Relegation looming for sides in National Two South

Southend Saxons
Southend are just one of the sides looking to avoid the drop in National Two South
©Alan Grace

This weekend in National Two South is likely to give us a clearer indication about who will be relegated from this division as teams battle for their survival once again with the season reaching its climax.

With Launceston already having their fate sealed, it looks as though as many as five teams are realistically fighting to avoid the final two places in the drop zone.

Dorking and Southend Saxons currently occupy those dreaded positions with Worthing Raiders, Chinnor and Canterbury very much still embroiled in this relegation battle. Many would say Bury St Edmunds and even ninth placed Clifton aren’t safe just yet which once again highlights how tight this league has been this term.

From the bottom to the top and Cambridge face a tricky away trip as they look to maintain their five point gap at the summit of National Two South while their nearest and only challengers, Old Albanian, are also on the road.

Redingensians v Cambridge

This season has turned into a superb campaign for the Redingensians’ in recent weeks. The Rams were promoted last season and had been embroiled in a relegation battle for most of the term, but they have performed remarkably well in the league over the last two months and now they sit in seventh place as things stand.

Following a narrow defeat to Worthing Raiders at the end of January, the Rams have sparked into life and are currently on a seven game winning streak and are now 13 points clear of the drop zone. They are currently the form side in the division, but know that this game against Cambridge will certainly be their toughest task since they began their sensational run of form.

Cambridge have hardly put a foot wrong this season. After finishing seventh last term following relegation from National One, the Blood and Sand aimed to build on that top half finish and they have more than stuck to their word over the course of this season.

Currently, Rowland Winter’s side sit five points clear at the top of National Two South and they are on a 10 match unbeaten run as things stand. Very few teams have taken points off Cambridge this season, but they will be wary of the threat the Redingensians will pose at Old Bath Road this weekend as their quest for the league title continues.

Clifton v Old Albanian

I think it is fair to say that Clifton’s season has been a fairly good one, despite a shaky second half of the campaign. The South Gloucestershire side finished 12th last year – just three points clear of the relegation zone - but currently, they occupy ninth place in the table with four games left to play.

Clifton began this season in great form, but since the turn of the year, they have won just three of their 11 matches which leaves them 10 points clear of the relegation zone. They look like they have done enough to not get dragged into a relegation battle and a win here would all but confirm their place for another year in National Two South.

The Old Albanian on the other hand have performed to level that we expected them to in National Two South this term. Their efficient victory over Worthing Raiders last time out leaves the OA’s 12 points clear of their promotion rivals, although five points behind league leaders Cambridge.

The OA’s are far from out of the title race just yet having won their last five matches. They know that they need keep on winning as they look to continue applying pressure on Cambridge as this thrilling National Two South season reaches its climax.

Launceston v Bishops Stortford

This will certainly be a season which Launceston will want to forget as soon as it’s over. After their relegation was confirmed just over a month ago, it is hard to imagine the campaign getting much worse for the Cornish side, but unfortunately it has done.

Having lost 22 of their 23 games when their fate was sealed five weeks ago, Launceston are still winless and have conceded 264 points in their last three games, with the 109 of those being shipped last weekend against Cambridge.

Their record now reads 25 defeats and one draw for this term and I can’t see Launceston picking up their maiden win at home this weekend against Bishops Stortford either. If they do manage an unlikely victory, it will be one of the results of the season and most certainly the high point in a torrid season for Launceston.

Bishops Stortford are looking good to finish in the top four this season with just four games left to play of the campaign. At one point, it seemed as though Stortford would be once again challenging for a play-off spot, but a slight dip in form at the end of February leaves them in third place and 12 points behind the Old Albanian.

With a four point gap over fourth placed Redruth at this stage, Stortford will be determined to end the season strongly and continue their good recent form. They have won their last three games and they are also firm favourites to pick up maximum points this Saturday at Polson Bridge.

Old Elthamians v Redruth

The Old Elthamians have once again managed to keep away from the relegation zone for another season after promotion into National Two South in 2013. Whilst other teams have been involved in a relegation dogfight, the OE’s have spent the majority of their time in the top eight, keeping themselves well clear of any danger.

However, despite all of this and the OE’s currently occupying eighth place in the table, they are currently going through their worst patch form of the season. They have lost five of their last six games so they will be hoping a return to winning ways is just around the corner when Redruth visit Queen Mary’s this weekend.

Redruth’s season has been a successful one in terms of progress from last term. Despite finishing ninth last year, the Reds currently find themselves in a well-deserved fourth place and only four points behind Bishops Stortford. They are also a huge 28 points clear of sixth placed Barnes so a top five finish is now guaranteed for the men from the Recreation Ground.

Over the last few months, Redruth have performed very well. They have picked up 10 wins from their last 12 league games including victories over Bishops Storford and Taunton Titians. There is no reason why Redruth can’t continue their good form from now until the end of the season and you never know a top three finish maybe achieved.

Taunton Titans v Dorking

Taunton Titans’ season has really tailed off over the last few weeks. The Titans were in the title race and promotion mix for large periods of this campaign, but as things stand, they are now fifth and look likely to finish the term in that position if they are unable to turn their recent results around.

After finishing third last year, their aim was to challenge for promotion once again but just one win in their last six games has ended any hopes of a shot at National One for the Titians this season. Instead, their focus will now be on ending the season strongly as they prepare to build for another season in National Two South.

It hasn’t been the season that Dorking were hoping for either. This time last year, they were alongside Taunton Titians chasing promotion, but 12 months on, they have failed to progress and instead regressed. In fact, they now find themselves fighting for their National Two South place for next season.

Currently, they occupy 14th in the table and they are four points from safety with four games left to play. They picked up a huge with over relegation rivals Southend Saxons last week meaning they head to Hyde Park with some confidence. Dorking need a win and if they were to pick up maximum points against a Taunton side which is in wretched form, then it could see them move out of the bottom three.

Barnes v Chinnor

Barnes are having a fantastic season which I don’t think many would’ve predicted back at the start of September. Despite promotion via the National Three South play-off against Exmouth in May of last year, Barnes currently find themselves in sixth place in the table which they must be elated with.

Consistency in 2016 has been one of the major factors in their good campaign. There is no doubt that the 16 bonus-points which they have picked up this season have helped, but just three defeats in 11 games since the turn of the year has guided them to where they are now. They suffered a set-back against Bishops Stortford last week, so Barnes will be itching to get back to winning ways on Saturday.

Chinnor remain in the fight to avoid relegation from National Two South this season. When they were beaten by Bishops Stortford in January, Chinnor were in the bottom three and showed no signs that they were capable of escaping the drop zone, but that has all changed since then.

Recent form has seen Chinnor win six of their last eight games meaning they are now up to 12th in the table. They are not out of the woods just yet as they remain eight points clear of the bottom three, but this remarkable revival looks as though it has guided Chinnor to safety. Another win this weekend would almost certainly secure their status.

Southend Saxons v Bury St Edmunds

Southend Saxons have been involved in relegation battles for the last two seasons now. The club have found it tough to move away from the lower positions in National Two South over the last few years and although they stayed up by the skin of their teeth on the last day of last season, that looks unlikely to happen this time around.

Their form since the start of November is the reason why Southend sit 15th in the table and nine points from safety. Since their win over Barnes, they have won just three of their last 17 matches and now know they must secure victory over Bury St Edmunds this weekend or their time in National Two South is almost over.

Bury St Edmunds’ season has been on an upward curve in recent weeks. Bury were at one stage in danger of being dragged into the bottom three, but a great run of form has now seen them move up the table into 10th place and more importantly, 10 points clear of the relegation zone.

The visitors to Southend on Saturday have won four of their last five matches and although they were edged out by the Redingensians last weekend, Bury will fancy their chances of getting back on the winning track on Saturday when they take the trip to Warners Bridge Park.

Worthing Raiders v Canterbury

Worthing Raiders have had a strange 12 months since finishing fifth in the table in National Two South. They failed to carry the momentum from an excellent second half of last season into this campaign and have found themselves flirting with the drop zone for most of the term with the prospect of relegation now looming large.

The Raiders currently sit just one place and four points above the bottom three. They have picked up just two wins in their last six games which is not the sort of statistic you want to be associated with at this stage of the season. They will be desperate for an important victory in this game otherwise the alarm bells were certainly be ringing loudly down at Worthing.

Canterbury’s season has been a mixed one. Having survived relegation quite comfortably last term, the City Men began this campaign strongly before falling to a series of defeats which left them in the relegation zone. They then strung together another run of victories before more losses followed, once again leaving them in the bottom three.

And it looks as though another sequence of victories is occurring at just the right time for Canterbury. As things stand, they sit 11th in the table and eight points clear of the drop zone after picking up three wins from their last four games. If they were to clinch another vital victory this weekend, it would pretty much seal their place in National Two South for next season.

National League Rugby