Tom Little’s review of the rest of last weekend’s National League One action
Ampthill & District 50 14 Blaydon attendance 346
Birmingham Moseley 22 12 Blackheath 776
Cambridge 57 31 Hull Ionians 433
Darlington Mowden Park 48 31` Esher highest 837
Loughborough Students 25 47 Hartpury College 423
Old Albanian 32 17 Fylde lowest 331
Plymouth Albion 33 10 Macclesfield 828
Rosslyn Park 33 15 Coventry Rugby 479
Week 13 saw seven home wins in the eight games, maintaining the bias towards the home sides since the start of the season. There is a definite pattern emerging in the breakdown of the league table into four sections – the top grouping seeing leaders Hartpury College out on their own, 14 points ahead of the chasing pack. Section 2 involves four teams below Hartpury separated by just eight points, while section 3 is even closer with five points covering five teams from Coventry in sixth place to Cambridge in tenth. The final Section could be classified as the relegation zone with the remaining six teams separated by nine points.
The only away victory on Saturday saw leaders Hartpury College duly despatch Loughborough Students. Yet it took Hartpury until the second half to really impose their quality and quell the home fire as the home side were only 18-13 down at the break. The second half saw College take control to give them a deserved bonus point win.
Second against fourth saw Birmingham Moseley maintain their unbeaten home record with a close win over Blackheath. A narrow half-time lead for Moseley belied the effort by the visitors, who were unable to turn chances into points. The influence of Wasps loanee prop Will Stuart proved crucial, suggesting he will become a more important player in higher echelons. The win puts daylight between them and Blackheath, who remain in fourth place.
Another home bonus point win for Plymouth Albion moved them within a point of Moseley. Albion had a comparatively easy win over 15th-placed Macclesfield, who never gave up and at home can still be a force. The impressive home pack and the finishing of the back line proved the difference, moving Albion closer to Moseley and now 15 points behind Hartpury.
Ampthill & District remain fifth, but now only one point behind Blackheath, after their emphatic bonus point home victory over bottom side Blaydon. The Blaydon pack did make it difficult for the home eight, but Ampthill had the more impressive threes and better finishing power as they took the game to their visitors, running in seven tries. This loss for Blaydon leaves them seven points from safety.
Old Albanian proved that they have a pack that cannot be written off as it gave them the wherewithal to complete a hard-working bonus point win over visitors Fylde. Always on top, OA were able to contain Fylde’s attack. The win leaves OA in ninth place but moves them within two points of Coventry in sixth.
This week was Cambridge’s turn to score 50 points instead of shipping that number as they recorded an impressive home victory over Hull Ionians. The bonus point was secured n the first half as the home side’s attacking game proved irresistible, but credit to Ionians who got their own game going to earn their own try bonus point. This point, although keeping Hull in 14th place, moves them within six points of safety, whilst the win for Cambridge moves them up two places to tenth and one win from sixth.
Darlington Mowden Park confounded the critics and pundits both off and on the field with a comprehensive bonus point home victory over Esher, before the largest crowd of the day. The return on loan of Warren Seals proved the catalyst with his goalkicking and game control. Some poor home discipline kept Esher in the game, but six home tries said it all. Park are now six points clear of the relegation zone and two points behind Esher, who drop to 11th.