It has been an excellent few weeks for Worthing Raiders. Two wins from their last three games has seen them spark into life with just six matches of the season remaining as they continue to battle for survival.
Victories over Barnstaple and Taunton Titans has seen Jody Levett’s side move out of the bottom three and with a fixture against relegation rivals London Irish Wild Geese to come this Saturday, the Raiders have every chance of maintaining their resurgence at this crucial part of the season.
Their relegation rivals will be looking to follow suit by clinching important victories this weekend. Bottom of the table Exmouth are far from dead and buried as they host Cinderford, Barnes welcome Bury St Edmunds to London with both sides eager to move away from danger while Barnstaple travel to Taunton Titans.
At the right end of the division, the title and promotion race is just as intense. League leaders Bishop’s Stortford will be looking to continue their superb recent form while Chinnor will know they cannot afford to put a foot wrong otherwise Old Elthamians could pounce on their misfortune.
Henley Hawks v Bishop’s Stortford
League leaders Bishop’s Stortford now know that their destiny is in their own hands. With six games left of the season to play, Andy Long’s men sit five points clear at the summit of National Two South and they head to Henley Hawks this weekend oozing confidence as their quest for the league title and automatic promotion to National One continues.
Stortford have won 11 of their last 12 games which is the kind of form you expect from potential champions. They come into the final stretch of this season knowing that four of their last six opponents currently sit in the bottom half of the table so on paper; you’d expect Stortford not to put a foot wrong between now and the end of April. Long and his side will be quick to question that theory as they look to remain focused and avoid complacency at this crucial stage of the season.
The visitors will need to be wary this weekend when they travel Oxfordshire as Henley have performed well at home this term. Overall, it has been a season of fending off relegation for the Hawks following the drop down from National One last May, but they look as though they have begun building for next term based on their latest run of results.
The men from Dry Leas come into this fixture having won their last three matches and they have also won seven of their 11 matches on their own turf this term. In fact, Henley have won five of their last six at home and they will be keen to add to that this weekend as they aim to push on from 10th position in the league table.
Chinnor v Canterbury
If there were any question marks surrounding Chinnor’s title credentials in 2017, then they have been emphatically answered by Matt Williams’ side. The Black and Whites have been near enough faultless since the turn of the year and they have needed to perform at a high level in order to stay in the hunt for the title and promotion to National One.
Chinnor welcome Canterbury to Kingsey Road tomorrow having won their last seven matches including a crucial and narrow victory of rivals Old Elthamians last weekend. That latest win for Chinnor means they remain second in the table, but they are five points clear of third place and five points behind league leaders Stortford. For now, Chinnor may well be focused on just staying in the top two and a 12th home win of the campaign could well keep them in the promotion places for another week.
Their opponents Canterbury ran Bishop’s Stortford relatively close two weeks ago so Chinnor will be aware of the threat the City Men pose. It certainly won’t be an easy task for the visitors this weekend who will be fully aware that Chinnor are unbeaten at home thus far this season, but they know they have the qualities to hurt the promotion chasing side.
The aforementioned qualities haven’t been on show as much in 2017. After seven straight wins at the end of last year, Canterbury have won just three of their eight matches since the beginning of January which has seen them slip from sixth to eighth in the league standings. The Kent-based side will still be pleased with the progress they have made this term, but they will want to find some positive consistency in the final few weeks of the season. A win away at Chinnor would certainly be the perfect start to achieving that aim.
Redingensians v Old Elthamians
Old Elthamians’ promotion chances were dealt a blow last weekend following their defeat to rivals Chinnor in a pulsating encounter at College Meadows. The loss to Matt Williams’ men means the OEs are now five points outside the top two and due to the form which Stortford and Chinnor are currently showing, Gavin Lach’s side know they cannot afford to put another foot wrong.
This weekend they travel to Redingensians looking to bounce back from their first defeat in five matches. The OEs have won the most away matches this term (11) and the men from Eltham will be keen to add to that this weekend as they look to continue fighting for promotion to National One.
Their assignment won’t be easy tomorrow against a Redingensians side playing with a lot of confidence. The Rams welcome Old Elthamians to Bath Road on the back of five straight wins which is their best run of form for just under a year.
Redingensians finished in a superb seventh place last season following promotion in 2015 and they are only three points away from surpassing their points total from 12 months ago. The Rams currently occupy seventh in the table this time around and look on course for successive top-half finishes. They may fancy extending their winning run this weekend as sprits will be high down in Reading due their excellent recent form.
Redruth v Clifton
Redruth bounced back from two straight defeats last weekend by coming away from Canterbury with a 29-18 victory. Their 17th win of the season kept them fourth in the division, but recent losses have pretty much ended the Reds’ hopes of sneaking into the top two for this season.
Instead, Marek Chrucher’s side may well be aiming for a top four finish to match their success of last season. Redruth are back at the Recreation Ground this weekend aiming to close the eight point gap between themselves and third placed Old Elthamians and a 10th home victory of the campaign could certainly help them on their way to achieving that goal.
Clifton’s inconsistent 2017 continued last weekend. After two seasons of fending off relegation, the South Gloucestershire side have shown an improvement in this campaign but since the turn of the year, they have been unable to push on from a mid-table position.
Four wins and four defeats has kept the Lavender and Blacks in ninth place, but a top-half finish is certainly not out of the question as they take the long trip to Cornwall this weekend. Amongst their patchy form, Clifton have actually won their last three away matches and a fourth win on the spin would keep their potential top eight ambitions alive.
Taunton Titans v Barnstaple
Any hopes of a top two finish this season for Taunton Titans were ended last weekend. A narrow 36-33 defeat in a thriller against relegation threatened Worthing Raiders means Tony Yapp’s side are now 15 points off second placed Chinnor and even though it is still mathematically possible for the Somerset side to finish in the promotion spots, it now seems unlikely.
That will certainly frustrate the Titans who once again started the campaign in fine form and looked like a side capable of breaking into the top two. Instead, the men from Hyde Park will now have to begin building for another term at this level, but they will be keen to end the season in a positive fashion. They take on another side battling relegation this weekend in the form of Barnstaple as they look to end a run of two straight defeats.
Taunton’s home record hasn’t been anything to write home about this season as they have won just five times at Hyde Park (the third lowest in the division) so Barnstaple may feel like they can gain a result from their trip to Somerset this weekend.
Barum secured a crucial home win over Barnes last weekend which saw the Devonshire side move out of the bottom three. Currently, Steve Perry’s men are two points clear of the relegation zone after and now they will be looking to extend that gap this Saturday. To do that, Barnstaple must achieve something they have never been able to do at this level of rugby; win away from home.
Exmouth v Cinderford
Exmouth are just about hanging on in there. The divisions’ bottom club are currently 10 points from safety as things stand after collecting two bonus-points from their defeat against Bury St Edmunds in Round 24 to add to their positive recent performances.
Jon Hill’s side continue to battle with six games remaining and you cannot rule Exmouth out of this survival race just yet. It would be a stunning great escape if the Devonshire club were able to pull it off and their first step towards achieving that feat would be a victory over Cinderford this weekend. Exmouth have won on just three occasions this season and fourth triumph could be a catalyst as they look to continue to pick up points.
Exmouth will take on a Cinderford side eager to gain a positive reaction. The Gloucestershire outfit have lost their last two games against Chinnor and Redingensians which will have frustrated them after they had built such a positive run of results.
Prior to those two defeats, the men from Dockham Road had won seven games which was the best sequence of results Cinderford have achieved since relegation from National One last summer. Paul Morris and his side will be looking to recapture that form in Devon this weekend as they aim to cement their position in the top-half of the National Two South table.
Barnes v Bury St Edmunds
It was another poor result against a side in the bottom half of the table for Barnes last weekend. A narrow 10-3 loss to Barnstaple along with defeats at Henley Hawks and Exmouth mean Barnes have slipped back into the bottom three with six games left of the season.
The London-based side have lost their last six matches, but are only in the bottom three because they have won fewer games than Worthing Raiders. All is certainly not lost for Barnes but they must start picking up wins against the sides around them and this fixture with Bury St Edmunds presents the perfect opportunity for Barnes to move out of the relegation places.
Bury St Edmunds will travel to South-West London in high spirits. The Wolfpack ended a run of six straight defeats last weekend as they beat Exmouth which eased the pressure on the Suffolk side. Their sixth victory of the season now means that Bury are six points clear of Barnes heading into this fixture.
With that in mind, the importance of this match this weekend cannot be underestimated. Both sides are desperate for the points at this crucial stage of the campaign and Bury will feel confident that they can secure back to back wins this weekend against a Barnes side that look short on confidence. Which team will prevail and take a huge step towards avoiding the drop?
London Irish Wild Geese v Worthing Raiders
London Irish Wild Geese have been able to keep their heads above water for the majority of the season, but the side promoted from National Three London and South East last May fell into the bottom three last weekend following a defeat to Bishop’s Stortford.
That loss at Silver Leys was the fifth defeat in a row for Wild Geese and now they are one point adrift of safety with six games left to play. This fixture against Worthing Raiders gives the men from Hazelwood the perfect chance to move out of the danger zone at the first time of asking as the Raiders one point clear of them. The hosts on Saturday have won six times this season, five of which have come at home so they will be hoping for another strong performance in front of their own supports as they aim to move themselves out of trouble.
When they needed it most, Worthing Raiders have dug deep and found the answers. Two wins from their last three games as completely turned their season around and now the men from Roundstone Lane currently find themselves outside the bottom three with six fixtures of the season remaining.
At the start of February, things were looking bleak for the Raiders but crucial victories over Barnstaple and Taunton Titans have given Worthing a superb chance of beating the drop. They currently sit level on points with Barnes, but they are outside the bottom three on ‘Games Won’. After two excellent home triumphs, the Raiders need to put in a similar display on their travels tomorrow and they have every reason to be confident that they can claim their second away win of the term against a Wild Geese side currently going through a tough spell.