It has been shaping up to end this way in National Two South. For the past couple of month, Cambridge and the Old Albanian have battled for the title and now it has come down to the final day of the season.
Cambridge and the Old Albanian will find out tomorrow which one of them will be promoted automatically to National One and crowned as champions while the other will have to negotiate a play-off against National Two North side Sedgley Park for a place in the third tier of English rugby.
As things stand, only two points separates league leaders Cambridge and the Old Albanian. Cambridge’s defeat to Bury St Edmunds last Saturday has given the OA’s hope that they could stop the title heading to Volac Park, but any sort of win for Cambridge this Saturday will mean the title will be theirs.
Cambridge v Dorking
The title is in touching distance for Cambridge. Having led the way in National Two South for the majority of this season, they are just one game away from clinching the league title. With great foundations and a talented squad, the Blood and Sand have continued to look strong throughout the campaign, particularly in the second half of this term.
Having taken full advantage of the mistakes made by Taunton Titans and the Old Albanian as the season has progressed; Rowland Winter’s men have surged towards the championship and have only lost one of their last 11 matches. However, that sole defeat came away at Bury St Edmunds last Saturday which now means their lead at the top is just two points heading into this crucial final weekend of the season. Cambridge know a win from this fixture with Dorking would be enough for them to seal the National Two South crown.
Dorking’s season has been a bitterly disappointing one. Following a promotion challenge last year, some may have expected Dorking to push on, but in fact, it has gone in the opposite direction for them. Last weekend, their defeat to Worthing Raiders confirmed their relegation to National Three.
Just 10 wins all season and inconsistency has made it tough for Dorking to hit the heights of last year and now they are preparing for life in the fifth tier of English rugby. Added to that, it was announced yesterday that Richie Andrews was sacked by the club after nine years in charge. They have now installed captain Armand Roux as their new Director of Rugby and he will now look to rebuild Dorking next season.
Old Albanian v Launceston
The Old Albanian are not giving up without a fight in this National Two South title race. After picking up a solid victory in their final away game of the season against Barnes last Saturday, the OA’s return to St Albans this weekend knowing that a victory could be enough to win them the National Two South title.
Cambridge’s defeat to Bury St Edmunds has given the OA’s renewed hope and now with just one game remaining of the season; only two points separates the top two sides in this race for the title. Every victory is vital and with the OA’s taking on already relegated Launceston tomorrow, they shouldn’t have any problems getting their job done.
It has been a torrid campaign for Launceston this term. With just one game of the season left to play, the Cornish side are rock bottom of National Two South having lost 28 of their 29 games this year. Their only high point in this campaign was a draw with Southend Saxons and other than that, it has been miserable for the men from Polson Bridge.
After finishing 10th last season, it has been a dramatic decline for Launceston and they will struggle to claim their maiden victory of this term on Saturday considering the Old Albanian are fighting for the title and have also lost just twice at home all season long.
Bishops Stortford v Bury St Edmunds
Bishops Stortford have once again performed very strongly in National Two South over the course of the campaign. After suffering bitter disappointment in the National Two play-off against Ampthill and District last term, Stortford have dusted themselves down and are on course for another top three finish.
As good as that sounds, there may be some at Silver Leys which feel their side could have gone for the title this year, but a slow start to the season hampered their chances of that happening. Now with just one game remaining, Stortford sit four points clear of fourth placed Redruth and their 14th home win of the season will secure third spot for them.
Bury St Edmunds may have little to play for in this match in Hertfordshire, but they have had a terrific season. Bury were promoted into this division 12 months ago and although they have been towards the relegation zone at times this season, they are now in the driving seat to finish in the top six
Bury have performed brilliantly in recent weeks having won six of their last eight games which has propelled them up the table. The high point so far in this current run was their victory over league leaders Cambridge last Saturday and Bury will be hoping to continue their fine form this weekend to complete an excellent campaign for the side.
Redruth v Redingensians
Redruth’s season has been superb and they look set to finish fourth in National Two South this campaign. As one of the sides who finished in the bottom half of this division last term, finishing fourth for Redruth really does signify progression for the Reds.
Recent form emphasises this for Redruth. Since the turn of the year, the Reds have won 12 of their 14 league matches with their only defeats coming against the top two sides. Last week’s victory against Launceston guaranteed Redruth a top four finish and with them only being four points behind Bishops Stortford, there is a slim chance they may sneak into third place if they are able to continue this excellent sequence of results.
Like Redruth, the Redingensians have had a very positive campaign. Supporters at Old Bath Road may have expected a tough season in National Two South for their side, but instead with just one game remaining, the Rams siit seventh in the table after a sensational last few weeks.
Since narrowly losing 22-20 to Worthing Raiders at the end of January, the Redingensians have been in fine form. Eight wins from their last 10 games has seen them move away from relegation trouble and now they are firmly on course for a top half finish. A win at the Recreation Ground – where Redruth have lost just twice all season – would be the perfect way to end a super campaign for the Rams.
Old Elthamians v Taunton Titans
It has been a very mixed season at the Old Elthamians. Following an eighth placed finish in National Two South last term, the OE’s have threatened to build on that in their second season at this level, but inconsistency has let them down, especially in recent weeks.
Having being on the cusp of the top six for large parts of this campaign, the OE’s now find themselves in eighth place once again due to only two wins from their last nine matches. They arrested a six game losing streak last week with victory over Canterbury and are now just two points off the top six. On the flip side, only four points separates them and 13th placed Clifton so the OE’s will be looking to pick up another victory in this game to secure back to back top eight finishes.
Taunton Titans for so long were part of the promotion chase in National Two South. However, following a poor run of form between February and the start of April where they picked up just one win from six matches, the Titans have finished the season in fifth place with one game still to play.
One positive for Taunton is that recent form has improved again and the side travel to Queen Mary’s having won two and drawn one of their last three National Two South matches and just based on the form guide, Taunton may fancy their chances of adding to that this weekend.
Chinnor v Southend Saxons
It has been a rollercoaster of a season for Chinnor this term. Last year, Chinnor finished sixth in the table and were maybe hoping to build on that at the beginning of this campaign. However, just four wins from their first 18 games saw Chinnor languishing in the relegation zone and there were no signs of recovery.
But, Chinnor did manage to turn things around. They now come into this clash with Southend Saxons having won eight of their last 11 games and they currently occupy ninth place in the table. They confirmed their safety in this division by thumping Launceston two weeks ago to cap off this remarkable revival. Another win here could see them actually match their finish of last season which would be a brilliant achievement for the side.
Southend Saxons have already been relegated to National Three this season. With the Saxons staying in this division by the skin of their teeth on the final day of the last campaign, they were unable to repeat that this time around and their fate was sealed two weeks ago when they lost away to Cambridge.
With just just two wins in their last 15 games, it appears as though Southend are now focusing on rebuilding for life in National Three With that form in mind, it’s hard to see them getting a result here against a Chinnor side full of confidence.
Canterbury v Barnes
Canterbury have had another mixed season in National Two South. For the majority of the campaign, the City Men have managed to stay away from the relegation battle and after Dorking’s defeat to Worthing Raiders last weekend, their safety in this division was confirmed and now they look set to the end the campaign in mid-table.
Currently, Canterbury sit 10th in the table following a narrow defeat away from home against the Old Elthamians last week. They host Barnes this weekend having won three of their last five games and can go above their opponents in the table with a victory. In addition to this, they can finish the 2015/16 season as high as seventh place if other results go their way.
Barnes’ first season in National Two South following promotion has been a success. After securing their place in this division 12 months ago, Barnes have performed above expectations and now look on course to end the season mid-table.
They may be ending the campaign on a downer though unless they can change that this weekend in Canterbury. They have won just one if their last eight games so they will be aiming to complete what has been a great season for them on a high this weekend as they go search of their 11th league win of the campaign.
Worthing Raiders v Clifton
Worthing Raiders have had a tough season. They ended last term fifth in the table and optimism may have been high at Roundstone Lane that they could build on a strong finish to the campaign, but instead, it has been a season of very little highs for the Raiders.
They have been in the bottom half for the majority of the campaign and that led to them being dragged into a relegation battle. Last week, they got the biggest result of their season as they beat rivals Dorking to secure their safety in National Two South for another year. They host Clifton this weekend oozing with confidence after that victory and they will be determined to end the season with a positive display this Saturday.
There was probably a few sighs of relief in Gloucestershire last weekend as Clifton found out they were safe for another year in National Two South following Worthing’s win over Dorking. Currently Clifton sit 13th in the table but at the start of the season, it seemed extremely unlikely that Clifton would finish towards the wrong end of the division.
They had a superb start to the campaign where they lost just one of their first eight games, but the South Gloucestershire side’s form has declined as the season has gone on. Following those first eight games, Clifton have now won just five of the last 21 matches, but with Worthing’s result and a draw at home to Taunton six days ago, Clifton can now breathe easy. They will be looking to end the season the way they started it and that’s with a victory over Worthing.