The front runners in National Two North both secured victories in Round 19 ahead of their top of the table clash this coming weekend, but there was also a major story at the wrong end of the table.
Sale FC and Hinckley made no mistake as both sealed impressive wins over South Leicester and Sheffield Tigers which means this Saturday’s encounter between the pair will be eagerly anticipated.
One of the other standout results of the weekend came in Yorkshire as Wharfedale took a massive step in the right direction in their fight for survival.
James Doherty’s side clinched a crucial victory over relegation rivals Sheffield to move off the bottom of the division and to within four points of safety.
Meanwhile in National Two North, Sedgley Park moved up to third in the table as they left it late to beat fellow promotion candidates Tynedale while Stourbridge’s top two ambitions suffered a setback after a loss at Chester.
Elsewhere, both Otley and Macclesfield continued their flying form while Blaydon’s fixture with Luctonians was postponed.
Sale FC 39-7 South Leicester
Sale FC ran in five tries as they defeated South Leicester to extend their winning streak to 11 matches in National Two North.
Chris Johnson opened the scoring from the tee before Andy Hughes and Rhys Davies both dotted down as the hosts led 18-0 at the interval.
Dan Birchall, Adam Aigbokhae and Sam Stelmaszek also touched down for Jonathan Keep’s side.
South had started the second period well as they scored an intercepted try, but the home side continued to dominate this encounter as they stay top of National Two North.
Sheffield Tigers 5-36 Hinckley
Hinckley remain level on points with league leaders Sale FC ahead of their upcoming clash in National Two North after a five-tries-to-one drubbing of Sheffield Tigers.
The Midlands team take on Sale on January 27th with the sides separated by ‘Points Difference’ and this was a perfect response by Hinckley following their defeat to Sedgley Park.
James Martin’s brace and tries by David Peck, Oscar Harper and Jonny Sykes ensured a commanding victory for the visitors.
Prop Will Bennett scored Sheffield Tigers’ try in the second half.
Sedgley Park 23-22 Tynedale
Jamie Harrison’s late try snatched a narrow victory for Sedgley Park against promotion rivals Tynedale at Park Lane.
Two close ranged tries and a score from Guy Pike looked to have given Tyne the victory, before the hosts responded.
Tynedale tried to see the final six minutes out, but quick hands from the Sedgley Park backs allowed Harrison to dive over and clinch a crucial victory.
Sedge had led this contest 13-5 at the break with Stephen Collins converting his own try and two penalties while Ben Bell crossed for Tyne. Hallam Chapman extended their lead after the interval, but despite falling behind, Sedge managed to fightback.
This win for Matt Bebbington’s side leaves them third in the table and six points off the top two.
Chester 24-12 Stourbridge
Chester once again caused an upset at Hare Lane as they won an error-strewn contest against Stourbridge.
A try from Alick Croft put Chester 7-0 up, but Stour managed to hit back just before half-time as Nick David touched down to reduce the hosts’ lead to two points.
The home side were able to give themselves some breathing space after the interval as James Preston and Matt Van Sertima both dotted down.
Stour responded when they were awarded a penalty try to cut the margin to five, but Alex Reed’s try two minutes from time sealed yet another home win for Chester.
Huddersfield 18-22 Otley
Otley secured their fifth win from their last seven games as their revival continued with victory over Huddersfield.
The hosts’ Nick Sharpe scored a first-half try but Brett Mitchell’s effort and eight points from the boot of Joe Rowntree gave the visitors a 13-10 lead at the interval.
Rowntree added to his conversion and two penalties with three more penalties after half-time.
Ben Morrill’s score, set up by the forwards, gave the home side the lead at the beginning of the second period, but Rowntree’s accuracy from the tee guided Otley to another win.
Leicester Lions 7-14 Macclesfield
Macclesfield won a battle of attrition against Leicester Lions in the Midlands to secure their fourth straight victory.
The Cheshire side led 14-7 at the break courtesy of converted tries scored by Sam Moss and Ryan Parkinson, while Will Roberts crossed for the Lions.
After half-time, the pitch became worse and the boggy conditions led to handling errors and numerous scrums and despite both sides trying to fashion chances, Macc held out for the win.
Wharfedale 16-10 Sheffield
Sheffield are now bottom of National Two North as Wharfedale clinched a vital victory in this basement battle.
Dale are now four points from safety following a second home win on the spin and they established the lead in this encounter through Josh Burridge’s try, but were then pegged back by the boot of Stephen Depledge to make it 5-3 at half-time.
The hosts were behind soon after the restart as Sam Graham smashed his way over, but Dale showed their strength to gain a grip on this contest.
Dan Stockdale barged across the whitewash and two penalties from Tom Barrett was enough for Dale to close the game out and seal a crucial win in their battle to avoid the drop.
Blaydon P-P Luctonians