Net closing in on Huddersfield as National Two North season reaches climax

Macc v Broadstreet
Macclesfield are aiming to stay on course for the National Two North title when they play Huddersfield on Saturday
©Nick Jones

After their victory last Saturday, Huddersfield extended their stay in National Two North for another week, but if results don’t go their way this weekend, their relegation to National Three could be confirmed.

Currently, the bottom side in the division sit 18 points from safety with five games left to go of this campaign and it looks for all the word like Huddersfield will drop into the fifth tier of English rugby. To avoid that happening this weekend, their first task is to beat league leaders Macclesfield away from home.

If they fail to achieve that, they will be relying on Sedgley Park and the Luctonians to take points off relegation threatened Sale FC and South Leicester to keep them in this league for another week.

Away from the relegation battle, Sedge’s main priority will be continuing to keep a stronghold on the play-off spot with Leicester Lions and Stourbridge both still capable of nicking it from them should the Tigers drop more points between now and the end of the season, while table toppers Macclesfield will be purely focused on continuing their title challenge.

Elsewhere, an in-form Otley travel to Tynedale while Preston Grasshoppers will be hoping to arrest a sequence of bad results at home against a confident Harrogate side.

Macclesfield v Huddersfield

Macclesfield are very nearly there. The club, who were relegated from National One last season now look set for an immediate return to the third their of English rugby as they currently sit top of the tree in National Two North, 17 points clear of Sedgley Park in second.

A last gasp win over a strong Otley outfit away from home last week secured a top two finish for Giles Heagerty’s squad. Now, the Macc boss will be hoping his side can pick up a ninth straight win as they move closer to the league title.

Huddersfield on the other hand find themselves on the verge of relegation from National Two North. The club have competed in this division for two seasons following their promotion in the 2013/14 campaign, but they currently occupy bottom place in the table and they are 18 points from safety with five games remaining.

Huddersfield look destined for the drop, but they extended their stay further in this division with a victory over the Luctonains last weekend – which was their first win in 11 matches. However, quite simply, ‘Field can be relegated this weekend if Sale FC and South Leicester both win and the Yorkshire side lose to the league leaders at Priory Park.

Sale FC V Sedgley Park

It has certainly been a mixed season for Sale FC. They were promoted as champions of National Three North last year and have found life tough in the fourth tier of English rugby. Their home record has been excellent, but it has been their away form that has let them down.

With that patchy form, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Sale sit in the bottom half of the table in 13th place, just two points clear of the relegation zone. A run of two defeats in their last five games has restored confidence at Heywood Road especially after victory against Huddersfield two weeks ago, but they will have to be at their best if they are to pick up an eighth home win of the season on Saturday.

Sedgley Park are fighting for a shot at promotion to National One this season. It wasn’t a shock to see Sedge finish third in the last campaign as Hull Ionians and Ampthill and District stormed the league, but with another strong squad this term, they look set for the play-off as they occupy 2nd place in the table.

Sedge had been under pressure a few weeks ago due to a dip in results and they were battling to stay in the top two with Stourbridge, Leicester Lions and Caldy all fancying their chances of swooping into second spot. However, a three game winning streak has seen the Manchester club move 12 points clear of their promotion rivals and they still have a game in hand. It is certainly Sedge’s to lose now and with Macclesfield coming up next week, they will be eager to keep up their recent good form.

Caldy v Leicester Lions

Caldy’s season has tailed off slightly in recent weeks in National Two North. Despite being around the top two for the majority of the season, the Wirral side look as if they will finish away from the promotion places once again this season after a disappointing run of recent results.

A 36-21 defeat to Harrogate in their last National Two North outing saw Simon Verbickas’ men lose their fourth game in six matches and with Otley picking up two points in their defeat to Macclesfield last weekend, it now means Caldy have slipped to sixth in the table and 16 points behind Sedgley Park. A top six finish is now the realistic goal for the men from Paton Field, but they will want to begin stringing some positive results together, starting with Leicester Lions at home this Saturday.

It has been a surprising, but superb season for Leicester Lions this campaign. The Lions finished 11th last term and were in a relegation battle on the final day of the season, but this year they have looked a completely different prospect and have certainly been one of the teams of 2015/16.

The Lions currently sit third in the table and have been concentrating on a top two finish until recently as Sedgley Park won their games in hand to move 12 points clear of the Midland club. That being said, they will certainly want to hold on to their third place spot between now and the end of the season and an eighth win in 10 games this weekend, would set them up nicely to achieve that goal.

Stourbridge v Chester

Stourbridge have been more of a dominant force in the fourth tier of English rugby this season compared to last year. Despite a disappointing 10th place finish last campaign due to injuries and other factors, Stour look back to their best as they find themselves in fourth place in the this stage.

They have challenged for that play-off spot for the majority of this term, but three defeats towards the end of January and leading into February, looks like it has cost them that second spot. There is no doubt that they have the players to lead them to promotion next term, but they won’t give up just yet on the play-off place. They will know though, that they must win their remaining five games if they are to even have a chance at National One and rely on Sedgley Park dropping points.

Chester remain mid-table, but their recent form is certainly cause for concern at Hare Lane. After their hammering away from home against Sedgley Park 13 days ago, Chester have now only won two of their last eight games leaving them just six points clear of the relegation zone as they sit 10th in the table.

That recent shaky form hasn’t been uncommon this season either. Chester have struggled to hit the heights of their fifth place finish of last term and have only managed to secure back to back wins twice this campaign.  Their form on the road this year has been better than their results at Hare Lane so they will be hoping for more joy on their travels otherwise Chester could be in serious danger of the drop.

Tynedale v Otley

Tynedale’s season has been a disappointing one. A club that suffered its first relegation in its history last term, now find themselves languishing in the bottom half of the National Two North table and before their win against Stourbridge two weeks ago, they will have been nervously looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone.

That win against Stour backed up a dramatic late victory over Chester a week earlier and there is no doubt that Scott Lawson and his side will now be looking to gain some momentum at just the right time of the season. Tyne sit 11th in the table and five points clear of the drop and a third straight win on Saturday would ease their relegation fears.

Otley have once again gone about their business nicely in National Two North this season. The men from Cross Green have been in the top half of the table for the majority of the campaign, but a run of four wins in their last six games as seem them move up to fifth place with a top six finish now very much on the cards.

That being said, they do have some tough fixtures between now and the end of the season starting with a trip to the north-east this Saturday, but due to their recent run of results, Otley will be confident of achieving their seventh away victory of the campaign on the weekend.

Preston Grasshoppers v Harrogate

It has been a positive season thus far for Preston Grasshoppers and coach Garth Dew. After escaping the drop on the final day of last season, the Hoppers have improved vastly this season and are an ambitious club that should be going for promotion rather than fighting off relegation.

They haven’t hit the heights of a promotion challenge just yet, but Preston currently sit eighth in the table with an unbeaten run of seven games being the main reason for their position in the top half as things stand. However, the Hoppers have lost five of their last six games and are eight points clear of the bottom three. A relegation battle looks unlikely, but Dew and his side will be keen turn their fortunes around as soon as possible.

Harrogate’s season has steadily improved as the campaign has gone on. Having begun the season with four wins from their first eight games following a fourth place finish last term, ‘Gate have been able to turn their form around and are currently going through their best spell of the year so far.

As things stand, the Yorkshire club sit seventh in the table having won five of their last six matches. In addition to that, they still have two games in hand over the teams around them and maximum points from those fixtures could see them move into the top four. However, their immediate focus will be on extending their good run this Saturday when they travel to Lightfoot Green.

South Leicester v Luctonians

South Leicester are doing just enough at the moment to keep themselves out of the relegation zone. Without a consistent patch of form this season, the newly promoted Midlands side have managed to pick up some important wins when it matters most to ensure their heads are above water with five games left of the season.

Currently, South occupy 12th in the division and are four points clear of the drop which was helped by a crucial win over Preston Grasshoppers at Welford Road last weekend. South are once again at home this Saturday and they will be looking to extend their good recent run to just one defeat in five matches as they go in search of another vital win in their bid for survival.

The Luctonians have done exceptionally well since the back end of 2015 in National Two North. The Lucts survived relegation on the final day of last season so were expected to struggle and in the early stages of this campaign, it looked as though that was the case.

However, 10 wins from their last 14 matches means they sit ninth in the table following this fine run of form. Having diverted themselves away from the relegation battle, they may have their sights on a top half finish for this term. Having said that, they sit seven points clear of the drop so they won’t be taking things easy just yet.

Broadstreet v Sandal

Broadstreet’s second season since promotion in 2013/14 has been a tough one. ‘Street have struggled towards the lower end of the National Two North table for long spells this term and as things stand they are in the relegation zone, sitting in 15th place and 11 points adrift of safety. With five games left to play, wins are becoming a necessity for the Midlands side.

Of course, it is not all over just yet for Broadstreet, but one win from their last five games is not the sort of form that will bring hope to the Ivor Preece Fields faithful. They have a brilliant opportunity to breathe new life into their survival challenge this Saturday when they take on another side in the bottom three, Sandal.

After promotion via the National Three North play-off last season, Sandal surprised everyone as they started the season in fantastic form. However, they have been less than impressive over the last few months. At one point, the Yorkshire club sat in the top four of the division and were looking very good for a top half finish, but they are now well and truly in a relegation battle.

With just one win from their last 11 matches, Sandal now amazingly find themselves in the bottom three and will know full well that this game away at Broadstreet is a huge opportunity for them to clamber away from danger. Currently, they occupy that final relegation spot and are only two points from safety, but they must end this terrible run of form if they are to avoid an immediate return to National Three.

National League Rugby