National Two Season: Start of the new season

Sedgley Park are one of the favourites for promotion in National Two North

With the National League beginning across the country this week, what are the prospects for the 32 teams involved?

National Two North

Last season was one of the most entertaining National Two seasons to date. In the North, the title race went down to the wire between Hull Ionians and Ampthill & District while the relegation battle also went to the final day.

After all the drama and tension, Hull Ionians won the division with Ampthill & District joining them in National One after winning the play-off match against Bishop’s Stortford.

Stockport, Birmingham and Solihull and Hull were all relegated back to their National Three divisions respectively.

So, who will be challenging for promotion this season? It really was a two horse race last season, but I feel that more teams will be up gunning for a National One place this time around.

Sedgley Park finished third last season and do possess a strong squad with strength in depth. They ended last season well which will give them the confidence that they can go all the way this season. They will have strong opposition without a doubt and will know they can’t afford to have a dip in form like they had on a couple of occasions last season, which hampered their promotion chances.

That strong opposition we mentioned will come from the likes of Caldy, Chester, Harrogate and Otley who all sat in third place in the table at one point during last season.

Caldy’s home record was superb last campaign whilst Chester will be hoping to get off to a similar start to what they had last season; which saw them win eight of their first 10 matches.

Harrogate and Otley will be looking to push for promotion with Harrogate winning their regional cup competition at the end of last season.

What about the newcomers? Well, from National One we have Macclesfield and Tyndale and both teams are bound to have their sights set on a quick return back to the third tier of English rugby.

Macc will be hoping they can bounce back from a tough season last year and to repeat the success of their 2013/14 season in National Two.

Sale FC and Sandal were promoted from National Three North whilst South Leicester dominated National Three Midlands.

Sale FC won promotion back to National Two, but I don’t think it will faze them that they are one of the newcomers. They have great backing which allows them to build a strong squad so don’t be surprised to see them at the right end of the table during the season.

For the rest of National Two North, Broadstreet and Huddersfield will be hoping to push on after good first seasons back in the division last year, whilst Preston Grasshoppers and Stourbridge will be hoping for much stronger campaigns and even they will feel they can mount a promotion challenge.

As for Leicester Lions and the Luctonians, they will hope they can stay clear of trouble this season and if the Lucts perform anywhere near as well as they did at the back end of last  season, they will certainly be safe come April 2016.

Opening Weekend Fixtures

Sedgley Park v Broadstreet

Chester v Preston Grasshoppers

Harrogate v Otley

Huddersfield v South Leicester

Leicester Lions v Tynedale

Sale FC v Caldy

Sandal v Luctonians

Stourbridge v Macclesfield


National Two South

Like in National Two North, there were outcomes which needed settling on the final weekend of last season.

Henley Hawks had already secured the league title and their place in National One, but who would have the chance to join them? Along with this, one of Southend and Lyndey would be relegated with Shelford and Dings Crusaders.

In terms of the play-off battle, Bishop’s Stortford occupied second spot in the table and earned themselves that playoff spot with a win against Launceston.

Unfortunately for them, that was as good as it got as they lost to Ampthill who took that final National One place.

At the bottom, Southend stayed in the division by the skin of their teeth as they retain their National Two South status on games won.

Attention now turns to this season. It is fair to say Henley were superb last campaign and deserved to be champions, but below them, the drama was sensational.

This all means that we should be in for another rollercoaster season at the top. Bishop’s Stortford will be looking to bounce back from play-off heartbreak and with 20 wins to their name last year; they have to be one of the favourites for this season.

Dorking had looked like they would finish second behind Henley throughout last season, but a poor second half of the campaign opened the door for the likes of Bishop’s Stortford along with Taunton to push for that all important play-off place.

Dorking will not want a repeat of that, while Taunton finished the season in fine form with just two defeats in 11 matches. They will want to pick up from where they left off.

Below them were Worthing Raiders who were impressive in the second half of last season and will know that poor results earlier in the campaign cost them a shot at promotion. They are sure to be more prepared this time around.

On to the new boys in National Two South and with Old Albanian being the only side dropping into this division from National One, they may well be seen as favourites for promotion.

They finished just one point from safety last season which shows their quality and they will pose a real threat to the rest of the promotion contenders.

Coming into National Two South are Bury St Edmunds from National Three London & South East whilst the Redingensians comfortably secured their place in National Two as they won the National Three South West title.

Both sides will know they could be in for tough campaigns, but they may want to take a leaf out of the books of National Two North’s Broadstreet and Huddersfield as both teams had solid seasons after being newly promoted last year.

Joining, Bury St Edmunds & Redingensians will be Barnes who beat Exmouth in National Two South playoff. They have lost just once in their last 14 matches, but will know this division is a new kettle of fish all together.

As for the rest of National Two South, Chinnor may feel that they can push for promotion this season and are already top of a table as they lead the way for ‘New Followers’ on Twitter heading into this weekend!

Elsewhere I am sure the likes of Cambridge, Old Elthamians and Redruth have all taken stock over the summer and will be looking to build on mid-table finishes last season, while Launceston and Southend will be hoping to stay well clear of danger.

Opening Weekend Fixtures

Redingensians v Redruth

Clifton v Worthing

Barnes v Canterbury

Bury St Edmunds v Bishop’s Stortford

Dorking v Cambridge

Launceston v Old Albanians

Old Elthamians v Taunton

Southend v Chinnor

National League Rugby