Tom Little’s review of the rest of last weekend’s National League One action
Birmingham Moseley 36 20 Rosslyn Park attendance 656
Blackheath 17 24 Ampthill & District 404
Darlington Mowden Park 17 20 Plymouth Albion highest 888
Esher 47 19 Hull Ionians 380
Fylde 33 24 Coventry Rugby 585
Hartpury College 80 19 Blaydon 250
Loughborough Students 39 46 Old Albanian lowest 113
Macclesfield 24 36 Cambridge 347
Week 21 saw no change amongst the top eight sides or, indeed, the bottom three, although defeats for Rosslyn Park, Blackheath and Coventry Rugby have increased the gap between second and seventh to 14 points. Wins for Esher and Fylde have increased their cushion above the danger zone to at least 12 points.
Leaders Hartpury College passed 1,000 points for the season and 100 league points with their 21st consecutive win against visitors Blaydon. The try bonus point was earned by the 22nd minute with the win increased their lead at the top to a massive 28 points. Twelve tries in all confirmed their dominance, including a penalty try, and despite three late tries, the visitors were comprehensively beaten.
Blackheath’s third loss in a row, to second-placed Ampthill & District, saw them hold on to fifth spot but now only two points ahead of Rosslyn Park. 21-10 up, Ampthill had to withstand a late home fightback but in fly-half Joe Tarrant they have an impressive player capable of scoring tries, kicking goals and excellent line-kicking. The win keeps Ampthill in second place, but still equal on points with Plymouth Albion.
The biggest crowd of the day saw a close-run battle go to the visitors, Plymouth Albion at Darlington Mowden Park. A great start by the Albion pack saw them race into a 14-0 lead before a brave home rally clawed it back to 14-12 by half-time. Then it was the turn of Park to edge into the lead before two late Albion penalties sealed it for them, the win bringing them equal on points with Ampthill.
Birmingham Moseley shocked in-form Rosslyn Park with a bonus point win at home. Moseley’s pack took full control in the first half as the try bonus was earned in that period, with impressive No.7 Jack Preece in supreme control. Park were not helped by poor discipline and two late yellow cards, which hindered their second half fightback. Moseley are now only five points behind second place with a game in hand, whilst Park’s lead over Coventry is reduced to just one point.
The lowest league crowd of the year saw a free-scoring encounter, if indeed a defensive coach’s nightmare, as Old Albanian travelled to Loughborough Students and scored eight tries to win. A porous home defence was balanced some way by poor discipline from OA which kept the Students in the game, and two late home tries gained them two bonus points.
Esher eased any relegation worries with a bonus point home win over a Hull Ionians side still rooted in third from bottom spot, but more importantly equal on points with relegation-placed Blaydon. The try bonus point was achieved by half-time, with the home side talking more control in the second half helped by a yellow card for Ionians. This loss leave Hull Ionians in urgent need of a win to pull away from Blaydon, but Esher’s win moves them 14 points above the danger zone.
Bottom side Macclesfield went 12-0 up at home to Cambridge, before the visitors fought back to 19-all at half-time. Cambridge, inspired by experienced No.9 Stef Liebenberg, then took control in the final quarter as the home side suffered a late yellow card. With Macclesfield now at least 11 points from safety, time is running out for them to escape.