After Loughborough were crowned Premier North A champions last week, the championship in the southern part of the country is still well and truly up for grabs as Hartpury and Exeter continue to battle it out.
Hartpury are currently in pole position, but the ball seems to be in Exeter’s court as they have a game in hand over College and are only four points behind. It could well go down to the wire.
Also in Premier South A, Cardiff Met sealed the final Champions Trophy play-off spot while the University of South Wales had their relegation play-off confirmed on Wednesday after defeat to Hartpury.
The University of Nottingham also had their fate sealed in Premier North A as they finished bottom of the division after losing against Northumbria University.
Elsewhere in our featured BUCS leagues, Loughborough 2nds remain top of Premier North B with their only challenge now coming from Bishops Burton, Durham 3rds are on the verge of the title in Northern 1A while it is tense at the summit in Midlands 1A.
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League champions Loughborough University’s game with the University of Leeds was cancelled due to waterlogged pitches, but two other matches did take place.
The main story in Premier North A this week was the confirmation that the University of Nottingham will be in the relegation play-off this season after suffering a 24-19 defeat to Northumbria University.
The defeat for Nottingham leaves them seven points from safety with one game remaining meaning they will have to fight for their Premier North A status in March against the winner of Premier North B.
It was a tight affair at Kingston Park with the home side leading 17-12 before Max Connon barged has way over in the corner from a scrum to stretch Northumbria’s lead. Nottingham pulled a try back, but Northumbria held on to move up to fifth in the table after just their second win of the season and end any relegation worries they may have had.
And to cap the day off for Northumbria, their Women’s 1st XV were crowned Premier North A champions in the earlier game at Kingston Park.
Second place and current BUCS Champions Trophy holders Leeds Beckett ended their domestic campaign with a bonus point 15-24 win over Newcastle University.
Newcastle had led 8-5 at one stage thanks to a try as well as penalty from Ben Nichols, but Beckett showed why they are still the best team in the country as they ran in three more tries to seal their ninth win of the season.
Overall, Beckett won nine matches this campaign, but crucially lost three of their games. Yet again, Loughborough did the double over them while Durham also picked up a victory against the Yorkshire side.
Leeds have more or less finished second in Premier North A this year, but that will change if Durham win their remaining two matches.
As for Newcastle, they have two more games to play this season, but already know that they will join Beckett in the play-offs after six wins this term. They currently sit fourth and can finish third, but that would require Durham losing both of their matches.
Loughborough University P-P University of Leeds
Newcastle University 15-23 Leeds Beckett
Northumbria University 24-19 University of Nottingham
There were faultless performances from the top two in Premier South A this week as title chasing Hartpury College and the University of Exeter both ran out comfortable winners in their respective matches.
League leaders Hartpury waltzed to a 0-38 win away at the University of South Wales leaving them four points clear at the top with one game remaining.
College have won nine of their 11 matches played so far and know the league winners are guaranteed the home ties in the knockout stages. As for USW, their place has now been confirmed in the relegation play-off after this defeat as they are six points from safety with just one match remaining.
USW have won just once since promotion from Premier South B and will be fighting for their status in the top flight in March.
It can be argued that the league title is Exeter’s to lose as things stand as they are just four points behind Hartpury with a game in hand. They kept pace with College on Wednesday after a 48-7 win over Cardiff University.
Exeter now have two fixtures remaining; one against USW and the South-West derby against the University of Bath on February 24th. If they win both of those matches, they will retain their Premier South A crown heading into the play-offs.
In terms of, Cardiff they will finish sixth in Premier South A this season having won two of their 11 games this campaign and they have Hartpury at home next weekend to finish of their BUCS 2015/16 season.
Away from the title race, Cardiff Met secured their Champions Trophy spot after a 34-18 win over the University of Bristol.
Heading into this game, both sides had a chance of finishing in the top four, but it was Met who were in pole position for the spot at the start of the day and duly delivered with their sixth win of the season. Met are now third after this victory and can only finish has high as third with one game remaining.
As for Bristol, they have played all 12 of their matches and have finished fifth after four wins this term. They will now prepare for the BUCS Vase along with Cardiff and USW and will be joined by Northumbria, Leeds and Nottingham from Premier North A.
Bristol Head of Rugby Joe Goodman said: "It was a very physical and dominant pack that took the field for Cardiff Met providing them with early dominance in the early parts of the match. Once Bristol's backrow scavenger Doc Watchorn had begun to steal Met ball, we knew we could move the ball and turn the Cardiff defence with some smart kicking, and the game opened up.
"Unfortunately we lost our scrum half to injury early in the first half, which on a sticky pitch, and with both sides struggling to generate fast ball at the breakdown, did not help our cause. Unfortunately for Bristol the man for man weight and power difference took its toll late on us as Met took penalty kick opportunities well and ran through power play phases thoroughout."
University of South Wales 0-38 Hartpury College
University of Exeter 48-17 Cardiff University
Cardiff Met 34-18 University of Bristol
With their 1st XV were not in action this week, it was Loughborough’s 2nds who took centre stage for the Midlands University and they once again produced as beat the University of Manchester 8-38.
This was Loughborough’s 11th win from 11 games this season and they are excelling in Premier North B since their promotion last campaign. They top the table by five points with three games to go and also do have a game in hand over second placed Bishop Burton.
As for Manchester, this defeat means they remain second bottom of the table and five points from safety, but they do have four games left to play of the season. They have only won three matches so far so they will want to find their winning ways again as soon as possible.
Bishop Burton continue to pile the pressure on Loughborough as they cruised to a 47-0 victory over Durham 2nds.
This was College’s 10th win of the season and they are still in the hunt for another shot at Premier North A, but they are relying on Loughborough to falter. In terms of Durham, they are fourth in the table having played 12 of their 14 games this term and have won six of those matches.
Nottingham Trent University clinched their eighth win of the season but their hopes of promotion ended despite their convincing 59-6 victory over the University of St Andrews. Trent have one game remaining of their domestic season, but are now nine points behind Loughborough which is irretrievable. They look comfortable for a strong finish to the season and do have a last 16 BUCS Trophy match to contend with next week against Durham 3rds.
As for St Andrews, their maiden win over Birmingham last weekend was not backed up so they remain bottom of Premier North B and 10 points from safety with four games to play.
Elsewhere, the University of Birmingham picked up only their third win of the season as they moved away from the relegation zone after a 43-12 victory over the University of Worcester. Birmingham are now eight points clear of the bottom two with four games still to play while this loss for Worcester leaves them five points above the drop zone so they are certainly not clear of danger just yet.
University of Manchester 8-28 Loughborough 2nds
Bishop Burton College 47-0 Durham 2nds
Nottingham Trent University 59-6 University of St Andrews
University of Birmingham 43-12 University of Worcester
After their shock defeat to Hull last week, Durham University 3rds bounced back in style as they beat Manchester Met 29-5.
Durham have now won 10 of their 11 games this season and find themselves 15 points clear at the top with just two matches remaining. The reason why they still haven’t won the Northern 1A title just yet is because second placed Hull have two games in hand.
In terms of Man Met, they sit seventh in the table with three games still to play and are six points from safety since promotion from Northern 2A last season. Met have won just three times this term and have a points difference of -109.
Second placed the University of Hull were promoted from Northern 2B last season and may have thought it would be tough to stay in this league this term, but it has been the complete opposite. They are firmly in the mix for another promotion having won six of their nine games with their latest triumph coming away against Newcastle 2nds where they won 5-35.
As for Newcastle 2nds, they are fifth in the table with one game remaining and are nine points clear of the relegation zone.
Leeds Beckett 2nds’ slim promotion hopes ended on Wednesday as they were beaten 41-19 by current champions the University of Sheffield. Beckett moved down to fourth with their fourth defeat of the season which leaves them 18 points behind Durham with three games to play.
In terms of Sheffield, their season really hasn’t gone to plan after winning this division last year, but they are up to third after three wins from their last four matches. Sheffield are level on points with Beckett, but only have two games remaining of their domestic season.
In the final fixture in this division, the University of York v University of Liverpool was postponed.
Durham University 3rds 29-5 Manchester Met
Newcastle 2nds 5-35 University of Hull
University of Sheffield 41-19 Leeds Beckett 2nds
University of York P-P University of Liverpool
Loughborough 3rds took another step towards the Midlands 1A title as they moved eight points clear at the summit after a crucial 43-10 win over one of the promotion candidates; the University of Warwick. This was Loughborough’s ninth win of the season, but they will know the job is far from done with three fixtures still to be played.
As for Warwick, they are 12 points behind Loughborough with a game in hand, but back to back defeats as really dented their promotion hopes.
Sitting closest to Loughborough is the University of Leicester who are second after edging out title rivals Harper Adams University 15-13. This was Leicester’s eighth win of the season and they are still firmly in the hunt for promotion. In terms of Harper Adams, this defeat leaves them 11 points off the leaders with three games to go so it will be big ask for them to clinch promotion from this position.
Down at the bottom in Midlands 1A, Coventry University couldn’t build on their win over Oxford Brooks University last week as they fell to a 22-10 defeat to Nottingham 2nds. Nottingham have four games remaining this season and are now five points clear of the relegation zone.
As for Coventry, they are more or less relegated now as they sit 13 points from safety with three games to go having won just once all season.
Nottingham 2nds will have their 3rd team to thank for easing their relegation nerves as they beat Oxford Brooks University 17-10. Nottingham 3rds are now six points clear of Oxford Brooks who occupy the final spot above the drop zone, so this defeat is certainly a major setback in their survival challenge.
Loughborough 3rds 43-10 University of Warwick
University of Leicester 15-13 Harper Adams University
Nottingham 2nds 22-10 Coventry University
Oxford Brooks University 10-17 Nottingham 3rds