Tom Little’s review of the rest of last weekend’s National League One action
Bishop’s Stortford 24 17 Esher attendance 505
Caldy 27 26 Hull Ionians 278
Cambridge 15 22 Birmingham Moseley 417
Darlington Mowden Park 36 7 Rosslyn Park Highest 1150
Fylde 19 26 Blackheath Lowest 250
Loughborough Students 37 18 Old Albanian 300
Old Elthamians 16 20 Coventry Rugby 454
Plymouth Albion 16 9 Ampthill & District 1118
Week 11 was notable for the poor weather and immense defensive displays, and saw five of the top six sides win with the one loss suffered by Ampthill at Plymouth Albion, although only Darlington Mowden Park and Blackheath were able to land a try bonus. The results reduce Coventry’s lead at the top to nine points, down from ten. Another win for Bishop’s Stortford keeps them in sixth place with 16 points separating the top six sides. At the bottom, a win for Loughborough Students moves them to five points from safety, whilst Old Albanian fill the third danger spot in place of Caldy.
Darlington Mowden Park surged back into second place with a comprehensive try bonus home win over Rosslyn Park. An early injury to scrum-half Matt Dudman led to a welcome return by Warren Seals, and with the Connon brothers in fine form the try bonus was earned in 30 minutes thanks to the pace and finishing of full-back Grant Connon. The second half saw a better response from the visitors, but once DMP had roused themselves again they cruised to an easy victory to take them within nine points of the leaders.
Like Coventry, Plymouth Albion had to put in a tremendous defensive shift to keep out Ampthill & District in the south-west. Worsening weather conditions and two tight defences led to only one try scored, with former Coventry player Eoghan Grace prominent. In the end it was a hard-fought victory for the home side in a game which could have gone either way. The result drops Ampthill down two to fourth place and moves Albion up one to third, still 11 points behind Coventry.
Maintaining pressure on the top four are Blackheath, who put recent losses behind them with a try bonus win at bottom club Fylde. In a closer contest than expected, the resilient home side were only two points adrift at half-time, but two early second-half tries gave Blackheath their bonus point before a late home surge gave Fylde a losing bonus point – not really enough as they are now ten points from safety. Blackheath stay in fifth, only one win away from second place.
Bishops Stortford had another good home win over Esher to keep them in sixth place, seven points off second place. An early try set them on their way with centre Sam Winter in fine form before an Esher fightback made the half-time score 10-7. BS repeated that good start in the second period with two further tries before two late Esher tries earned them a losing bonus point. Another strong kicking display from George Cullen helped BS to a deserved victory.
There was another home loss for Cambridge, this time to Birmingham Moseley which sums up their season. Despite plenty of possession Cambridge only led 10-3 at half-time, thanks to a great defensive display by Moseley led by inspired signing Buster Lawrence. The second period saw the visitors take control with three tries, helped by poor home defence, before a late try earned Cambridge a losing bonus point. The win takes Moseley into the top half of the table.
Four tries apiece was the exciting fare on offer as Caldy enjoyed a narrow home victory over Hull Ionians. With their back row, led by Harrison Crowe, in fine fettle Caldy surged into a 22-5 half-time lead with three tries and, once again, the poor start left Ionians too much to do in the second period. They scored three tries to almost repair the damage and did manage two bonus points. This first win in seven for Caldy moves them out of the danger zone to 12th while Ionians drop down to 13th.
Loughborough Students fielded a large number of last season’s side and scored six tries in defeating fellow strugglers Old Albanian with fly-half Owen Waters in good form both with the boot and controlling the game. Despite a late fightback by OA, the game was settled with a late penalty try. Although keeping LS in 15th place, the win brings them to within five points of safety, whie Old Albanian drop into the third relegation spot only two points better off.