Macclesfield ready for National Two North party

Macclesfield require just one point to secure the league title
©Nick Jones

The champagne is on ice and the after party is on hold as Macclesfield are on the verge of being crowned champions of National Two North.

Last Saturday, they all but confirmed the league title with a crucial win over rivals Sedgley Park meaning that Macc come into this weekend’s clash with Chester requiring just a point to gain promotion to National One.

In their way stand a Chester side who picked up a vital win six days ago against Sale FC to ease any relegation fears they may have had. They will certainly be doing their upmost to gate crash the party at Priory Park on Saturday.

So with the title pretty much done and dusted, Sedgley Park’s attention is firmly on securing that play-off spot for a shot at National One while Stourbridge may still believe they have chance.

Down at the bottom, the writing seems to be on the wall for Broadstreet in terms of relegation while Sandal, South Leicester and Sale FC will all be looking to pick up wins this weekend as the fight for survival intensifies.

Macclesfield v Chester

Macclesfield are nearly there. The title is now in touching distance and a return to National One at the first time of asking is on the verge of being confirmed. Despite the disappointment of relegation 12 months ago, Coach Giles Heagerty looks as though he has guided his side to promotion this term.

That promotion has looked nailed on over the last few weeks. The Blues come into this game with Chester on the back of a 10 game unbeaten streak, a run which included a crucial win over Sedgley Park last weekend. That victory against their title rivals means that Macclesfield just need a point from this fixture with Chester to be crowned champions of National Two North.

It has been a tough season for Chester. A club that finished fifth last year has struggled in the bottom half of this division this term as they have failed to build on a positive campaign from 12 months ago. Inconsistency has been their major problem and they will now be focused on starting fresh for 16/17 season.

It now looks as though they will be staying in this division for the next campaign too after picking up a vital win against Sale FC last weekend. That victory now leaves them nine points clear of the drop with three games left to play of the season. They have collected just three victories from their last 10 games so an away win here seems unlikely, but there is no doubting Chester will want to upset the odds in this Cheshire derby.

Caldy v Sedgley Park

Caldy have enjoyed another decent season in National Two North. After finishing sixth in this division last time out, the Wirral based club have once again being solid this campaign and look set to secure another top six finish this term. Currently, they sit fifth in the table having widened the gap to nine points between themselves and seventh placed Harrogate following victory over Huddersfield last Saturday.

In fact, Caldy are only six points behind third placed Stourbridge and come into this fixture with Sedgley Park having won four of their last five games. Promotion was on their radar at times this season, but now a top three finish is certainly not out of the question.

Sedgley Park have pushed Macclesfield hard in National Two North this season. Having being one of the strongest teams in this league for the past few seasons, they have once again chased promotion and after defeat to the league leaders last weekend, it looks as though a play-off is on the cards for Sedge this term.

The men from Park Lane have always been in the title fight this year, but unfortunately it looks as though the crown will be Macclesfield’s so Sedge must now focus on nailing down a top two finish. Currently, they occupy that all important second spot and are nine points clear of their nearest challengers as it stands. A win here would all but secure that play-off spot and following a run of four wins in five games, you wouldn’t back against Dean Schofield’s side at Paton Field.

Stourbridge v Sale FC

Stourbridge have looked back to their best this season. The Midlands side were hit by injuries and could only manage a 10th place finish last time out following a top two finish the year before, so the fact that this time around they are up towards the right end of the division again shows what a force Stour can be.

They have been in the hunt for the play-off place this term, but have failed to really wrestle it off Sedgley Park. Stour are nine points behind the Tigers (who also still have a game in hand) so it looks unlikely that they will repeat their success of two seasons ago. However, they come into this game with Sale FC having won five of their last six matches so they will be looking to end the campaign strongly to create the perfect platform to mount a serious promotion challenge next season.

After promotion from National Three North, Sale FC have been battling against relegation this season. As expected, a new side coming into the division may struggle, but at first, Sale looked to be handling life in National Two North well. However, just one win in their last six games has seen them drop into the bottom three.

The main reason for Sale’s lowly positon in the table is definitely down to their form away from home. The Manchester-based club have won nine games overall this term with just two of those victories coming on their travels. Currently, they are two points from safety but do have a game in hand over their relegation rivals. However, Sale will not want to rely on that fixture to clinch survival and their focus will be on picking up victories as soon as possible, starting with this weekend.

Broadstreet v Leicester Lions

Broadstreet’s season has just not gone to plan. After finishing seventh in the last campaign, ‘Street have failed to push on and are now looking set for relegation back down to the fourth tier. In fact, if they fail to pick up a single point in this game, it could well see their demotion back down to National Three confirmed at the Ivor Preece Fields on Saturday.

Having suffered four defeats from their last five games ahead of this home match against a strong Leicester Lions outfit, it doesn’t look good for ‘Street to pick up the points they need here. Even if they do manage a victory; it may well be a case of delaying the inevitable as the writing already seems to be on the wall.

Leicester Lions are looking to secure their top four position in the final three games of the season. At one point, it seemed as though the Lions could challenge for the play-off spot, but due to Sedgley Park’s recent good form, that ambition has faded away and now they currently sit in fourth place.

With just a one point gap separating themselves and Caldy, the Lions know they can’t afford to lose their focus at this crucial stage of the season. Of course, a fourth place finish  doesn’t reward you with anything, but considering Leicester stayed in this division on the final day of the last campaign, it would be a great achievement for them to finish in the top four this term. They will be itching to keep their foot on the pedal as the season reaches its climax.

Otley v Luctonians

It has been another relatively strong season for National Two stalwarts Otley. The men from Cross Green have been in this tier of English rugby for the last five years now and this time around, they find themselves towards the right end of the division again as they currently sit sixth place in the table with a top half finish looking more than achievable. 

Recent form has been pretty shaky though, with inconsistency once again coming back to haunt them in the final weeks of a season. Last year, Otley ended the campaign with just one win from their final six games and currently, they have picked up just one victory from their last four matches. Otley will be eager for history not to repeat itself so a victory is needed here for the home side.

The Luctonians on the other hand have not been struggling for form and haven’t been for the last six months of this season. The Lucts have only lost six of their last 16 matches which has seen them move out and away from the relegation zone and into the top half of the table.

The Herefordshire side currently sit eighth in the table and they are 11 points of the relegation zone so it looks pretty certain that they will not to be involved in another battle for survival in the final games of the season. Alex Davidson’s side travel to Yorkshire having lost just one of their last five games so confidence will be high when they take to the field on Saturday.

South Leicester v Harrogate

South Leicester’s season has been a tough one. After being crowned champions of National Three Midlands 12 months ago, life in the fourth tier of English rugby has been difficult and South have been fending off relegation for the majority of this campaign.

Currently, they sit 12th in the table and five points clear of the bottom three, but a damaging defeat to relegation rivals Sandal last week means they have been dragged right back into the dogfight.  They have picked up just two wins from their last eight games and they now must target victories in their remaining matches of this season as a couple more defeats could be a disastrous blow to South’s survival bid.

Harrogate are hoping to finish in the top half of National Two North again this season. After an inconsistent start to the campaign, ‘Gate have been nowhere near the side that finished fourth last term and now their aim will be to end this year in a positive manner so they can regroup and go again in five months’ time.

Last time out, Harrogate beat relegation threatened Broadstreet at Rudding Lane and have actually won six of their last eight matches heading into this fixture with South Leicester. Against a side flirting with the drop zone, the visitors will fancy their chances of extending their best run of form of the season so far as they look to cement their place in the top eight.

Preston Grasshoppers v Huddersfield

Preston Grasshoppers’ recent form looks like it has guided them away from a potential relegation battle in National Two North. Recent wins over Harrogate and Sandal has kept them a relatively comfortable distance away from the drop zone and now they sit 10 points clear of the bottom three having played one game more than 14th placed Sale FC.

However, after those victories against Harrogate and Sandal, the Hoppers fell to defeats against South Leicester and most recently Leicester Lions and in truth, they will be disappointed that they have failed to build on a seven game unbeaten run which they achieved right at the start of the year. Garth Dew’s men will be hoping to return to winning ways this Saturday.

People who follow National Two North may have suspected that Huddersfield would be able to push on from their top eight finish which they attained last season. However, the Yorkshire outfit have struggled massively to match last season’s achievements and that has led the side being relegation back down to National Three

Their defeat to Caldy six days ago confirmed their fate and it means Huddersfield will be plying their trade in the fifth tier of English rugby next season. Added to that, another loss this weekend away at Preston could lead to them officially finishing bottom of National Two North if other results don’t go their way.

Tynedale v Sandal

To say Tynedale’s season has been a difficult one is an understatement. Having been relegated from National One for the first time in the club’s history last term, the club and coach Andy Buist parted company a few weeks into the New Year with Tyne sitting precariously above the drop zone.

Newcastle Falcons hooker Scott Lawson took over the reins and to an extent, along with his coaching staff, look as though they have guided Tynedale away from trouble especially over the last few weeks. Tyne have won three of their last four games leaving them nine points clear of the bottom three. A defeat last time out to the Luctonians will be a minor setback for Lawson and his side, but those recent wins have shown what the club are capable of. Still residing at Kingston Park after their clubhouse and pitches were destroyed by the terrible floods earlier in the year, the home side will be hoping one more victory will be enough for safety.

Sandal’s season has been a rollercoaster for them. After promotion via the National Three North play-off last term, Sandal surprised everyone by flying out of the blocks at the start of this campaign as they won six of their opening eight games. However, that now seems like a distant memory.

The men from Milnethorpe Green have struggled since then and have won just five of their last 19 games which has seen them slide down the table. Prior to their huge win over South Leicester last week, Sandal had lost 11 of their last 12 games and were in the bottom three, but that victory six days ago now leaves them two points clear of the drop. They now must follow that win up with victory in the north-east on Saturday otherwise they will stay firmly embroiled in the relegation battle.

National League Rugby