Judgement day in National Two North

Sale FC are just one of the sides in this relegation battle, but their game in hand next week could prove crucial
©Sale FC

All eyes will be on the bottom half of National Two North this weekend as five teams are all in danger of relegation from the fourth tier of English rugby, but only one can fall through the trapdoor. 

Huddersfield and Broadstreet have already been relegated and one of Sale FC, Sandal, South Leicester, Chester or Tynedale will join them in the fifth tier of English rugby next term.

As it stands, Sale FC occupy the final relegation spot and are level on points with Sandal who sit a place above the drop zone.

Next come South Leicester and Chester who are a point clear of Sandal and Sale while Tynedale are the fifth team still not safe from relegation as they sit three points clear of the bottom three. It is sure to be a day of drama across National Two North with many twists and turns along the way.

Macclesfield v Stourbridge

It has been the perfect season for Macclesfield. Having suffered the heartbreak of relegation 12 months ago, Giles Heagerty’s side have responded in the best way possible. They clinched the title and promotion back to National One with a win over Chester two weeks ago and followed that up with a Cheshire Cup win over Caldy.

With the league and cup now sewn up, Macc will want to end their season on a high this weekend in front of their own supporters. Last Saturday, they fell to defeat at Sale FC so they will be keen to ensure they head into National One with some momentum and a victory over Stourbridge would certainly help them on their way.

Stourbridge have enjoyed a fine season in National Two North. After suffering a huge amount of injuries which lead to inconsistent form last year, the Midlands-based club have regrouped for this term and look set for a decent finish for this campaign.

Although they sit fourth in the table, Stour will be rueing three defeats at the end of January as they could have been serious contenders for the play-off spot. Now, they look set to finish in the top four and travel to Cheshire this weekend having won six of their last eight matches. They’ll be desperate to earn one more victory in this game to round off an encouraging season.

Broadstreet v Sedgley Park

Broadstreet have already been relegated back to National Three this season. After finishing seventh last season, the Midlands side have failed to build on that and had their fate sealed two weeks ago following a defeat to Leicester Lions in their last home fixture.

With just one win in their last five games and just eight victories to their name all season, it appears as though ‘Street are now fully focused on the next campaign and as such, it is tough to envisage them winning this match against second placed Sedgley Park.

Sedgley Park on the other hand have performed to the levels expected of them this term. The Tigers were unable to keep pace with Hull Ionians and Ampthill & District in the race for promotion last season, but this term, they’ve managed to secure the play-off spot with two games remaining.

Following defeats to Macclesfield and Caldy, Sedge bounced back by thumping Preston Grasshoppers last Saturday to seal second spot. It now means they will take on either Cambridge or Old Albanian from National Two South for a place in National One next season and another win from this match with Broadstreet will only help in their preparations for that play-off tie.

Leicester Lions v Tynedale

Leicester Lions’ season has been brilliant. Having finished just outside the relegation places last term, things may have been tough for Leicester this campaign, but some sensational home form matched with some excellent performances has seen the Lions transform into a strong force in National Two North.

Sedgley Park’s blip in results in recent weeks had slightly opened the door for Leicester to maybe sneak into the play-off spot, but The Tigers slammed that door shut following their win over Preston. So,  it means Leicester will now be eager to finish in the top three this term and they know they require just one more bonus-point victory to achieve that. In addition, the Lions have only lost once at Westleigh Park this season so the odds are very much favouring the hosts this Saturday.

Tynedale are still batting to ensure their National Two North status this season. Ahead of their clash with Harrogate six days ago, they possessed an eight point cushion over the bottom three, but with the likes of Sale FC and Sandal both picking up crucial wins, Tynedale may well be feeling the nerves slightly as mathematically they could be relegated this weekend.

Scott Lawson’s men have not won one of their last three games and their defeat to Harrogate last Saturday now means they are three points clear of the drop zone. Not many people would’ve predicated that following relegation from National One 12 months ago, Tyne would be in this position now, but a minimum of three points is required from their trip to Leicester to ensure their safety in this division.

Caldy v Sale FC

Caldy have once again had a solid campaign in National Two North this season. After finishing sixth last term, the Wirral side have pushed on this year and have already surpassed their points total from 12 months ago. A higher placed finished then last season is now guaranteed, but they may even have their sights set on a top three spot.

Currently, Caldy sit fifth in the table, but they are only two points behind Leicester Lions and Stourbridge following a run of four straight league wins. They are the form side in the league at the moment and an 18th win of the campaign on Saturday could well see them finish in their highest position for four seasons.

Sale FC are doing their upmost to confirm their safety this term. With the Manchester-based club still having two matches to play, they sit in the relegation zone, but level on points with Sandal – who occupy the final safety spot in the division.

However, some outstanding results in recent weeks including wins over Stourbridge and Macclesfield has given everyone associated with the club huge belief that they can survive at this level following promotion 12 months ago. Sale know they can only be relegated this Saturday if they fail to pick up a point from their trip to Paton Field and Sandal secure maximum points from their fixture. They won’t be focused on that though as they gun for a third win on the spin to boost their bid for survival once again.

Otley v Harrogate

Otley are just about clinging onto to the coattails of the top six in National Two North. Having finished ninth last season, the men from Cross Green had firmly been in the top six for the majority of this campaign, but in recent weeks, they have tailed off and lost their sixth placed spot.

Like last season, Otley have failed to perform in the final few weeks of the campaign. They are currently on a run of five straight defeats which has seen them drop to seventh in the table and they know only a win against Harrogate this weekend will see them finish in sixth place.

Harrogate won’t be an easy task for Otley though. Despite a slow start to this season for the Yorkshire side, they have ended this campaign in great form and will be looking to continue that when they make the short trip to Cross Green on Saturday.

In fact, Harrogate are currently going through their best spell of the season. Seven wins from their last 10 games has seen them move into the top six and all they need from this fixture with Otley is to avoid defeat and six spot will be theirs for the 2015/16 campaign.

Luctonians v Sandal

Luctonians’ season has been going superbly over the last few months. After a sluggish start to the campaign which had all the hallmarks of a tough term ahead for the Lucts, they have turned it around and are now just one game away from securing their highest finish for three years.

Having won 10 of their last 17 matches, the Luctonians currently occupy eighth place in the table and know if Otley fail to win against Harrogate and they pick up their eighth win of the season at Mortimer Park, then the Herefordshire side could end their brilliant campaign in seventh place.

Sandal are fighting for their lives at the bottom of the National Two North table this term. In fact, if Sale FC manage to better their result on Saturday afternoon, Sandal will be relegated from National Two North after just one season at this level.

After gaining promotion via the National Three North play-off last year, Sandal began life in the fourth tier of English rugby in fine fettle losing just two of their opening eight fixtures. However, a dramatic decline in form means they are now battling for survival. Two wins and a draw from their last three fixtures means Sandal sit outside the relegation zone on ‘Games Won’ so they will be taking the 154 mile trip to Mortimer Park looking for maximum points this weekend.

Preston Grasshoppers v Chester

Preston Grasshoppers’ season has been a progressive one. With Garth Dew continuing to improve the club as each campaign passes by, the Hoppers have slowly but surely adapted to his methods and are starting to reap the benefits.

After staying in National Two North on the final day of the season 12 months ago, Preston look on course for their highest finish for three seasons as they occupy ninth place as things stand. The Hoppers welcome Chester to Lightfoot Green having won two of their last five matches so Dew and his side will be looking to end a relatively solid season in a positive manner.

Chester’s season has been a disappointing one. The Cheshire club were pushing for promotion this time last year, but this term, they find themselves in a relegation battle and some poor form after Christmas has led to them being in this position.

Since the turn of the year, Chester have won five of their 14 matches meaning they have slipped down the table and into 11th place. They are just a point clear of the drop, but with Sale still having a game in hand over their relegation rivals, nothing less than a bonus-point win in Lancashire this weekend will do for Chester otherwise it could cost them dearly.

South Leicester v Huddersfield

South Leicester's season in National Two North following promotion 12 months ago has been a tough one as expected. After being crowned National Three Midlands champions, South have failed to really move away from the relegation battle this term and are firmly still in the dogfight with one game remaining.

As things stand, South are 12th in the table and like Chester, are a point clear of the bottom three. They host Huddersfield at Welford Road this Saturday having lost just two of their last five games. With the visit of the division’s bottom club, it seems the perfect fixture for South to pick up maximum points to put themselevs in a great position for survival.

Huddersifeld’s season has been very disappointing. The Yorkshire club have been unable to push on from their eighth place finish from the last campaign and instead they have been relegated to National Three North as they sit bottom of the fourth tier.

Field have never really been able to get going this season and just seven wins this term highlights that point. Their away record also doesn’t make for pleasant reading as the men from Lockwood Park have recorded only five victories on the road in their last 29 matches so a win looks unlikely in the Midlands this weekend.

National League Rugby