National League 2N title and survival races hot up

Last weekend was a good one for Sedgley, who moved into third place in the table
Last weekend was a good one for Sedgley, who moved into third place in the table
©Talking Rugby Union

Hull Ionians and Ampthill continued to match each other, whilst Sedgley Park took control of third spot in National League 2 North last weekend.

Luctonians took another massive stride towards National Two survival as Birmingham and Solihull and Hull picked up vital points to keep the pressure on at the bottom of the table. Here is all the action from National Two North as the race for the title and survival hots up.

Harrogate 18-29 Hull Ionians

Hull Ionians put in a gutsy performance to win this encounter against Harrogate which was the final ever game to be played a Claro Road.  Despite the Ionians losing three players due to injury inside the first half, a Mike Bateman try and a penalty try gave the league leaders at 10-15 lead with Callum Irvine scoring all the points in the first half for the hosts who had been down to 14 men for large periods.

Sam Wilson then extended the I’s lead, before Luke Edwards pulled Harrogate right back into the game and Harrogate looked like they had the momentum.  Irvine then nudged over a penalty to make it 18-22 before Luke Thundercliffe crossed over to secure all five points for Hull Ionians in their quest for the title.

Hull Ionians are still three points clear at the top of the table and after their last two wins; they have secured a play-off spot at the very least. As for Harrogate, they have now lost their last five matches and their game in hand against already relegated Stockport this Saturday, has to be a must win if they are to finish in the top three.

Caldy 29-36 Ampthill and District

This was a tough test passed by Ampthill.  They led 10-19 at half-time thanks to tries from Matthew Burke, Joseph Berics’ 29th try of the season and William Goodage as Caldy remained on the coattails of the A’s.

Brendan Burke then rounded off a superb move on 52 minutes to score a converted try for 10-26 and then from the restart Gavin Williams touched down as Ampthill threatened to run away with this game.

But, Caldy responded well as their replacement hooker touched down for an unconverted 5m line out, catch & drive try on 62 minutes followed later by a converted try to reduce the score to 33-22.

Caldy then scored once again six minutes from time and it was converted, but the ever reliable Joe Tarrant knocked a penalty over to secure the win for Ampthill.

Ampthill have also secured the bare minimum of a play-off place and with Caldy playing Hull Ionains at Paton Field on the final day of the season, they could be hoping the Wirral outfit could do them a massive favour. Caldy are now fourth after this defeat, but still well in the hunt for a top three finish.

Huddersfield 24-33 Sedgley Park

Sedgley Park moved in to the top three for the first time since October after this win away at Huddersfield. Andrew Riley and Tom Hodson exchanged converted tries in the first half as Stephen Collins and Joel Hinchliffe scored a penalty a piece for a 10-10 score line. However, Collins gave Sedge the lead with another penalty just before half-time.

Riley completed his hat-trick in the second half and was backed up by, Rhys Davies and Juan Crous to give Sedge a 33-10 lead.

Huddersfield just hadn’t got going in the second 40, but did score two more tries through Nick Rhodes and Nick Rawsthrone.

After this win Sedge are now level on points with Caldy, but are ahead of them on points difference. The sides are in action against each other on March 28th. As for Huddersfield, this was the first time they had suffered consecutive defeats in 2015, but after being promoted into this division last season, they will be pleased with how their campaign has gone.

Leicester Lions 38-28 Chester

Reaction - Leicester Lions Director of Rugby Ken Whitehead

"This was a superb, spirited and deserved result against an able Chester side."

This was a setback for Chester in their quest to finish third in this league as Leicester Lions returned to winning ways after three straight defeats.

Chester led through an early penalty, but Ollie Taylor opened the scoring for the hosts.
The visitors then touched down for a try, but Leicester went up a few gears as they were awarded two penalty tries to give them a 24-8 half-time led.

Chester responded well after the break with two quick tries, but the Lions quickly switched themselves back on as Rob Young and Luke Veebel gave them a 20 point led in the final 10 minutes of the match.
Chester then scored two late tries, but it wasn’t enough and they are now three points behind Sedgley Park.

Otley 20-22 Broadstreet

Otley let a 12-point lead slip with just nine minutes of the game remaining as Broadstreet came from behind to steal the victory and leave Otley a mountain to climb if they are to finish third this season.

The visitors started strongly as Jeffrey Gregson went over in the corner on 13 minutes, but Otley then started to grow into the game.

Stephen Depledge scored a try, before Freddie Watson touched down to give the hosts a 12-5 led at half-time.

Despite Ben Palmer kicking a penalty for Street two minutes after the restart, Otley continued their dominance as Depledge extended his sides lead with a penalty just before the hour.  

Nazir Karim then raced the length of the field to score for Otley after sustained pressure by Broadstreet on Otley’s line, but what was to come shocked the home side.

They had Stephen Costello in the sin bin and with players starting to suffer injuries, Street took advantage. On loan full-back Ben Cooper scored, before Jamie Harrop completed the turnaround with Palmer staying cool under pressure to seal an unlikely win.

Stourbridge 36-33 Birmingham and Solihull

Stourbridge just about held their nerve to edge out relegation threatened Birmingham and Solihull.
The hosts led 29-14 on the hour mark thanks to tries from Gary Dipple, Ben Hughes, Drew Harper, Nathan Bressington and Nigel Mukarati and were in complete control of proceedings.

The Bees’ scores had come from Steve Leech and Iain Briggs, but the last twenty minutes saw the away side secure two vital bonus points.

They scored three tries through Adam Canning, Aquile Smith and Stefan Thorp to claw back the deficit and Stourbridge ended the game with 13 men as Sione Tuipulotu and Tom Jarvis were both sin-binned, but The Bees couldn’t quite snatch the victory.

Stourbridge are now 12 points from safety and look like they safe in this division after a tough season for the side due to injuries.  As for Birmingham and Solihull, they are now four points from safety and with the Luctonians and Hull both winning this weekend, those two bonus points could be key come the end of April.

Luctonians 22-7 Preston Grasshoppers

Reaction - Luctonians’ Director of Rugby Alex Davidson

"The win and performance at Birmingham means we have given ourselves a chance of staying up, but that in itself puts pressure on us to perform at home.

"We will be going to Hull Ionians like we did at Ampthill and try and be positive and try and get a losing bonus point at least, but who knows, we could go and get a victory."

Luctonians secured a vital win against Preston Grasshoppers now putting their survival chances in their own hands.

They are now two points clear of the drop zone after this win and four wins in their last five, has given them a real chance of staying in National Two North.

Lucs’ Jordan Street and Preston’s Lewis Allen exchanged converted tries before Louis Silver slotted over a penalty to give the hosts a 10-7 half-time lead.

Adam Knight then scored an excellent break away try before Silver got the third try of the afternoon for the Lucs and secured the win for Alex Davidson’s men.

Hull 27-21 Stockport

Reaction - Stockport Coach Matthew Bebbington

“I’m slightly disappointed because we left two five meter line outs out there. We scored two but missed a couple, however it’s good to know we can compete with a side that essentially throws everything at their 1st XV in terms of finances.

“I think they got away with it at the ruck with the referee a bit slow to react. I think it took him about 60 minutes to do anything about it which was slightly disappointing, but we played our brand of rugby today which is ball in hand and trying to play quick. It is good to know we are still playing with that attacking intent despite being relegated.”

Bottom club Stockport came away from Hull feeling hard done by as they were beaten 27-21 at Chanterlands Avenue.  

Port felt aggrieved by a number of decisions made by the officials which ultimately cost them the game and saw Hull take a vital step closer to survival in National Two.

Hull’s two first half tries from Greg Lound and Ollie Hardisty were cancelled out by Callum Baldwin and Craig Anthony as Stockport took a 12-14 lead into the break.

Lound’s second try was overshadowed by controversy as in the build up to him scoring, the ball was clearly knocked on five meters but it was missed by the officials.

Lound then took his points haul to 15 when he nudged over a penalty, but Port came up with a response as Mike Waddington touched down.

The officials then played their part in Hull’s final try which was a penalty try. They penalised Waddington in the build-up for being offside when it looked like he had been played onside by the Hull winger, but relentless pressure from Hull saw them secure a massive win.

This Weekend’s Fixture - Stockport v Harrogate

This is the only fixture in National Two North this weekend as this is a rearranged match from January. The game was postponed due to a frozen pitch and this is the final game in hand for both sides.

This match may be seen to be more significant for Harrogate. They have lost their last five games and currently sit eighth, 11 points off third place which did look to be theirs before they went on this poor run of form. Harrogate have won 13 games this season and have won four of those away from home.

Any sort of win for the side, would see them go sixth in the table and still in with a shout of coming third.

As for Stockport, they know their fate has already been sealed. Their defeat two weeks ago to Caldy relegated them for National Two after just one season and also meant that they will finish bottom of the table.

Despite this, they were excellent in defeat against Hull and the club have said they will not be letting their level of performance slip in their last five games just because they have been relegated.

Stockport have won just once all season, but that did come at home where they have performed much better this campaign. They have suffered a lot of injuries too which hasn’t helped and that was highlighted when they lost 59-14 to Harrogate earlier in the season.  Port started with three forwards in their backs, so with that in mind, they will want to put in a performance that really reflects how good they can be this Saturday.

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