Tom Little’s review of the rest of last weekend’s National League One action
Ampthill & District 36 12 Cambridge attendance 823
Blackheath 7 48 Plymouth Albion 1097
Blaydon 40 24 Rosslyn Park lowest 302
Coventry Rugby 36 16 Darlington Mowden Park highest 1770
Esher 35 24 Birmingham Moseley 1358
Fylde 32 21 Loughborough Students 735
Hartpury RFC 92 7 Macclesfield 473
Hull Ionians 46 33 Old Albanian 355
THE penultimate round of matches saw three crowds of over 1,000 with a record win for champions Hartpury against relegated Macclesfield, while bonus-point wins for Hull Ionians and Blaydon sees their tussle to avoid the final relegation place go down to this weekend’s finale.
Elsewhere, congratulations to Bishops Stortford on becoming champions of National League Two South and thus promoted to NL1, whilst the final promotion place rests between Sale FC, Chinnor and Old Elthamians.
The biggest win of the day and, indeed, the season was recorded by Hartpury RFC over relegated Macclesfield. Apart from conceding an early penalty try to their visitors, Hartpury were always well in control and scored 14 tries in total, including a late hat-trick by leading try-scorer, winger Jonas Micalcius. At least the rest of NL1 will be relieved to see the back of Hartpury next season.
Hull Ionians, trying to avoid the relegation, did what they had to do with a home bonus-point win over Old Albanian. In an exciting game, the home side scored six tries, including a hat-trick for No.10 Callum Irvine, and were always in the lead, helped by the kicking of scrum-half Isaac Green. This win leaves Ionians still two points ahead of Blaydon and they may still need a win on the final day to survive.
Blaydon ensured a nerve-wracking finish to the season with their own home bonus-point win over Rosslyn Park. Park, surely wanting to see the season end, were 40 points behind after an hour before a late revival saw them scrape a try bonus point. Blaydon also need to win this weekend to possibly keep them up.
Plymouth Albion maintained their fine second half of the season for and are now unbeaten in 12 games after they overwhelmed Blackheath , who have now slumped to seventh spot. It took Albion only 25 minutes to get their try bonus point and they maintained their dominance throughout the match. Eight tries in total gave them the win which also confirmed a second-place finish and sets the bar at a high level for next season.
Ampthill & District confirmed their third place in the table with another bonus-point home victory over Cambridge. The home side were on the back foot for most of the game, but good defence and better finishing proved the difference as their pack took control. Cambridge need to turn possession into wins if they are to survive next season, whilst Ampthill should remain a top three side.
Birmingham Moseley’s inconsistent recent form continued at Esher, whose own much-improved form saw them ease to a bonus-point victory. Esher raced to a 22-10 half-time lead, thanks to the form of centre James Lang and the finishing prowess of winger Spencer Sutherland. The home side were well in control until a late Moseley try somewhat flattered the visitors. The loss by Moseley saw them overtaken by Coventry, who are now up to fourth, and moves Esher up three places to eighth, their highest position this season and perhaps a portent for next season.
Relegation-threatened Fylde got the win they required to live another day in NL1 over Loughborough Students. It was the final home game for Paul Arnold as player coach, and Fylde signed off in style with a bonus-point win. Fylde move up to 12th place, whilst Students drop down to 11th.