The I’s can see the prize while the race for second place continues

Hull Ionians can clinch the National Two North title this weekend
©Chris Farrow

National Two North leaders Hull Ionians can secure an immediate return to National One when Leicester Lions head to Brantingham Park on Saturday.

A bonus-point win for the I's would seal the league title and automatic promotion to the third tier.

Second-placed Chester are currently five points behind Hull Ionians, but they will be focused on nailing down a top two finish when they host Otley this weekend.

Jan van Deventer’s side could achieve that aim if they can match or better the results of third-placed Huddersfield, who take on Wharfedale, and Sedgley Park (4th) who visit Fylde.

Elsewhere across this weekend in National Two North, Tynedale go to Peterborough Lions and Preston Grasshoppers travel to South Leicester while Hinckley entertain Sheffield Tigers and Stourbridge face Macclesfield.

Hull Ionians v Leicester Lions

Amongst all the excitement and drama surrounding the race for a top two finish last week, it might have escaped the attention of some followers of National Two North that Hull Ionians did confirm a minimum of a second-place finish in Round 28. The I’s produced a storming first half display at Macclesfield and three wins on the spin has left them on the verge of an immediate return to National One.

Martyn Wood’s side can now clinch the league title this week when they host Leicester Lions if they achieve a bonus-point win. In terms of the Lions, they travel to Yorkshire on the back of a derby day win over Hinckley at TMDP Park. Andy Key was pleased by the commitment his side showed last time out and three wins from their last five matches has guaranteed another season of tier four rugby for the Midlands club. With little pressure on their remaining two games, the Lions will be playing with no fear and they will be out to spoil the party at Brantingham Park on Saturday.

Chester v Otley

Chester head coach Jan Van Deventer was first to admit his side were ‘outplayed and outclassed’ last weekend. The men from Hare Lane were second best against an in-form Sedgley Park outfit and it means the Cheshire club’s position in the top two is now under a little bit of strain once again.

As things stand, Chester sit six points clear of third-placed Huddersfield and the equation for them is: If they can match or better the respective results of Field and Sedgley Park on Saturday, they could guarantee that top two finish. Chester have lost just once at home all season, but Otley will arrive from Yorkshire hoping to end an encouraging season on a high. Back to back defeats and a recent points deduction has threatened to take the shine off a pleasing campaign for Charlie Maunder and Tom Casson, but a win over a promotion-chasing Chester would be the ideal way to conclude the penultimate round of the term.

Wharfedale v Huddersfield

A home defeat to Wharfedale at the end of February kicked off a chain of unwanted results for Huddersfield. Following that loss, Gareth Lewis’ side were beaten by Hull Ionians and Stourbridge which left their promotion ambitions hanging by a thread. However, as Field prepare to meet Dale again on Saturday, they find themselves in with a shout of sneaking back into the top two.

Three wins from their last four games, combined with Chester’s setback against Sedgley Park last weekend, means Huddersfield are now just six points behind second place even after getting hammered by Chester just two weeks ago. However, they will be fully aware of the threat their hosts will pose and Dale will come into Round 29 with the aim of enjoying their final few games of the season. The Greens have had a pleasing campaign after battling relegation in recent times and with their remaining fixtures all at home, the 10th placed side will be aiming to put on a show on at the Avenue.

Fylde v Sedgley Park

They couldn’t, could they? At the beginning of February, Sedgley Park’s tough season was in danger of just fizzling out in the final two months of the campaign but a remarkable run of form has presented Matt Bebbington’s side with an opportunity to potentially manoeuvre themselves into the play-off place. A run of seven straight wins, including a thumping win over Chester last weekend, leaves Sedge seven points off the top two ahead of their clash with Fylde on Saturday.

In two weeks time, the Tigers do face third-placed Huddersfield but they must get a positive result against Fylde to stand a chance of taking any play-off hopes to the final day. In terms of Fylde, their own promotion ambitions have faded away over the last three weeks. Successive losses to Chester, Wharfedale and Huddersfield has left them 10 points behind the top two and Warren Spragg’s side would need something miraculous to occur if they were to snatch second place. Instead, the Lancashire club will be focused on ending their mini-dip in form as they look to become the first side to beat Sedge for two months.

Peterborough Lions v Tynedale

Another afternoon at Corbridge and another win for Tynedale. If Ben Woods’ side are going to finish in the top six this season, it is their home form that they will look to. The North-East club have won 16 times this term and 11 of their victories have come on their own turf. After a slow start to the campaign, it has been a very impressive year for Tyne and a win on Saturday would only add to that.

Tyne travel to Peterborough Lions - who had their relegation confirmed just over a month ago - but they highlighted their desire to end their time in National Two North on a positive note last week. In the first 40 minutes against Sheffield Tigers, they performed well, however, several injuries saw them fade away in the second half as they were beaten 53-19. Now as we enter Round 29, the Lions will be eager to conclude their home campaign with a fifth win of the term.

South Leicester v Preston Grasshoppers

It was a frantic game at Lightfoot Green in Round 28, but Preston Grasshoppers came out on top as their fine National Two North season draws to a conclusion. Paul Arnold’s side have guaranteed themselves a top eight finish on their return to the fourth tier and Hoppers are now targeting six points from their final two games in order to complete the term on 90 points.

For their penultimate fixture of the 2018/19 season, Preston travel to South Leicester who despite beating Otley last time out, had their relegation confirmed. The Midlands club’s four year stay at this level has come to an end and now it will be all about concluding this campaign with a flourish. A win in their final National Two North game of the season at Welford Road would certainly give South fans something to smile about after a difficult year for the club.

Hinckley v Sheffield Tigers

Hinckley’s woes on the road continued as they fell to an 11th away defeat of the season against Leicester Lions last time out. In truth, it sounded like Scott Hamilton’s side lacked a ruthless edge where it mattered most and the Hornets will now want to end a very mixed campaign with a positive home display against Sheffield Tigers on Saturday.

The Midlands club have been pretty much faultless at Leicester Road all term, but the Tigers will arrive from Yorkshire in a bit of a party mood. Jamie Broadley’s men confirmed their place in National Two North for another year last week following a comfortable win over Peterborough Lions and the side from Dore Moor will want to end their away fixtures for the season with a first victory on the road since November.

Stourbridge v Macclesfield

If you had never watched National Two North rugby before, you would’ve been forgiven if you had thought Stourbridge had been a force away from home all season following their game with Preston Grasshoppers last week. Neil Mitchell’s side showed their quality in Lancashire and may have felt slightly unlucky having lost their 11th game on the road in this campaign, but it was a performance which has been rare for the Midlands club on their travels.

This weekend they are back at Stourton Park and they welcome a Macclesfield side who had their fate sealed last Saturday. Despite battling back in the second period against Hull Ionians, the Blues suffered relegation from the fourth tier just two years after falling out of National One. However, Macc will travel to Stourbridge with nothing to lose and they will be keen to put in a performance as Andy Appleyard’s side look to begin preparing for life in North Premier.

National League 2 North 2018/19 - Points Table