Who will take another step closer to safety in National Two North?

The Luctonians are putting up a serious fight for survival once again

Last weekend, there was elation and heartache in the fight for survival as South Leicester edged out Broadstreet, the Luctonians were inches away from a draw against Macclesfield and Huddersfield fought bravely but couldn’t prevail  against Stourbridge.

Sides at the wrong end of the table cannot avoid any more slip-ups as we head towards the business end of the season otherwise it could prove fatal.

In terms of the title and promotion race, Macclesfield are still in complete control as Sedgley Park continue to hunt them down while Stourbridge, Leicester Lions and even Caldy will be looking to spark their play-off challenge back into life.

Sandal v Macclesfield

Sandal are fighting to end their worst run of form all season. The Yorkshire side currently sit ninth in the table, but have won just one of their last seven matches. To be fair, Sandal are surpassing expectations after promotion via the National Three play-off last season, but they fell into the bottom half of the table for the first time this campaign last weekend.

Following a solid run at the start of this term, Sandal just haven’t been able to find their groove since the turn of the year with their only victory coming at home against bottom club Huddersfield nearly a month ago. This match against the league leaders perhaps isn’t ideal for Sandal to put a stop to their poor recent run, but it would arguably be their best result of the season if they were to do so.

Macclesfield are still on course for promotion from National Two North this season, but they were given a scare last weekend against relegation threatened the Luctonians. The club’s competitiveness has never been in question, but their comfortable 14 point lead at the top may have led to some complacency from the Blues last Saturday who clinched a late win.

This is all speculation of course, but what is very much fact is that Macclesfield have been the ones to beat for some time now. They have lost just three games all season and have motored clear at the top despite all the fixture congestion due to postponements. They head into this clash with Sandal on the back of three straight wins and will be going in search of their eighth away victory of the season on Saturday.

Huddersfield v Sedgley Park

Huddersfield have just not been able to build on their excellent season last term. An eighth place finish had prompted some to think ‘Field could match that or better it this campaign, but 10 months on, they are staring relegation in the face following some poor form this year.

The Yorkshire outfit have failed to win their last six matches which has seen them fall to the bottom of the table and 13 points from safety. Added to that, South Leicester (who are in the final place above the relegation zone) have two games in hand over Huddersfield. A victory at home to Sedgley Park seems a tall order, but they can take heart from the fact they have picked up three bonus points from their last five games. If they were to lose though, surely it would leave them with too much to do.

Sedgley Park are enjoying another strong season in National Two North. As things stand, Sedge sit 14 points behind Macclesfield in second place after a solid 30-5 home win over fellow promotion chasers Leicester Lions at Park Lane proving that the Tigers are firmly in the hunt for a shot at National One.

After three postponements in the last five weeks, Sedgley will be hoping to play back to back games for the first time since the end of November as they look to stretch their winning streak to four matches. Sedge do have four games to catch-up on so the title is certainly not out of the question if they continue to maintain their recent form.

Stourbridge v South Leicester

Stourbridge have really progressed this season after a tough campaign last year. Stour were hit by injuries last term which saw them finish in the bottom half of the table, but they’ve been terrific so far this year and find themselves very much in the mix for a play-off place.

The Midlands side do have experience of been in this situation after finishing second two seasons ago and they were able to arrest a recent poor spell of form last weekend against Huddersfield as they get ready to host South Leicester this Saturday. Stourbridge have won eight games at Stourton Park this season.

South Leicester do remain in a relegation battle, but the weight on their shoulders was lifted slightly last weekend. South picked up a late, but crucial win over rivals Broadstreet which now leaves them 13th in the table and eight points clear of the drop zone so they will be desperate for a strong finish to the campaign.

Before last weekend, South had won just twice in nine games but the newly promoted side were given a real boost after their result at Broadstreet so now the pressure is on South to keep themselves afloat. South are away again this weekend looking for their eighth win of the season and their fourth on the road.

Leicester Lions v Chester

Leicester Lions are still fighting for a play-off place this season. The Lions are not only having a tremendous season, they sit fourth in the table and are also unbeaten in 11 home games which is stark contrast to last year where they stayed up on the final day of the campaign.

The Lions appear to be hitting top gear at the moment. They have won five of their last seven games, but defeat to Sedgley Park last weekend meant they are now five points behind the second place side having played three more games than them. Despite that loss last Saturday, the feel-good factor at Westleigh Park is evident and they will be favourites to claim their 11th home win of the season on the weekend.

Whatever happens this season, it won’t be fondly remembered by everyone associated with Chester’s 1st XV. The Cheshire side, who finished fifth last term, have been incredibly inconsistent this year and find themselves 10th in the table after 21 games played.

It just hasn’t clicked for Chester for one reason or another and that is highlighted by their nine wins this term and the fact they have won just one of their last four matches. Their away form has actually been better than their home results this year so Chester will be looking to keep that up this weekend as they go in search of their seventh triumph on the road.

Luctonians v Caldy

The Luctonians are doing everything they possibly can to beat the drop into National Three at the moment and so far, they are making good progress. The Herefordshire-based club have been in and around the bottom three all season, but they are certainly playing like a team that can avoid relegation, like they did last term.

Last Saturday, the Lucts went down to a late penalty away at Macclesfield, leaving the club 15th place, but another bonus point and positive display, added to five wins in their last seven games, means they are only eight points from safety, but they have four games in hand. A victory at Mortimer Park on the weekend would be another boost to their revival.

Caldy’s season has been another strong one, but it has been disappointing in recent weeks. Although the Wirral club are fifth in the table and have been towards the top end of the league for most of the campaign, they have failed to take their chances to move into the top two when they have been presented to them.

Defeats against Otley, Stourbridge and Tynedale are part of the reason why Caldy are now six points off the play-off spot, but they do have the quality to turn this around and finish strong for the rest of the term. It will be tough for them to get back into contention for a shot at National One after just two wins in their last five games, but victory away from home this weekend is a good place for them to start.

Otley v Preston Grasshoppers

Otley continue to maintain their sixth place spot in the table this season, but they will do their upmost to challenge higher up the table. Although the men from Cross Green finished ninth last season after a miserable end to the campaign, the Yorkshire outfit are now sitting comfortably in the top half of National Two North, just seven points behind fifth-placed Caldy.

Form has been patchy this season for Otley. A string of wins has normally been followed by a series of mixed results, but they are hoping that isn’t the case this time around as their win against Caldy last season means they have won three of their last four matches. That confidence boosting victory has put them in a good position to take on one of the form sides in the league this weekend.

Preston Grasshoppers are on a role at the moment. After staying in the division on the final day of last season, the Hoppers started this season unable to gain any good momentum, but that has all changed since the back end of November.

As things stand, Garth Dew’s men are eighth in the table and that’s mainly due to the fact that they have lost only one of their last 10 games and are currently on a seven match unbeaten run. Preston will travel to Yorkshire looking for their fourth away win of the campaign, but they will also be hoping to continue their impressive run of form.

Harrogate v Sale FC

Harrogate are working their way up the league in what has been a mixed season for them. Although they finished fourth last term, ‘Gate have constantly being in mid table this season which is why they sit seventh, but they have won three of their last five games.

All three of those wins against Chester, Huddersfield and Harrogate have come on the road with their last victory at Ruddling Lane coming at the end of November against Preston Grasshoppers. In that time, they have played only one home game due to postponements so they will be keen to put on a display for their own fans in Yorkshire this Saturday.

Sale FC are not fully free from the relegation scrap which is intensifying at the bottom of National Two North this season. That being said, another home victory over Sandal last week means the Manchester based side head into this fixture on the back of two straight wins.

Sale’s problems haven’t been at Heywood Road this season; they have come away from home. Only one of their eight wins this campaign has been on their travels and they need to double their tally of away victories sooner rather than later if they are to avoid the drop. Currently, Sale are 11 points clear of the bottom three and sit 11th in the table.

Tynedale v Broadstreet

Tynedale have been enduring a difficult season so far. After being relegated for the first time in the clubs history last year, Tyne must now focus on staying in National Two North, where they currently sit in a disappointing 12th place, 10 points above the bottom three.

Newcastle Falcons hooker Scott Lawson has not been able to halt the club’s slide down the table, but he has only had three games as Head of Rugby. They will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing result at Preston Grasshoppers last week and get back to winning ways at Kingston Park.

Broadstreet are struggling more than Tynedale are. The Midlands side have managed to win two of their last five games, but a defeat to relegation rivals South Leicester last weekend was a real blow to their survival chances. They now sit 14th in the table and eight points from safety.

‘Street will no doubt battle to beat the drop until the end and we know they are capable of that after finishing seventh last season, but they’ll need to regroup and start finding victories especially away from home where they have won just once all season long.

National League Rugby