Macclesfield go twelve clear at the top

Macc v Sale FC
Macclesfield are in pole position heading into 2016 as they look for an immediate return to National One
©Nick Jones

As we are now at the season’s midway stage, Talking Rugby Union takes a look at the state of play in National Two North as Macclesfield top the tree at Christmas.

Here is a round-up of all the action from Week 15 in National Two North as well as a review for all 16 teams in this division.

Macclesfield 54-7 Sale FC

League leaders Macclesfield ran in eight tries on their way to securing their 13th win of the season as they thrashed Sale FC at Priory Park who suffered their biggest defeat in five years.

The hosts wrapped up the bonus point before half-time as they led 33-0 with tries coming from Joshua Fowles, Ryan Parkinson, Charlie Venables, Max Smith and Elliot Brierley.

Parkinson crossed for his second after the break while Thomas Eaton and David Marwick also went over for the Blues.

Sale could only earn a second-half consolation through Adam Aigbokhae.

The result leaves Macclesfield top of National Two North heading into 2016. They started the season as one of the pre-season favourites after relegation from National One and they are certainly making a statement this term having lost just one of their last 13 matches.

As for Sale FC, they are going through a sticky spell at the minute, but their home form at Heywood Road has been excellent so far this campaign. That has kept them ticking over since promotion and they find themselves eight points clear of the drop.

Preston Grasshoppers 18-15 Sedgley Park

Macclesfield’s lead at the top is now 12 points after Preston Grasshoppers pulled off an excellent win over second place Sedgley Park who have now lost further ground in the title race.

Two tries from Scott Jordan and three kicks from Sean Taylor earned the Hoppers their sixth win of the campaign.

Sedge were actually ahead at half-time thanks to tries from Andrew Riley and Daniel Waddy, but the away side couldn’t handle the intensity which Garth Dew’s men showed in the second period.

Preston may not want the Christmas break to come. They are a side bang in form after winning four of their last five matches and are now in a good position heading into the New Year as they look to avoid another relegation battle.

In terms of Sedgley Park, despite losing their fourth game of the season, opportunity still knocks for the Tigers who go in search of promotion to National One after a third place finish last term. They need to regain their consistency which we saw in the first few weeks of the season to claw themselves back into title race for a second time.

Stourbridge 27-18 Luctonians

Chris Scott kicked 17 points to help Stourbridge defeat the Luctonians as they moved to within five points of Sedgley Park.

Stour stay third in this division after this triumph, but are now the closest they have been to the top two throughout this season.

The Luctonians were 12-13 ahead at the break before Scott landed five penalties in the second-half.

Scott added to his conversion which he kicked after Will Harding’s first-half score and along with a try from Rod Petty, victory was sealed.

Stourbridge had a tough time of things last season as injury hampered any promotion aims which they had, but this year, a run of two defeats in 10 matches leaves them on the cusp of the promotion places at the halfway point of the season.

The Luctonians are 15th in the table but three wins in their last four leaves them just four points off safety. Until then, they had struggled and they are still not in the clear just yet.

Caldy 20-13 Chester

Caldy kept their promotion hopes alive by completing back to back wins for the first time since October as they beat Chester at Paton Fields.

A Craig Ross try helped the visitors into a 6-13 half-time lead, but the men for Hare Lane could not add any further points to their total in the second 40.

Instead it was scores from Gavin Roberts and Nicholas Doyle as well as 10 points from the boot of Roberts which gave Caldy the win.

Caldy finished sixth last year and I tipped them to be up in the promotion mix this campaign. Remarkably, they are still in contention for promotion after going five games without a win, but they have shown great character in the last couple of weeks as they are now eight points behind Sedgley.

As for Chester, it hasn’t been an enjoyable first half of this campaign. They only have six wins to their name at this stage of the season whereas last year they had 10. If they are not careful, they could slide further down the table and their fifth place finish of last term seems a distant memory.

Otley 29-13 Sandal

Otley bounced back from three straight defeats as they beat Sandal at Cross Green.

Otley have had a recent dip in form, but they returned to winning ways on home soil.

James Wood and Henry Roberts both scored twice while James White also went over for the hosts.

Sandal grabbed a try just before half-time through David Martin, but that was as good as it got for the away side.

It has been a relatively solid season for Otley. They are sixth in the table, but those three defeats in a row might have taken the wind out of their sails. However, this win was the perfect response heading into the New Year as they are now only six points behind Stourbridge.

Sandal are certainly one of the standout performers in the first half of this season. Currently, they are fifth in the table after being promoted via the National Three North play-off which is quite an achievement. Despite just three wins in their last eight matches, they have been excellent thus far and nine wins overall emphasises that.

South Leicester 29-22 Leicester Lions

South Leicester secured the bragging rights at Welford Road as they triumphed over Leicester Lions in this derby match thanks a late try from Blane Howe.

Howe had put the hosts ahead early on, but the Lions hit back through Joseph Collingham and Luke Veebal with Jonathan Williams kicking five points.

Jacob Nash then gave South the lead with a try six minutes into the second-half before a Penalty Try for the Lions made it 21-22 on 73 minutes.

But it was Howe who struck again and this time it was the vital blow as his try, soon after a Ricci Aley penalty, made sure of the points for South.

This was a huge win for South as they ended a run of four straight defeats. They are not miles clear of the drop zone, but after promotion into the division this season, they must be pleased to be seven points ahead of the bottom three at Christmas.

Leicester Lions have done extremely well this season. They finished just six points clear of the relegation places last term but they now have a realistic chance of ending this campaign in the top six. Their unbeaten home record has been key to their success so far.

Tynedale 25-10 Harrogate

Tynedale came from behind to inflict a second straight defeat on Harrogate on the artificial surface at Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park.

The terrible recent weather has meant Tynedale’s pitch has been ruined by the floods which is why this game was moved to the Falcons’ home.

On to the game itself and the visitors held a 6-10 lead thanks to tries from Harry Barnard and Jonathan Coser, but that all changed when Guy Coser and Andrew Boyde were both sin-binned for ‘Gate.

Benjamin Haigh earned Tyne’s first try of the game before James Clark and Matthew Ouston both crossed inside the first eight minutes of the second period to punish Harrogate and give Tynedale a 25-10 lead which was enough to seal the win.

Tynedale have had a poor season. Of course the damage the floods have caused is much more important than their league position, but for a side who were relegated from National One, 13th place isn’t what they expected. Three wins in their last five games could be a sign that they have turned a corner so let’s see if they can pull themselves clear of trouble in the New Year.

Harrogate had a decent campaign last year as they finished fourth, but unless they are careful they could be sucked into a relegation fight. I don’t think they will be dragged down from eighth place, but seven points separates them and Tynedale so they mustn’t let the season drift. 

Broadstreet 20-27 Huddersfield

Huddersfield picked up a crucial win in the fight for survival as they secured their first away victory of the season against relegation rivals Broadstreet.

‘Field were actually behind at half-time despite tries from Ross Thornton and Austen Thompson as Nicholas Thatcher and Luke Hibberd crossed for the hosts with Lee Chapman landing a penalty.

But after the break, Huddersfield turned on the style as Nicholas Sharpe and a brace from Thomas Hudson gave them a 13-27 lead just after the hour.

Thatcher hit back with his second of the afternoon and even though Thompson along with Daniel Jeffrey were both yellow carded for Huddersfield, ‘Street just couldn’t fashion enough chances to snatch a larger share of the points.

Broadstreet diced with the drop last season and a sensational run of form in the second half of the campaign saw them finish in an impressive seventh place. They are in the same position again this term and they will be hoping history can repeat itself as they sit at foot of National Two North.

Huddersfield were also promoted along with Broadstreet last season and also finished in the top half. Results have gone downhill fast since then, but this win on Saturday was some much needed relief for ‘Field who are now four points from safety. 

National League Rugby