Chinnor aim to keep in touch with Stortford

Chinnor head into this weekend on an eight game winning streak
©Aaron Bayliss

Second placed Chinnor will be aiming to stay hot on the heels of National Two South league leaders Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday with the two sides set to clash next weekend in a title decider.

Chinnor host Stortford in Round 27, but the Oxfordshire club will want to keep themselves in this title race by securing maximum points from their fixture against Clifton tomorrow.

Stortford currently hold a five point lead over Chinnor with five remaining of the season and the table toppers will be looking to maintain or increase that gap this weekend when they host Redruth.

Third placed Old Elthamians are currently six points outside the top two places and know that they cannot afford to drop points at home to bottom of the table Exmouth this Saturday.

As things stand, Exmouth are nine points behind London Irish Wild Geese and Barnes with both sides desperate for victories this weekend while fellow relegation rivals Barnstaple and Worthing Raiders will be aiming to continue their revivals.

Bishop’s Stortford v Redruth

Bishop’s Stortford’s fate remains in their own hands and so far, they look very comfortable dealing with the pressure of leading this dramatic title race with five games left of the season.  Andy Long’s men have performed superbly over the last couple of months to manoeuvre their way back to the summit of National Two South and they are slowly closing in on the championship crown.

Stortford host Redruth this weekend having won their last eight games and they have also lost just one of their previous 13 matches. Their excellent run of form means they sit five points clear at the top of this division as we approach the final month of the campaign and they also 11 points clear of third place. The Hertfordshire side look unbeatable at present, but they will be keen to avoid complacency at such a critical moment in the season.

It won’t be a straightforward Saturday afternoon for Stortford tomorrow if Redruth arrive at Sliver Leys firing on all cylinders. The Cornwall-based side currently occupy fourth spot in the National Two South table and they have shown that they can hit top gear on a number of occasions this season.

Performances throughout this campaign saw Redruth produce some outstanding rugby which kept them in the hunt for a top two spot, but successive defeats in February put an end to those National One aspirations. Marek Chrucher’s side now travel to Stortford having won six of their last eight league matches and they also beat their hosts 24-13 earlier in the season. Can the Reds derail Stortford’s promotion push once again?

Clifton v Chinnor

In a title race, there has to be a side that continues to keep pace with the league leaders and over the last couple months, Chinnor have certainly kept Bishop’s Stortford on their toes. After such an excellent start to the season followed by a slight wobble before the Christmas break, Matt Williams’ side enter the final five games of this season just five points behind the table toppers and in the thick of a promotion battle.

Considering the Oxfordshire side were fighting against relegation just under 12 months ago, it shows the progress Chinnor have made. They head to South Gloucestershire to take on Clifton this weekend on the back of eight straight wins. With Bishop’s Stortford to come next weekend, it is vital that Chinnor secure maximum points this Saturday if they have ambitions of lifting the title next month.

Hoping to end Chinnor’s excellent recent run of results are hosts Clifton. The Lavender and Blacks currently sit ninth in the table as things stand and I think many at Station Road will be pleased to see Clifton towards the right end of the table rather than fighting off relegation at this stage of a campaign.

Despite an improved term for Clifton, they have been incredibly inconsistent which explains their mid-table position. They welcome Chinnor to Gloucestershire tomorrow having won four and lost four of their last eight games, but they have suffered defeats in their last two matches. A top eight finish seems a long way off for Clifton so they will be aiming to finish this season on a high.

Old Elthamians v Exmouth

With four of their last five matches coming against relegation threatened sides, Old Elthamians may feel like they have a great chance of sneaking into the top two places especially as Bishop’s Storford and Chinnor clash next weekend. Currently, OEs lie six points behind second placed Chinnor but even though their run-in may be easier on paper, they are fully aware it will not be straightforward.

OEs welcome Exmouth to College Meadows tomorrow aiming for their sixth win in their last seven matches. Gavin Lach’s side have recovered well from back to back defeats in January and they will know that they cannot afford to drop more points otherwise their wonderful promotion chase could well come to an end.

OEs may well be hosting bottom of the table Exmouth tomorrow, but Jon Hill’s men will be fighting for everything between now and the end of April. The Devonshire side currently find themselves 13 points from safety, but they could only be nine points adrift.

Due to London Welsh’s demise from the Championship, the bottom two clubs in both National Two North and National Two South will be relegated as usual. However, the playing records of the two clubs that finish in 14th place will be compared and the side with the least points will also be relegated.

As things stand, only two sides from National Two South will be going down so if Exmouth were to overturn the nine point deficit between themselves and 14th place London Irish Wild Geese, they could avoid an immediate return to National Three. That has to be Exmouth’s aim in these next five games and they head to Eltham tomorrow aiming for their first away victory of the season as they look to pull off a great escape.

Taunton Titans v London Irish Wild Geese

Taunton Titans left it late last time out to clinch a victory over Barnstaple, but they know their two previous defeats ended their hopes of finishing in the top two for yet another season. Losses against Worthing Raiders and Bishop’s Stortford means Tony Yapp’s men are now 16 points behind second placed Chinnor despite their win over Barum two weeks ago.

It has been another frustrating year for the Titans who once again flew out of the blocks at the beginning of this campaign. However, the men from Hyde Park will now be thinking about next season, but they will be keen to give it their all for the rest of this campaign. As they have done in their previous two matches, Taunton take on another side battling relegation tomorrow as they aim for their seventh home win of the term.

Taunton’s opposite this weekend are London Irish Wild Geese. The National Three London and South East champions had been doing just enough to avoid slipping into the bottom three after promotion last April, but in the last few weeks, Wild Geese are now starting to paddle slightly quicker as they aim stay afloat in this division.

The men from Hazlewood have lost their last six games as they prepare to travel to Somerset tomorrow and their poor run of form has seen them drop to 14th in the table. As things stand, their current position will be enough to keep them at this level due to London Welsh’s exit from the Championship, but Wild Geese will have eyes on avoiding relegation by staying out of the bottom three. They are only two points off Barnstaple and a first win for just over two months could see them move away from danger this weekend.

Cinderford v Barnes

Cinderford would’ve been glad to enter the week’s break on the back of a victory. The Gloucestershire side had lost successive games against Chinnor and Redingensians, but a hard-fought win over Exmouth put Cinderford’s top six ambitions back on track.

After a tough first-half of the season following relegation from National One and a five point deduction, the men from Dockham Road have performed positively since the halfway point of the campaign and looks as though they are now laying the foundations for a strong season at this level next year. For now, they will be keen to end this term in a positive fashion and they host Barnes this weekend aiming for their 10th home win of the season.

In contrast, Barnes have no idea where they will be next season. The London-based side currently find themselves in the bottom two of this division with five games to go and unfortunately for Barnes, their wretched recent run of form doesn’t seem like it is coming to an end anytime soon.

As things stand, Barnes are still only two points off certain safety, but they head to Gloucestershire tomorrow having lost their last six matches. After this fixture with Cinderford, Barnes play three sides currently in the top-half of table so it is crucial they go into their run-in on a positive note. It will be tough task this weekend for Barnes, but they are fully aware that the need for points is vital at this stage of the season.

Canterbury v Redingensians

Canterbury may well be a side thinking about their holidays. Since their excellent seven game winning streak before the Christmas break, the City Men have been unable to recapture that form this year and any aims of a top six finish have vanished for the Kent outfit.

Since the turn of the year, Canterbury have won just three of their nine matches and they host Redingensians this Saturday having lost their last four games. Their season is in danger of sinking without a trace, but the City Men will be keen to put that right in the final few weeks of the season. To do this, they will be hoping to clinch their ninth home win of the season tomorrow to kick-start a positive end to the term.

At the other end of the spectrum are their visitors tomorrow; Redingensians. The Rams travel to Kent having won five of their last six matches and with confidence high amongst the squad, they will feel like they can continue their excellent sequence of results between now and the end of next month.

The men from Old Bath Road currently occupy seventh place in the table which is exactly where they finished last season following promotion in 2015. Redingensians are on course to better their excellent achievement of 11 months ago and a victory tomorrow would see them surpass their points total from the last campaign. The Rams lost last time out against Old Elthamians so they’ll be hoping for an immediate response on their travels.

Worthing Raiders v Henley Hawks

If there was one club across the National Leagues that didn’t want last week’s break in the season to come, I think it would’ve been Worthing Raiders. Three wins from their last four matches has seen the men from Roundstone Lane move out of the bottom three and up to 12th in table, but they will be hoping the week off won’t have affected the momentum which they generated.

It has been a superb effort from the Raiders to dig themselves out of trouble. It was very much doom and gloom for Worthing before their victory over Barnstaple last month, but they now have an excellent opportunity to extend the gap between themselves and the relegation places this weekend when they host Henley Hawks. Worthing have won two of their last three matches at home and with spirits seemingly high, they will fancy continuing their surge away from danger.

The visitors Henley Hawks are not in bad form either. The side relegated from National One last April stuttered and spluttered for the first-half of this season, but over the last couple of months, they have dug deep to move away from the relegation battle and now the Hawks sit 10th in the table.

Three wins from their last four games has seen Henley move 16 points clear of the bottom and a bonus-point win away at Worthing could officially seal the Hawks’ place in this division for another season. In truth, Henley will not be going down this season and now they will be keen to carry on their run of recent positive results as they aim to end a tough campaign on a high.

Barnstaple v Bury St Edmunds

Three of Barnstaple’s last five fixtures have come against relegation rivals and once again, they take on another side fighting for their National Two South lives this Saturday. So far, Steve Perry’s side have come away from all three clashes against fellow relegation candidates with points and they will be hoping for another positive result tomorrow.

As things stand, Barum are two points clear of the drop and they welcome Bury St Edmunds to Pottingham Road having won two of their last five matches. Those victories came against Exmouth and Barnes at home so another victory in front of their own supporters could prove crucial come the end of the season.

Barnstaple’s seven wins this term have all come on their own patch so it won’t be an easy afternoon for Bury St Edmunds tomorrow. The Wolfpack seem to have found some form at just the right time as they head to Devon on the back of successive wins.

Victories over Exmouth and Barnes ended a six match losing streak for Gavin Hogg’s side and Bury now find themselves 10 points clear of the drop. They are far from out of the woods just yet, but another win against a side below them this Saturday could well be the victory which secures Bury’s place in this division for a third consecutive season.

National League Rugby