Tom Little’s review of last weekend’s National League One action
Ampthill & District 45 17 Hull Ionians attendance 207
Caldy 15 7 Esher 267
Cambridge 22 21 Bishops Stortford 620
Darlington Mowden Park postponed Coventry Rugby
Loughborough Students 21 0 Fylde lowest 140
Old Elthamians 32 7 Blackheath highest 1653
Plymouth Albion 26 8 Old Albanian 1232
Rosslyn Park 30 26 Birmingham Moseley 620
ROUND 15 saw the game between leaders Coventry Rugby and second-placed Darlington Mowden Park postponed due to the weather, with the remaining fixtures all producing home wins. Of the chasing pack of four only Plymouth Albion and Ampthill won, whilst at the other end of the table Fylde and Old Albanian both lost, leaving Hull Ionians filling the third relegation place although there are still only five points separating the four sides immediately above them.
Plymouth Albion regained third place after a try bonus point home win over 15th-placed Old Albanian. With most of the Saracens contingent missing for OA, the home side eased to the win as the visitors’ discipline kept them on the back foot. Two yellow cards and a red for foul play didn’t help them, although it did take Albion until the last minute to get their bonus point. You do wonder whether it is counter-productive to have so many dual registered players in and out of the side. The win moves Albion up one place to third and now 16 points behind the leaders, whilst OA remain in the second relegation spot, nine points from safety.
Ampthill & District recovered from their mauling at Coventry to inflict a fairly straightforward home defeat over Hull Ionians. Three first-half tries set them on their way, and although Hull Ionians offered dogged resistance they had no answer to the power of the home pack and finishing of the backs as seven tries were scored. The win moves Ampthill up one place to fourth, 17 points behind the leaders, whilst Ionians drop back into the bottom three although only one point from safety.
Before a record crowd, Old Elthamians beat their local rivals Blackheath with a powerful first-half display orchestrated by winger Dom Lespierre which gave them a 22-0 half-time lead. Once again, the importance of defence proved decisive as Blackheath were thwarted with the home side easing to a try bonus win. Although keeping OEs in seventh place, the win moves them to within three points of sixth place, with Blackheath dropping two places to fifth, 19 points behind the leaders.
Bishop’s Stortford remain in sixth place despite a surprise away loss to Cambridge. The inconsistent home side restricted BS, who were largely kept out by good defence, to just two tries and they capitalised on a high penalty count with Dan Lewis kicking five, including a last-minute winner from 50 metres. Although keeping Cambridge in ninth spot, the win moves them 11 points above the danger zone.
Rosslyn Park moved out of the relegation places with a crucial home victory over Birmingham Moseley. With their scrum in fine form, Park led 13-12 at half-time. The lead increased to 30-12 in the third quarter before a Moseley fightback saw two quick tries give them a bonus point, but not the win as despite three yellow cards Park held on for the win, although they are still only one point above the relegation zone. If Moseley can keep their discipline and get enough possession they have the ability to trouble most sides.
Poor weather and a heavy pitch spoiled any chance of a running spectacle as Caldy ground out a crucial home win over fellow strugglers Esher. It was a close game throughout with the home pack having a slight edge, the four points gained although keeping Caldy in 11th place, they are now equal on points with Esher, in tenth, but with both sides just five points above the relegation zone.
Before the lowest gate of the day, Loughborough Students nullified any chance of the Fylde backs scoring any points. An attritional first half saw the Students secure a narrow 3-0 lead before they took greater control in the second half as the game opened up with three tries including a penalty try. The loss increases Fylde position to ten points from safety, although Students remain only four points above the danger zone.