Round 19 in the National Leagues was billed as one of the most exciting weekends of the season and Saturday certainly didn’t disappoint.
Richmond took a potentially crucial step towards promotion back to the Championship following a 22-17 victory over title rivals Rams RFC.
Chris Allman, Hamish Graham and Louis Molloy all scored for Steve Hill’s side as they edged out their fellow challengers for top spot.
Richmond now hold a two-point advantage at the summit, with Rosslyn Park moving back up to second in the table following their comprehensive 40-21 victory over Sale FC.
Kieran Power’s side bounced back from their loss to Blackheath with a fine display at the Rock and a sparking try from Craig Holland as well as a brace from Nev Edwards helped them to victory and kept Park on the tails of their London rivals.
Down at the foot of the table, there was an eye-catching and much needed result for Rotherham Titans as they defeated Birmingham Moseley 22-20 in a crucial relegation battle.
Steve Salvin’s side produced a positive display in Round 18 against Cambridge, but the Titans were able to turn their plus points into a vital victory at Clifton Lane.
Dan Preston-Routledge, Zak Poole and Lewis Wilson all crossed for the Yorkshire outfit, who are now just eight points from safety as the final 10 matches of the campaign come into view.
Elsewhere, Cambridge continued their fine form as they made it five wins on the bounce after a superb 28-25 victory away at Old Elthamians and the Blood and Sand have now moved into the top half of the table.
Fourth-placed Chinnor picked up a 30-17 win on the road against Bishop’s Stortford and Cinderford clinched a 20-14 victory over Darlington Mowden Park whilst Plymouth Albion maintained their positive start to 2020 with a thumping 52-5 win at bottom of the table Canterbury.
National Two North
Caldy’s march towards National One continued in Round 19 as the National Two North leaders swept aside Luctonians in Herefordshire.
Nick Royle, Adam Aigbokhae, Lewis Barker and Gavin Roberts all crossed in a 31-3 win and Gareth Davies’ side remain 13 points clear of second placed Fylde, with a game in hand.
The aforementioned Fylde were able to react immediately from their recent loss to Huddersfield as Warren Spragg’s charges thrashed Tynedale 50-10 at Woodlands. Tom Carleton ran in four of Fylde’s eight tries with Ben Gregory, Connor Wilkinson, Chris Briers and Tom Grimes also dotting down.
Tyne had beaten promotion candidates Sedgley Park in Round 18 and the Tigers looked as though they were heading to back to back defeats last Saturday, but Scott Barrow’s men produced a roaring comeback to claim a thrilling 30-28 victory against Stourbridge.
The Midlands club had led 21-3 at the break, but the sublime kicking of Steve Collins, plus tries from Elliot Crowe, Will Lees and Adam Cheshire, helped Sedge completely turn things around at Park Lane.
Sedge are now four points off Fylde as things stand, but with crucial fixtures just around the corner for the top three, February will go a long way to deciding the promotion race this term.
As for the relegation battle, Huddersfield were able to jump out of the bottom three following a 28-17 win over Scunthorpe.
Gareth Lewis’ side were able to build on their excellent win over Fylde and the Yorkshire outfit’s excellent recent displays has seen them move above the trapdoor ahead of a crucial fixture with Preston Grasshoppers this weekend.
In terms of Preston, they had to settle for a 36-36 draw with Wharfedale and the two points for Paul Arnold’s men means they are now 11 points adrift of safety.
Also across National Two North, Loughborough Students beat Sheffield Tigers 36-24 and Hinckley battled to maintain their purple patch of form with a 19-14 win away at Otley whilst Hull secured their first victory of 2020 after beating Chester 27-16.
National Two South
Henley Hawks moved to the summit of National Two South after another solid performance on the road against Worthing Raiders.
Nigel Dudding’s men beat the Raiders 33-7 at Roundstone Lane following tries from David Hyde, Tom Emery, Sam Lunnon, George Griffiths and Rory Mason but their ninth consecutive win tasted even sweeter following Tonbridge Juddians’ 20-5 loss to Taunton Titans.
The Somerset club hauled themselves back into the promotion race by defeating TJs thanks to scores from the prolific Isaac Dalton (2) and hooker Alex Spurdle.
The Hawks are now four points clear of TJs, whilst the same margin separates Taunton and a place in the top two as the title race sparked back into life in National Two South.
Redruth have also manoeuvred their way into the promotion picture as they sealed their 10th win from their last 11 games against Dings Crusaders. Tries by Brad Janes, Connor Gilbert, Matt Shepherd, Jack Simmons and Jack Oulton helped them to a 37-8 victory in Bristol and the Reds’ imperious form has seen them creep into the running for a top two finish.
At the foot of the division, Westcliff took a big step towards securing their status in National Two South following a 36-28 away win over Old Redcliffians.
After trailing 14-0 after 14 minutes, Westcliff scored 33 unanswered points to surge to a second win on the spin. James Smith, Jack Jones, Joe Vandermolen, Chris Bolton and Jake Campey all crossed before the hour and despite a response by Old Reds, the visitors were able to clinch the victory.
Peter Mahony and Jacob Ford’s side are now 10 points clear of the drop and they could distance themselves even further away from danger when they face relegation rivals Bournemouth this weekend.
Similarly to Westcliff, successive wins for Barnes have eased their relegation worries as Joe Gray’s men defeated Bury St Edmunds 36-34 in a pulsating game in Suffolk.
The London club are now 16 points above the trapdoor whilst elsewhere in National Two South, Clifton returned to winning ways with a 27-7 triumph at Sutton and Epsom, Esher sealed a narrow 20-17 win against Leicester Lions and Old Albanian claimed a battling 28-26 victory over bottom of the table Bournemouth.