Dorking and Barnes the headline act in National League Rugby after picking up from where they left off

Leeds Tykes vs Hull in National Two North is also a standout fixture in Round Four
©John Ashton

After finishing second and third in National Two East last season, Dorking and Barnes have maintained their high standards ahead of their meeting this weekend.

National One

Sale FC's latest assignment in National One comes at Cinderford as Jonathan Keep's side go in search of a much-needed first victory of the campaign. After going so close to promotion in each of the last two seasons, many followers of the third tier will be surprised to see 'The Dogs' propping up the division heading into the penultimate Saturday of September.

Successive defeats against Leicester Lions and Darlington Mowden Park were followed by a 36-0 loss at Chinnor last week, and a trip to Cinderford may not provide the perfect venue for Sale if they want to begin turning things around.

Travelling to the Forest of Dean is never easy and Cinderford have started the season pretty well. In Round Three, they so nearly collected a third straight victory but found themselves on the wrong end of a dramatic finish against Darlington Mowden Park. Paul Morris' side will be keen to produce an immediate response and Cinderford did beat Sale 27-26 in this corresponding fixture last season so is a repeat on the cards at the Beavis Memorial Ground?

Like Sale, Taunton Titans will be eager to open their account this weekend, with Tony Yapp's troops travelling to Birmingham Moseley. 

Quite the contrast from Sale FC and Taunton, Rams RFC will be gunning for a fourth successive maximum as expectations for this season remain high at Old Bath Road.

Seb Reynolds' men already have a four-point gap at the top of the table and after seeing off Sedgley Park last week, they welcome Rosslyn Park (4th) to Berkshire with the visitors looking to bounce back from Round Three's home defeat against Birmingham Moseley.

Newly-promoted Blackheath are the current occupants of second place and following two wins from their first three games, 'Club' can build on their decent start when they host a Darlington Mowden Park side aiming for a third victory on the spin.

Elsewhere, Plymouth Albion will also be looking to make it a hat-trick of wins when they entertain Leicester Lions, Chinnor visit Sedgley Park and Richmond take on Bishop's Stortford.

National Two North

At the beginning of the month, if you had scanned Leeds Tykes' first three fixtures of the season, the word 'tricky' may have come to mind. Trips to Sheffield and Hull Ionians - either side of a home clash with Otley - were never going to be straightforward, but the fact Pete Seabourne's men have scooped up 15 points from a possible 15 could well be seen as a statement of intent from the side relegated from National One last term.

Next up for the Tykes is a visit from the team that also came down from the third tier with them; Hull (5th). Mike Umaga's side have won two of their first three games, with their only setback coming against city rivals Hull Ionians in Round Two. Last time out, the men from Chanterlands Avenue produced the ideal response by delivering a ruthless display against Huddersfield and they will now be targeting a third straight win on the road.

Leeds did beat Hull on both occasions in 2022-23 and another victory on Saturday would represent a highly impressive start to the campaign.

Rotherham Titans will be keeping an eye on proceedings at The Sycamores as they set their sights on going four from four to begin the season. This weekend, they entertain Huddersfield at Clifton Lane while the only other unbeaten club in the division - Fylde - go to Wharfedale.

Like last season, Sheffield have made a good start to the campaign and the men from Abbeydale Road are at Billingham on Saturday aiming for a third win from their first four games while Steel City neighbours Sheffield Tigers host a Hull Ionians side who will be looking for a reaction after Round Three's loss to Leeds Tykes.

Also across National Two North this weekend, the bottom four sides all face one another with Preston Grasshoppers taking on Otley while Lymm and Tynedale will be both targeting a first success of the season when the pair meet at Crouchley Lane.

National Two East

After a strong season, it is never easy to 'go again' and match the heights you hit in the previous campaign but for both Barnes and Dorking, they seem to be doing just that.

The leading duo in National Two East - who finished second and third respectively in 2022-23 - collide in the capital this weekend with both clubs securing three bonus point wins from three to begin the term. Heading into Round Four, Dorking (1st) have scored the joint-most points across all four divisions (level with National Two West leaders Exeter University) and have dispatched Wimbledon, Worthing and North Walsham with minimal fuss.

As for Barnes, an excellent opening day win over another possible promotion rival Esher, as well as a victory against Wimbledon and last weekend's triumph at Worthing (who finished fourth last season), can be filed under an excellent start to the campaign for Jack Heald's boys but a win on home soil on Saturday would certainly inject even more confidence into last year's runners-up.

Despite finishing one place and four points behind them last year, Dorking did win both fixtures against Barnes by a collective margin of just five points so who will come out on top in the biggest game of the season so far?

Esher (3rd) may well keep tabs on the battle of the top two but Peter Winterbottom's side will be focused on their own job when they visit Guernsey Raiders while fourth-placed Old Albanian will be eyeing up a third successive victory when they entertain Tonbridge Juddians.

Elsewhere, Henley Hawks host a North Walsham side who are still searching for their first points of the campaign and Bury St Edmunds take on Sevenoaks while Canterbury face Wimbledon and Westcombe Park will be looking to get off the mark when Worthing Raiders visit Goddington Dene.

National Two West

Finishing fourth last season looks to have provided a platform for Luctonians to potentially take the next step in National Two West. Whilst you couldn't class 2022-23 as a promotion challenge - due to Leicester Lions' dominance - Ryan Watkins' side might be more in the mix this term after kicking things off with three maximums.

Last time out, Lucs were impressive against Redruth as they maintained their 100 per cent start to the season and they will take that record to Bournville in Round Four.

After a seven-year affiliation with the club, head coach Mitch McGahan departed the Chocos in the summer and now under the guidance of Matt Price, Bournville have begun the term with six points from their first three matches. Their only victory did come on their own patch against Dudley Kingswinford in Round Two and having not won any of the last six league meetings with Luctonians, Bournville will be out to set the record straight on Saturday.

Along with Luctonians, Exeter University are the only other side to record three bonus point victories from three and Gareth Elliott's charges will be looking to continue their eye-catching start against Dudley Kingswinford as top takes on bottom at Topsham.

Clifton may not have collected all 15 points on offer so far, but they have won all three of their matches and the third-placed side host Redruth in Round Four while Hinckley (4th) will be hoping to return to winning ways when they travel to Newport (Salop) on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Hornets go to a Dings Crusaders outfit aiming to bounce back from two narrow defeats, Chester visit Camborne with a third straight victory on their radar and Loughborough Students take on Old Redcliffians.

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