Freezing conditions impact Round 16 but late drama lights up National League Rugby title races

Sheffield (pictured here against Preston Grasshoppers) made it eight wins on the spin in National Two North
©Mick Craig

Dramatic finishes in National One and National Two East meant it was still a significant Saturday of action despite 16 fixtures being postponed.

National One

Rams RFC went top of National One after fighting back to beat Rosslyn Park 21-17 away from home.

The hosts entered Round 16 having won three of their last four matches and scores from Craig Stevenson and Tom Stanton gave Park a 14-0 half-time lead.

Benji Marfo raced over to make it 21-0 before Rams displayed all of their title credentials to hit back.

Seb Reynolds' troops capitalised on two yellow cards shown to Park, with Max Hayman and Zach Clow both going over to set up a tense finale.

And with Rams pilling on the pressure, they eventually broke down the resilient home defence with Hayman rumbling over in the last play of the game to snatch victory.

With Chinnor not in action due to their fixture against Sedgley Park being postponed, it means the Berkshire outfit have moved one point clear at the summit after this dramatic win.

The only other clash to go ahead in the third tier was Birmingham Moseley's trip to Taunton Titans, where the visitors recorded a solid 34-15 bonus-point triumph to lift themselves to fourth in the standings.

Bishop's Stortford v Richmond, Darlington Mowden Park v Blackheath, Leicester Lions v Plymouth Albion and Sale FC v Cinderford were all called off due to frozen pitches.

National Two North

Billingham were unable to create a cushion between themselves and the relegation places in National Two North after they were beaten 26-13 by third-placed Sheffield.

With the bottom two of Hull Ionians and Huddersfield both having their fixtures postponed against Sheffield Tigers and Rotherham Titans respectively, the North-East side had the chance to move away from the trapdoor but failed to collect any points from their visit to Abbeydale Park.

Instead, tries from Ryan Burrows and Rob Fawdry put Sheffield 12-6 up at the break, with the boot of Sam Heron keeping Billingham in touch.

However, further scores from Matt Adcock and Will Smith ensured the hosts would extend their winning run to eight matches while Ryan Foreman went over for a late consolation for the visitors.

The result means Billingham continue to teeter on the edge of the danger zone ahead of a crucial clash with Otley in Round 17 while Sheffield remain as the 'best of the rest' behind Rotherham and Leeds Tykes.

Elsewhere, Wharfedale ended Fylde's five-match unbeaten streak with an excellent 24-7 victory away at Woodlands while Tynedale's Alex Dryden and Josh Leslie both scored twice as Ben Woods' men came from behind to beat Lymm 36-18.

Hull v Leeds Tykes and Otley v Preston Grasshoppers were also called off.

National Two East

Barnes may well have hauled themselves back into the thick of the National Two East title race after edging out Dorking (2nd) 38-33 in a pulsating clash in Cobham.

Recent meetings between the pair have been extremely tight affairs and it looked as though it was going to go the same way again when Dorking led 19-17 at the break.

Tries from Paul O'Dell (2) and Ethan Sikorski were cancelled out by Tom Howe, Jonathan Ellis and Craig Holland but after the interval, it was first blood to Barnes as the nip and tuck nature of this contest continued.

Oliver Tack dotted down immediately from kick-off but four minutes later, back came Dorking with Joel Grant going over. James Gallagher and Tom Bloomer then swapped scores to leave Dorking 33-31 ahead entering the final quarter.

A yellow card apiece shown to Zak Stephenson and Josh Davies added to the drama but it was Barnes who produced the final twist in the tail with Ben Christie crashing over to win it at the death.

That victory for Barnes was their fourth success from their last five games and it leaves them four points behind leaders Esher, but the EEEs do have a game in hand to come. As for Dorking, they missed the chance to move to the summit and they now sit one point off the top.

The other two games to go ahead in Round 16 saw Wimbledon collect a bonus point from their 52-26 defeat to Canterbury but the outcome did see the Dons move out of the relegation places while Duncan Tout scored twice as Tonbridge Juddians beat Old Albanian 34-20.

Esher v Guernsey Raiders, North Walsham v Henley, Sevenoaks v Bury St Edmunds and Worthing v Westcombe Park were all called off.

National Two West

Luctonians continue to lead the way in National Two West as they survived an early red card to defeat Bournville 24-0 at Mortimer Park.

The hosts got off to an ideal start with James Wheeler finishing well but on 16 minutes, lock Owien Harriott-Davis was sent off.

However, the table-toppers got their second score through Ben Link and kept Bournville at bay with Rob Aikman and Connor Deignan going over after half-time to claim the bonus point for Ryan Watkins' side.

The latest win for Lucs enabled them to move six points clear at the summit as second-placed Dings Crusaders couldn't secure a maximum away at Hornets. The Bristol outfit won 17-12 to stretch their superb unbeaten to 11 games but departed Weston-super-Mare without the extra point.

Elsewhere, Jack Wickham's converted try 10 minutes from time saw Redruth claim a 26-21 home victory against Clifton while Chester came out on top in a 12-try thriller with Camborne, winning 43-40 at Hare Lane.

Dudley Kingswinford v Exeter University, Hinckley v Newport (Salop) and Old Redcliffians v Loughborough Students fell foul to the weather.

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