National Two North ready to explode back into life

Despite their off the field problems, Tynedale remain focused on moving away from the bottom three
©David Cook

After the weather played its part last weekend in calling off five games, it looks as though we are in for a full round of National Two North rugby this Saturday as we head towards the business end of the campaign.

League leaders Macclesfield haven’t played since their defeat to Caldy at the start of the month so they will be raring to get back to winning ways while Sedgley Park’s first task is clawing back second spot from an in form Stourbridge side.

Down at the bottom, games are starting to become must win for the likes of Huddersfield and Broadstreet but they know all too well that a good run of results can carry them out of danger in no time at all.

South Leicester v Macclesfield

I think it is fair to say that South Leicester have been performing above expectations this season. South may have lost five of their last seven games, but they still sit nine points ahead of the relegation zone in 11th place after promotion into this division.

South began 2016 with a superb win over Sedgley Park before falling to defeat a home to Chester two weeks ago, but they have won four of their six matches at home this campaign. They’ll be hoping to take that tally to five this weekend but will have to be at their best, like they were against Sedgley, to get a result this Saturday.

Macclesfield are performing impressively this season. The Blues find themselves sitting top of the National Two North table at this stage, above Stourbridge and Sedgley Park, following a strong run of league form which has seen them win 13 matches this season.

Giles Heagerty’s men have not been in action for the last two weeks as their games have been postponed against Preston Grasshoppers and Broadstreet so the league leaders will be itching to get back to action this weekend and restart their title challenge.

Preston Grasshoppers v Stourbridge

Preston Grasshoppers have been in the bottom half for the majority of this season, but that doesn’t tell the full story of their form in recent weeks. While teams around them have dropped points, Hoppers have been going about their business nicely and are 10th in the table having lost just one of their last seven matches.

Two of those games have been draws, but the men from Lancashire are only four points off the top half and also have two games in hand. Garth Dew’s side are playing well at the minute and will feel they can certainly secure their seventh win of the season this Saturday.

Stourbridge are looking to maintain their scintillating form over the past couple of months as they continue to chase down a promotion spot. Stour endured a stuttering campaign last year, but this time around, they have hauled themselves into second place after just one defeat in their last nine matches.

Stour are just six points behind leaders Macclesfield so if the Blues were to go down to South Leicester, Stourbridge could go within a point of Macc with a bonus point win. Given their recent form and the confidence they are playing with, you wouldn’t back against Stour doing just that.

Luctonians v Sedgley Park

The Luctonians are towards the bottom end of the table once again this season. The Herefordshire based club are gunning for survival as they currently sit in the bottom three and six points from safety, but they have played just 15 matches.

The Lucts have three games in hand which means the ball is very much in their court and they come into this clash with Sedgley Park on the back of an impressive win over Leicester Lions last weekend to begin their second half of the season. Luctonians have won four of their five games at Mortimer Park this term.

Sedgley Park had been leading the way in this division until a dip in form saw them lose the top spot to Macclesfield. Still, they currently occupy third place and are four points behind Stourbridge, but they do have two games in hand over the Midlands side.

The Christmas break hasn’t been kind to Sedge over the last few years as it has pretty much affected their promotion chances and despite losing back to back games either side of the festive period this year, Sedge will be determined not to let that happen again. They head into this encounter with the Luctonians off the back of a win against Tynedale two weeks ago.

Broadstreet v Caldy

Broadstreet are currently 15th in National Two North and looking at a potential relegation after just a one year stay in the fourth tier of English rugby. The Midlands side are only six points from safety at the moment.

Having said this, they do have two games in hand and began 2016 with a vital victory over Sale FC which was their fifth win of the season. Four of those wins have come at the Ivor Preece Field and a fifth victory in front of their home supporters this weekend will be a welcome triumph for ‘Street.

Caldy are fighting for a promotion spot in National Two North this season. The club was in the mix last season and are again this term, but are currently nine points off the pace with a game in hand. The Wirral outfit are occupying fourth place as it stands.

Caldy have fallen behind the front runners since their win over Macclesfield at the beginning of the month after losing to Stourbridge and drawing to Preston Grasshoppers. But against a relegation threatened side, they will no doubt see this away fixture as an opportunity to get themselves back in the promotion hunt.

Harrogate v Leicester Lions

Harrogate’s season could be defined by the two games they have played since the turn of the year. A win and a defeat sums up their inconsistent campaign so far which unsurprisingly leaves them ninth in the table.

At Ruddling Lane, ‘Gate have won four games this season, but are only six points off the top six so they will be looking for a win here which they can try and build on.

Leicester Lions are enjoying a great season so far as we approach the final third of this campaign. The Lions, who finished 12th last term, find themselves in fifth place this time around and only 11 points off the promotion places with a game in hand over Stourbridge.

The reason for the Lions’ success comes down to their home form where they are unbeaten this season while on the road they have won just once – that win coming against Otley way back in September. If they are serious about their promotion chances, a win here is a must.

Otley v Chester

Otley are still fighting their way up the table and look set for a strong finish this term. Last season, Otley finished ninth and this time around they’ll be determined to improve on that – although their form recently has been a bit patchy.

The men from Cross Green had been on a run of four straight wins, but since then, they have won just two of their last six matches, but were victorious last time out against Huddersfield.  Otley have won five of their games at home this season.

Despite being below their opponents on Saturday, Chester may be seen as favourites to win this clash in Yorkshire given that they have won both of their games since the turn of the year against South Leicester and Broadstreet.

Granted, they are teams below Chester in the table, but the men from Hare Lane struggled in the first half of the season which explains why they are eighth in the league. They do look like they may have turned a corner though and they will cement a place in the top half if they achieve their ninth win of the season on Saturday.

Sandal v Huddersfield

Sandal are really determined to stay in the top half of the table. Despite promotion to this division, the Yorkshire club have performed excellently this season and now their ambitions have changed to staying in the top eight rather than starving off relegation.

They have work to do though. Sandal have won nine games this term, but they have only tasted victory once in the last five games which has seen them slip away from the front runners. The men from Milnethorpe Green are enjoying life in National Two, but they’ll still be hoping to get back to winning ways this weekend.

Huddersfield are enduring a tough season. Sitting rock bottom of the table, ‘Field are becoming desperate for the points in the second half of the campaign as they look to overhaul an eight point gap between themselves and Tynedale in the final safety spot.

And following an important win against Broadstreet just before Christmas, they have failed to back that up in the New Year as they have fallen to narrow defeats against Tynedale and Otley. They need to start stringing a couple of solid performances together, but with just one away win all season, ‘Field will have to perform very well to get a positive result this weekend.

Tynedale v Sale FC

Sale FC’s season is going well at the minute. After the club were promoted from National Three North, people may have predicted a difficult campaign, but Sale are currently eight points clear of the relegation zone in 12th place.

That being said, recent form has been less than impressive for the men from Heywood Road. They have lost three of their last five matches, including a defeat to Broadstreet and go in search of they just their second away win of the season this Saturday.

Tynedale’s season has been the opposite of Sale’s in many ways. Following their first ever relegation in the club’s history, high hopes were had for Tyne’s season, but it hasn’t gone to plan thus far.

After 16 games, the north-east side lie in 13th place and just six points clear of the drop zone. That said, it has been the least of their worries recently due to their pitches being ruined by the floods that hit the country last month meaning their games are being played at Kingston Park.

But, in terms of the game itself, they need to achieve their fifth home victory of the season this weekend to ease any relegation nerves they may have.

National League Rugby