to do if they are to finish in the top two this year. The men from Brickfields do have two games in hand over the rest of the challengers above them so it is still very much in their own hands, but they will be desperate for a reaction when they host Birmingham Moseley this weekend.
Albion were also busy off the field this week as they signed Nottingham’s winger Josh Skelcey as they look to put the foundations in place for next year and visitors Birmingham Moseley will be wanting to compete towards the top alongside Plymouth in 2018/19. Richard Protherough has stabilised the club this year following the departure of Kevin Maggs, but they will need to be more consistent if they are to aim for promotion. Last week’s loss at home to Old Elthamians is a prime example of why Moseley have failed to move away from the mid-table positions this term despite an impressive second half display. A more complete performance will be required this weekend against a Plymouth side that has lost just once on their own turf this season.
Old Elthamians v Old Albanian
A top six finish is well and truly on the cards for Old Elthamians. The side promoted via the National Two play-off last May have been one of the stories of this season and Gavin Lach’s side are close to writing another piece of history to add to their recent archives. OEs win against Birmingham Moseley last week means they currently lie sixth in the table and they are four points clear of seventh placed Bishop’s Stortford with three games remaining.
With two of their final fixtures coming against sides currently in the bottom half, on paper, it looks promising for OEs but they will know it is not as simple as that especially when they welcome Old Albanian to College Meadow this Saturday. Even though OAs arrive seven points clear of the drop, Gavin Hogg’s side are stringing together one of their best spells of the season right when they need it most. Four wins from their last five games has given them a chance of survival, but frustratingly for the Hertfordshire club, their relegation rivals are also picking up crucial points. Can Old Albanian continue their form this weekend as they aim to close the gap to survival?
Loughborough Students v Bishop’s Stortford
Bishop’s Stortford produced arguably their most ruthless performance of the season last Saturday as they ran in 11 tries to thump Fylde. Director of Rugby Andy Long was impressive by his side’s display after losing to the division’s bottom club earlier in the campaign and he will be hoping for something similar when they take on relegation threatened Loughborough Students in Round 28.
Following promotion from National Two South, Stortford are edging closer to a very credible top half finish whereas Loughborough are fighting for survival. The Students are currently four points clear of the drop and a battling victory over Esher last weekend keeps their hopes of safety alive. The Midlands club also have a game in hand against Plymouth Albion, but their immediate focus will be gaining a first home win since the end of January on Saturday.
Cambridge v Esher
This week, Cambridge have had one eye on next season as James Ayrton, Ben Ibrahim and Cameron Ruddock all signed deals at Volac Park as the Blood and Sand prepare for a third successive year in National One. Back to back victories against Old Albanian and Hull Ionians have more or less guaranteed their safety as they are 11 points clear of the drop zone with three matches remaining.
Ross Stewart’s side would have been frustrated to see a 12-0 lead slip away from them against Blackheath in Round 27 so they will be aiming to return to winning ways at the first attempt when they host Esher this weekend. While Cambridge are looking forward, Esher might still be peering over their shoulders. A narrow defeat at home to Loughborough Students last Saturday means they are still not safe in this division just yet. The Surrey based side are eight points clear of the drop so a result at Cambridge this weekend would all but end any doubts of a relegation battle.
Rosslyn Park v Hull Ionians
Rosslyn Park captain Adam Frampton told us this week that his side have ‘underachieved’ this season as they prepare for a big test against Hull Ionians in Round 28. Park put in an excellent performance away at Championship bound Coventry and could arguably have sneaked a win at Butts Park, but now their attention turns to a game where they will be keen to get a result. As things stand, Kieran Power’s side are eight points clear of the drop with four games remaining in their season so a win at the Rock against one of their rivals would leave them on the cusp of safety.
Hull Ionians 33-14 Plymouth Albion - Match Report— Hull Ionians RUFC (@Ioniansrufc) April 11, 2018
But, Park will be up against a revitalised Hull Ionians side. The Yorkshire club took a huge step towards survival last week as they outclassed Plymouth Albion to secure a third win from their last five matches. The result means the I’s are four points from safety, but with Loughborough having a game in hand below them, Hull cannot afford to take their eye off the ball. Eight of their nine wins this term have come at Brantingham Park, but a second triumph on the road would move them closer to a place in National One for next season.