Tom Little’s review of the rest of last weekend’s National League One action
Esher 18 24 Rosslyn Park attendance highest 1400
Birmingham Moseley 26 47 Plymouth Albion 720
Blackheath 26 21 Darlington Mowden Park 401
Coventry Rugby 29 19 Ampthill & District 1057
Fylde 28 46 Cambridge 525
Hartpury College 57 21 Old Albanian 486
Hull Ionians 17 17 Blaydon lowest 164
Macclesfield 42 38 Loughborough Students 198
HARTPURY College claimed the title with five games to go and are still unbeaten after 25 games, with no less than 23 try bonus points together with the highest number of points scored and the fewest conceded. Macclesfield’s surprise win prolongs their status for at least another round of games, but pressure remains on teams such as Esher, in 13th spot, to avoid the final relegation place.
For the first time in many months the gap between positions three to seven in the league is down to just 15 points with teams straining to put down a marker for next season.
Hartpury College duly obtained the necessary bonus-point win at home to Old Albanian to wrap up the title. The bonus point was secured by half-time, helped by a hat-trick from Matt Protheroe on the wing. Old Albanian scored three tries of their own to College’s six. Poor discipline led to College being down to 12 men at one time.
Second-placed Plymouth Albion are now putting daylight between them and the rest of the league after their eighth straight win, this time away at Birmingham Moseley. Four tries in the first 20 minutes left the home side shell shocked, and although they rallied somewhat in the second half to gain their own try bonus point, this loss leaves them just six points ahead of Rosslyn Park.
The Friday night encounter between Esher and Rosslyn Park saw the home side almost pull off a surprise win. Trailing 21-5 at half-time, the home side came back strongly in the second period but were unable to bridge the gap as Park held on to win, although they missed out on a bonus point. This loss leaves Esher somewhat too close to the drop zone, only 10 points clear.
Blackheath managed their first win in six games with a home victory over Darlington Mowden Park. The hosts led 21-0 at half-time, and although Park came back strongly, a Freddie Owens try sealed it for Blackheath to keep them in seventh place and now nine points ahead of their visitors who remain in ninth.
The surprise of the day for most pundits was the home win for bottom side Macclesfield over Loughborough Students. There were six tries apiece with the lead changing hands a number of times before Macclesfield sneaked iy at the end with the winning try from a five-metre line-out maul. They remain favourites for relegation but live on for at least another round of matches.
Another surprise saw Fylde lose at home to Cambridge. The first half saw the Cambridge pack take control for a 36-14 lead at half-time lead. Inevitably, Fylde came back after the break but Cambridge held on for a deserved victory and a result which surely makes both sides safe for another year.
The smallest crowd of the day saw the basement battle between Hull Ionians and Blaydon end in a draw. Using their effective pack, Blaydon opened up a 17-0 half-time lead, but the second period saw the home side fight back with a late converted try from fly-half Callum Irvine earning the draw, a result which still leaves the struggle to avoid the second relegation place wide open and possibly going down to the final game of the season.