National League Rugby returns – The run-in to Christmas starts here

Billingham have begun the season well having been recently promoted to National Two North
©Gareth Siddons

After Storm Ciaran hit the country this week, the whirlwind that is National League Rugby returns this weekend with the season set to intensify between now and Christmas.

National One

Recapturing momentum is arguably one of the toughest things to do in sport. When you're on a roll, sometimes you don't want it to stop and maybe that is how Chinnor felt when the season took a break last month. While near neighbours Rams RFC might have grabbed the lion's share of headlines across the first seven rounds, the Black and Whites more than deserve to receive some plaudits too.

The men from Kingsey Road have won five of their seven games this term and enter Round Eight unbeaten in three and second in the standings. Their home record has been faultless, and if they are to continue heading in the right direction, they will have to translate that form onto the road.

They were able to do that in their last away fixture against Rosslyn Park so Chinnor will be out to achieve back-to-back victories on their travels when they visit Taunton Titans this weekend. Like Chinnor, the hosts on Saturday may not have wanted the break in the campaign to come after securing their first win in Round Seven.

After six straight defeats, Tony Yapp's men broke their duck with a 40-17 success over Rosslyn Park so the Somerset outfit will be keen to use that as a springboard as they target another home triumph.

Taunton are one of the clubs currently in the bottom three alongside Leicester Lions and Sale FC. Similarly to Taunton, The Lions also concluded the first block of fixtures with a brilliant win as they ended the perfect record of table-toppers Rams but now Gareth Collins' side will want to build on that when they visit Sedgley Park (4th). As for Sale, Jonathan Keep's men are propping up the division and will be searching for a second victory of the season when they go to Birmingham Moseley in Round Eight.

At the summit, it may have felt like a long two weeks for league leaders Rams RFC who will be desperate to respond after their surprise defeat to Leicester Lions last time out. Seb Reynolds' charges resume their campaign six points clear at the top and take on Darlington Mowden Park this weekend while Plymouth Albion (3rd) will also want to return to winning ways when they host Blackheath.

Elsewhere, fifth-placed Richmond entertain Cinderford - with the visitors aiming for their first away victory since the opening day - while both Rosslyn Park and Bishop's Stortford will be looking to reignite their respective campaigns when they meet in the capital.

National Two North

If you do anything before this National League Rugby weekend, have a read of Nick Westby's excellent article on National Two North league leaders Leeds Tykes. It perfectly encapsulates the start of the season for Pete Seabourne's men and with eight wins from eight to their name, you won't be surprised to hear the Tykes were named the RFU's 'Club of the Month' for October.

Three of those aforementioned victories came last month, including their most recent 30-17 success against Fylde. It means Leeds enter this weekend seven points clear at the top (albeit having played a game more than nearest challengers Rotherham Titans) and next up is a trip to Billingham.

On paper, when you see the league leaders against a side who were recently promoted to level four, there is a suggestion that this Round Eight fixture could be a foregone conclusion but you can argue that isn't the case.

Billingham will reflect on a very satisfactory opening stint of the season in which they accumulated four wins from their first seven games. Notably, three of those victories came at home and the North-East outfit are unbeaten at Greenwood Road so could they snuff out a potent Leeds Tykes this weekend?

Rotherham Titans (2nd) may have an eye on that fixture but to be honest, they will be focusing on themselves as they aim for an eighth win on the spin when they host Otley. Since the season took a break, it has been all change at Clifton Lane. The shock departure of Gary Pearce meant ex-Huddersfield boss Gareth Lewis was swiftly appointed as Rotherham's new head coach while former Jersey Reds Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon has also joined the club in a short-term consultancy role.

Whether the duo can continue Rotherham's strong start to the term, only time will tell while Hull Ionians will also be hoping for a positive result this weekend under their new head coach. Following the exit of Graham Steadman last week, club legend Joe Makin finds himself in the hot-seat at Brantingham Park and his first assignment is a trip to Lymm on Saturday.

Elsewhere, a battle between third and fourth will ensue at The Avenue when Wharfedale entertain Hull and Sheffield Tigers go to Preston Grasshoppers while Sheffield visit Tynedale and Fylde host Huddersfield.

National Two East

A passage away from the bottom two in National Two East might open up for one of Canterbury and Westcombe Park when the pair meet this weekend.

Both sides are level on 15 points following two wins from their first seven games so it feels like this clash in Kent could provide the spark each club is looking for. Canterbury have been involved in some tight fixtures this term but at times, their accuracy has let them down so finding that clinical edge might be something Matt Corker's men have worked on during the two-week break.

As for Westcombe Park, they enter Round Eight on the back of a solid 59-7 victory over North Walsham and in fact, the Goddington Dene side have only failed to pick up points on one occasion this term. That was away at league leaders Dorking so there is plenty to be positive about for David Marshall's troops when they arrive at The Marine Travel Ground.

Below them in the standings are four sides, including Wimbledon, Worthing and Sevenoaks. The latter currently occupy a spot in the bottom two and face a tricky task at home to third-placed Esher on Saturday while Worthing go to Bury St Edmunds and The Dons visit Henley Hawks.

North Walsham, who sit at the foot of the division, aren't in action as their game with Tonbridge Juddians has been postponed due to flooding.

At the summit of National Two East, Dorking are leading the way following seven successive bonus-point wins and Armand Roux's side will be aiming to pick up from where they left off when they go to Old Albanian while second-placed Barnes - who sit three points off the top - are over at Footes Lane to take on Guernsey Raiders.

National Two West

Seven clubs were swept aside by National Two West leaders Luctonians during the first block of fixtures, but you get the feeling Ryan Watkins' side will have any potential promotion credentials tested across the course of November.

Lucs have been excellent thus far and the variety shown in their game has garnered seven straight bonus-point wins, one of just three clubs to achieve this feat across the whole of National League Rugby this season. However, their next set of fixtures are against four of the current top-six beginning with a trip to Dings Crusaders this weekend.

Dings have collected four wins from their first seven games and in fact, they are the only team to beat Luctonians in the league since the middle of March. The Crusaders did the double over the Herefordshire outfit last term - including a final day 30-24 success - so could they use that as a psychological edge to halt the table-toppers?

Second-placed Clifton will hope so as the Lavender and Blacks are once again having a strong campaign. They currently sit eight points off the top following just one defeat from their first seven games and they resume their season at home to Dudley Kingswinford.

Exeter University (3rd) and Loughborough Students will write another chapter in their rivalry when the pair meet at Millfield School while Camborne (4th) entertain Old Redcliffians and fifth-placed Chester will be eager to continue their strong start to the campaign at home to Hinckley.

Meanwhile, Redruth visit Hornets and bottom-of-the-table Newport (Salop) host Bournville. 

Make sure you follow National League Rugby on social media across the course of the season!

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube | TikTok | Threads