Tom Little’s review of the rest of last weekend’s National League One action
Ampthill & District 36 10 Macclesfield attendance 323
Blaydon 28 11 Blackheath 306
Cambridge 30 39 Birmingham Moseley 420
Coventry Rugby 35 27 Esher highest 1397
Hull Ionians 7 49 Hartpury College lowest 172
Old Albanian 29 35 Darlington Mowden Park 327
Plymouth Albion 29 21 Fylde 1067
Rosslyn Park 39 37 Loughborough Students 510
Week 20 saw only Blackheath of the top seven sides lose, a sequence of results which keeps second to seventh places covered by 11 points. The demise of London Welsh means for this season there will be only two sides relegated from NL1, and on the assumption that Macclesfield will take up one place, that leaves five teams separated by just 11 points trying to avoid the drop.
In seven of the games no team was more than one score behind at half-time, but only Coventry Rugby were able to come from behind at the break to win.
As expected, leaders Hartpury College duly obtained a bonus-point win at Hull Ionians. A brave home side were only 14-7 down at half-time but, once again, Hartpury were able to turn the screw in the second period to run out comfortable winners. It was the fourth quarter, however, when Hartpury scored four tries before Hull were finally well beaten.
Second-placed Ampthill & District took time to overcome a brave Macclesfield side still rooted to the bottom of the league. Ampthill only led 12-5 at half-time, but it was a different story in the second period when two early quick fire tries sealed the visitors’ fate as the home pack finally took control.
Plymouth Albion kept hold of third place with a hard-fought home victory over Fylde. Albion were 21-7 up at half-time after scoring three tries and then led 26-7 with ten minutes to go, but they had to withstand a late fightback from Fylde whose two tries were still not enough to secure even a losing bonus point. Once again, Fylde’s away form let them down as they struggled to contain a home pack and the loss leaves them in 13th place, only seven points ahead of the drop zone.
It was a high-scoring encounter at Cambridge where visitors Birmingham Moseley duly obtained a win and try bonus point to take them back up to fourth place and only six points off the teams in second and third. Cambridge has their chances but failed to take them, whilst Moseley managed to score four tries either side of half-time, helped by a yellow card against the hosts. Two late tries gave Cambridge a bonus point, but they missed too many chances to win and remain in 11th place.
Blaydon, in 15th place, took full advantage of the news that only two sides will be relegated with an important home bonus-point victory over high-flying Blackheath. Not for the first time this season, Blaydon could thank experienced hooker Matt Thompson for his hat-trick of tries as they took control in the second half. Defeat drops Blackheath down to fifth place, only three points ahead of Coventry in seventh, while although Blaydon remain in the final relegation place, they are now level on points with Hull Ionians.
Rosslyn Park maintained sixth place with a surprisingly narrow bonus-point victory over visitors Loughborough Students. Four first-half tries sent Park on their way, but the Students fought back with three of their own to leave the half-time score at 24-22 in Park’s favour. In the second half, after another driving maul try for Park, Loughborough came back to take a lead which wasn’t overturned until the final quarter when Park struck with a converted try and later penalty. Even then, Students came back with a try but too late to affect the outcome.
Old Albanian lost narrowly to in-form Darlington Mowden Park. Try bonus points for both sides was a reward for their attacking play, DMP winger Adam Radwan scoring a hat-trick, with the win moving Park above OA into ninth place.