It is all very tense at the bottom of National Two South with a number of teams competing for their survival, but the side that has stood out in recent weeks are Chinnor.
Their recent form of four wins from their last five games has been superb and that was topped off by them ending promotion chasing Taunton’s 100 per cent home record on the weekend which meant they are now out of the relegation places.
That isn’t to say the spotlight is all on Chinnor; far from it. Bury St Edmunds, the Redingensians and Worthing Raiders all picked up huge wins as they look to distance themselves from the bottom three.
In terms of the title race, Cambridge were made to battle to maintain their seven point lead at the top while the Old Albanian returned to winning ways. Taunton and Bishops Stortford both lost ground in the promotion race after suffering surprising defeats.
Elsewhere, it was business as usual for Redruth on their return to action while Barnes found their winning touch once again.
Clifton 8-16 Cambridge
Despite a Michael Ayrton red-card, league leaders Cambridge came from behind to record a hard fought victory against Clifton to remain seven points clear at the top of National Two South.
A try from Stefan Liebenberg plus five points from the boot Gerhard Boshoff and three a piece for James Stokes and Brendan Burke hauled Cambridge back into a contest that appeared lost and gave them their 19th win of the season as they stay on course for the league title.
Clifton – who before this match had won just two of their last 11 games – had established an 8-0 lead thanks to an Alfie Toola Vaeluaga try and a penalty from Bradley Barnes.
Their afternoon then got even better when Ayrton was dismissed, but little did they know Cambridge were about to produce a performance of champions elect.
They went on to score 16 unanswered points as the table toppers silenced the home crowd and completed what could be one of their most crucial wins of this season.
Old Albanian 19-6 Dorking
The Old Albanian ended a run of three consecutive National Two South defeats with victory at home against Dorking.
Jason Billows ran in the decisive try in the closing eight minutes in St Albans as the home side remain in the title hunt.
Old Albanian led at half-time of a scrappy game when James Shanahan and Nicholas Foster both crossed after Matthew Noble had given Dorking an early 6-0 lead from the tee.
But the OA’s remained in control after the break to secure a welcome victory to keep their promotion ambitions firmly on track.
The OA’s are now eight points inside the promotion positions, while it is the complete opposite for Dorking who sit outside the relegation zone on points difference after their 14th defeat of the season.
Worthing Raiders 29-15 Bishops Stortford
Bishops Stortford lost further ground in the race for promotion as they suffered their second defeat in two weeks against Worthing Raiders.
Stortford, who lost to Taunton Titans nine days ago, are now eight points off the play-off place after this loss against a Worthing side who are now 10 points clear of the bottom three.
Two first half tries from Daniel Peach and Daniel Sargent helped the Raiders into a four point lead at the interval with a George Cullen penalty and Alex Patton try being the response from the away side.
Worthing then upped the ante after the break as Alex Nielsen and Ben Loosmore both crossed which saw the hosts wrap up the bonus point and lead by 21 points with a quarter of the game remaining.
Nicholas Hankin went over for a consolation try for Stortford in the final play of the game, but this was another blow to their promotion hopes for the men from Silver Leys.
Taunton Titans 15-26 Chinnor (video)
Taunton Titians also suffered a set-back in their promotion challenge as they lost their 100 per cent home record to a rejuvenated Chinnor side.
Benjamin Manning and Alaifatu Fatialofa both touched down for Chinnor in the first-half against an oddly slack Titans outfit before Freddie Fraser went over for the hosts just before the break.
A penalty from Gary Kingdom and a try from Sam Prior gave Taunton the lead, but two scores in four minutes from Oscar Heath and James Townsend ultimately sealed the win for the away side.
Chinnor have now picked up four victories in their last five games which has seen them move out of the bottom three and up to 12th in the table while Taunton are now 10 points off the play-off place as they failed to build on their win against Bishops Stortford.
Canterbury 5-7 Redruth
A late penalty try saw Redruth snatch a narrow victory over Canterbury on their return to action after two weeks out.
The Reds had had their last two games postponed and had to rely on a late penalty try to pick up their sixth league win from their last seven matches.
Both teams struggled to grab this game by the scruff of the neck early on, before Ryan Ward’s 35th minute try saw Canterbury take the lead.
The hosts, who are fighting relegation, looked as though they had done enough for victory during the second half until fly-half Martyn Beaumont was yellow-carded with three minutes to go.
The onus was now on Redruth to capitalise on the extra man and their relentless pressure finally paid off as they were awarded a Penalty Try with a minute on the clock remaining which saw them home.
The defeat for Canterbury is their fourth in a row and they have now slipped back into the relegation zone, but they are level on points with Dorking who sit the final safety spot in the division.
Old Elthamians 21-23 Bury St Edmunds
Chris Lord’s try two minutes from time was enough for Bury St Edmunds to secure back to back wins as they moved further away from the drop zone after victory over the Old Elthamians.
Lord’s last-gasp try in this see-saw encounter means that Bury are now five points clear of the relegation zone heading into the final seven games of this season.
The visitors had led 0-7 after a Benjamin Cooper try, but scores from Benjamin Hough and Lewis Brown gave the OE’s a 12-10 interval lead.
Scott Lyle had landed a penalty just before half-time for Bury and after the restart; he added another one to his tally only after Samuel Goatley’s try to put Bury back in front.
However, Thomas White (who had kicked a penalty right at the start of the second-half) appeared to have given the OE’s victory with two further nudges from the tee, only for Lord’s try to steal it from under their noses.
Barnes 21-15 Southend Saxons
Tom O’Toole scored 16 points as Barnes bounced back from defeat against the Redingensians last week with an impressive performance over relegation threatened Southend Saxons.
The home side were actually behind at half-time as a tries from winger Reuben Halie and scrum-half Jack Daly as well as five points from the boot of Bradley Burr gave Southend a 6-15 lead, with O’Toole landing two penalties for Barnes.
O’Toole then slotted his third penalty of the day just after the interval to give Barnes more hope and that hope was turned into a lead as Simon Givens’ smart try put the hosts in front on 71 minutes.
O’Toole then got in on the act himself four minutes later as he crossed and converted to make it 21-15 to secure the win for Barnes which leaves them seventh in the table with relegation now a distant thought for the newly promoted side. As for Southend, the equation remains the same as they stay five points adrift of safety.
Launceston 0-34 Redingensians
The Redingensians made it four wins in a row as they thumped bottom club Launceston who remain winless and are 34 points from safety with nine games to play.
Tries from James Gutteridge and Robbie Stapley helped put the Redingensians 0-12 up at the break with James Richardson on kicking duty for the away side.
Samir Kharbouch scored the Rams’ third try of the afternoon to put the visitors further ahead after half-time.
Conor Corrigan wrapped up the bonus point on 48 minutes for the Redingensians before Sean McDermott and Stapley again sealed a convincing win. Victory sees the Redingensians move up to 10th in the table and six points clear of the relegation zone.