Macclesfield and Sedgley Park hoping for a response

Leicester Lions
Leicester Lions are just eight points behind the top two as their successful season continues
©Robin Cave

It took us all by surprise to see the top two sides in this division lose their opening game of 2016 last weekend and both will be determined to bounce back this Saturday.

In truth, Macclesfield are still 14 points clear of the field but they will know they cannot afford to keep slipping up because even the teams below like Stourbridge, Caldy and Leicester Lions are closing the gap on the top two.

Elsewhere in Round 17, there are a couple of tasty looking Yorkshire derbies taking place while it may well be a must win game for bottom club Broadstreet as they find themselves 10 points from safety.

Also a special mention must go to Stourbridge who donated their Unclaimed 50/50 Draw prize money to the Tynedale RFC Flood Relief Fund last weekend. A total of £473 was donated to the club.

.Preston Grasshoppers v Macclesfield

Preston Grasshoppers seemed to be struggling once again at the start of this season, but they have turned it around in recent weeks. The Hoppers were on cusp of the relegation places and looked set to be embroiled in another relegation battle like last season, but that now isn’t the case.

Garth Dew’s side have lost only once in their last seven games and that run contains five victories. That has appeared to boost confidence at Lightfoot Green as Preston are now nine points clear of the drop zone, but know if they are to keep up their run of good results, they must be at their very best this weekend against the current league leaders.

Despite defeat to Caldy to begin 2016, Macclesfield still top this division by 14 points heading into this fixture with Preston Grasshoppers. The Blues’ 29-24 defeat on the Wirral last week meant that they missed out on the chance to extend their lead at the summit of National Two North as second placed Sedgley Park were beaten at home by South Leicester.

Having managed to secure 13 wins in the first half of the season, things are still looking bright for Giles Heagerty’s men as they go in search of an immediate return to National One. They will be hoping to bounce back this weekend by earning a victory which will get their title ambitions back on track.

Tynedale v Sedgley Park

Life in National Two North for Tynedale hasn’t been as dominant as some were expecting at the beginning of the season.  

Tyne were relegated into the fourth tier of English rugby for the first time in their history, but things haven’t been easy for the north-east side. Six wins from a possible 15 matches leaves them in 13th place in the table and seven points clear of the relegation zone. 

But their form isn’t the main worry for Tynedale. They have been affected massively by the recent floods which have hit the country meaning their pitches still remain underwater as the clean-up operation continues. It all means they will once again be using Kingston Park for this game on Saturday as they go in search of a third straight win.

At the start of the season, many people predicted that Sedgley Park would be in the promotion race this term. In fact, Sedge have been in the top two all season but recently, results have not gone their way having suffered back to back defeats.

This has left The Tigers 14 points behind leaders Macclesfield, but more worryingly for the Manchester based side is the fact that the teams below them have now closed the gap and are breathing down their necks. That said, they are more than capable of turning their recent form around starting with this weekend away at Tynedale.

Caldy v Stourbridge

Caldy will have been boosted by their win over Macclesfield last weekend as that was their third victory on the spin. This run of form has seen them move back into the top four and more importantly, they are just four points behind second place.

A bonus point win could well take Caldy into the top two this weekend as they look to extend their great run and make it six wins at Paton Field for the season.

Stourbridge are also battling hard for a promotion spot in National Two North this season. After struggling last campaign due to the amount of injuries which they had, Stour now find themselves in third place - level on points with Sedgley Park.

For Stour, recent form has been very strong. They have lost just one of their last seven matches and obviously head to the Wirral full of confidence that they come away with a win against one of their promotion rivals.

Luctonians v Leicester Lions

The Luctonians’ form had been showing signs of improvement prior to the Christmas break. Three straight wins had sent the Lucts up to 14th place and in touching distance of climbing out of the relegation zone, but a defeat against Stourbridge just before the festivities began ended their run.

Their return to competitive action after the holidays was delayed as their game v Harrogate last weekend was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch so they will be raring to get going once again come Saturday afternoon.

Leicester Lions will be very satisfied with how the season is going so far. Having finished just six points clear of the relegation zone in the last campaign,  they now find themselves in fifth place and eight points off the play-off place.

The race for promotion has heated up in recent weeks with teams profiting from Sedgley Park’s misfortunate so it really is a chance for teams like Leicester Lions to maintain a strong position in the table. Having won three of their last four matches and with a game in hand, the Lions can continue their surge up the table with an away victory this weekend.

Sandal v Harrogate

Sandal host Harrogate this weekend at Milnethorpe Green having lost their last two matches. The Yorkshire outfit have been beaten by teams around them in the table in the shape of Stourbridge and Otley, putting the brakes on what has been a successful season so far.

Sandal were promoted into this division via the National Three North playoff last season and currently find themselves in sixth place which shows how well they have done this campaign. However, just three wins in their last nine as seen them slip down the table and they will want to halt that slide, starting this Saturday.

Harrogate sit in the bottom half of the National Two North table, despite them finishing in fourth place last term.  ‘Gate have struggled for consistency this season and as a result lie 10th in the division, but they do have two games in hand.

Harrogate are yet to kick off their second half of the campaign due their postponement last Saturday meaning they have won two of their last five games, ensuring they around the mid-table region. They will be hoping to start 2016 with an away win here.

Otley v Huddersfield

Otley’s season has gone one way and then the other so far. They went on a run of six wins from seven matches, but have ended 2015 and began 2016 with just one victory from their last five games. They are certainly struggling for consistency.

As a result, Otley currently occupy seventh place in the league and this run of form will certainly have dented the confidence of the side. That said, they may fancy their chances this weekend against a Huddersfield side fighting for their National Two status.

The visitors on Saturday are struggling this season. ‘Field find themselves in the bottom three of this division as they currently occupy 14th place. On top of that, they are already seven points from safety after 16 matches.

Last season, Huddersfield ended up finishing eighth after promotion into National Two North so they will know that they have the quality to dig themselves out of trouble and a win here against a fellow Yorkshire side, could be the catalyst for a revival.

South Leicester v Chester

South Leicester are battling well after their promotion to National Two North. South won their place in the fourth tier of English rugby by being crowned champions of National Three Midlands and as things stand, they sit in ninth place and 11 points clear of the relegation zone having beaten Sedgley Park last weekend.

South head into this encounter with Chester having won their last two matches with four of their six wins this season coming at Welford Road. A win this weekend would take them above Chester and into top half of the division.

Chester are currently fighting their way back up the table. Last season, they finished fifth in the league but the club have failed to build on that as they have gone from a promotion challenging side to a mid-table team this campaign.

After a few defeats in November, Chester seem to be slowly turning a corner with two wins in their last four matches seeing them creep back into the top half. They began 2016 with victory over Broadstreet and will be looking to make it back to back triumphs for the first time since September when they travel to the Midlands this weekend.

Broadstreet v Sale FC

Broadstreet are fighting for their survival this season. Last year, ‘Street finished seventh in the table after guiding themselves away from the drop zone in the second half of the last campaign, but this term, that is looking increasingly unlikely.

An away defeat to Chester last weekend saw Broadstreet fall further behind in their relegation battle and now the Midlands side have actually gone three games without a win. There are 10 points adrift at the bottom of the table and this clash against Sale may well be categorised as a must win game for ‘Street.

Sale FC are currently holding their own in National Two North since recently joining this division from National Three North. The Manchester based side occupy 12th position in the table at the moment, despite being one of the newcomers to the division.

The men from Heywood Road have lost just one of their last three matches and are nine points clear of the relegation zone at present. They may feel that they can extend that run when they take this trip to the Midlands on Saturday.

National League Rugby