With the season building to an exciting finish, Rugby Committee member Gareth Dyer provides his take on the outstanding issues still to be resolved with four rounds of fixtures left to play.
Loughbrough Students are this season’s National Two North champions after last weekends hard fought win at Sheffield Tigers meant they cannot now be caught by any of the chasing pack. The Students have been the stand out team throughout the season and winning outright promotion to National One will no doubt make up for the heart break of two successive promotion play off defeats. Our congratulations go to all at LSRUFC and we wish them well as they move upwards to National One.
So with one issue now resolved, attention turns to who will finish in second place and secure a promotion play off and who will succumb to relegation and of course who may enter N2N next season.
In terms of the play off position, with four games left to play any one of a pack of sides could finish second with Caldy now in the driving seat after their big win at Westoe last time out. The team finishing second in N2N will likely face an away trip in the promotion play off game to whoever finishes in second place in National 2 South. In N2S it is a shootout between Old Albanians and Richmond as to who finishes first and second. With both teams already having over 100 hundred league points on the board, whoever is pipped to automatic promotion can be assured of a home play off place as the northern representative is unlikely to get much more than the hundred league point mark.
Given the importance of travel in this fixture (and based on how this has impacted on the result of play off games in previous years) then the southern side is a strong favourite to seal the promotion play off spot to National One. To ensure I remain diplomatic in this issue I won’t suggest who I think may finish second in N2N although I will say that the N2S representative is likely to prevail whoever makes the play off.
In terms of relegation, Kendal would seem to be doomed to the drop as they are fifteen points from safety with only 20 league points still up for grabs. A defeat at home to Westoe this weekend will see the men from the Mint Bridge relegated to National 3 North. For the other two relegation spots it is any two from four to avoid the drop. Just four points separates Nuneaton in 15th and Otley in 12th whilst the overall point’s difference is also tight. In terms of the run in then Nuneaton would appear to have the toughest ask as the fixtures below show:-
The final weekend game between Harrogate and Leicester Lions could decide who survives and who is relegated out of the two sides whilst this weekend’s match between Otley and Nuneaton is a massive game for both clubs. An Otley win could be a knock out blow for the Nuns although an away victory could drag Otley into the bottom three in time for when they travel to Lightfoot Green on 14th April.
In National One it would appear that Birmingham & Solihull, Stourbridge and Barking will all be relegated although B&S do have an outside chance of catching free falling Cambridge if they can have a strong end to their season.
For promotion then it is National 3 North and National 3 Midlands that feed into National 2 North and old friends Darlington Mowden Park will be back in N2N next season having been crowned National 3 North champions last weekend. Local neighbours Rossendale are in prime position for the play off spot and should finish second barring a late season collapse.
In National 3 Midlands, top dogs have been Rugby Lions who have been closely followed by Dudley Kingswinford for most of the season. This coming weekend sees both sides meet with a Lions win putting them within touching distance of the league. DK will likely finish second and again should secure home advantage for the promotion play off against Rossendale.
So an early idea of how N2N next season will look still has many possibilities with level transfers also potentially being an issue. Rugby Lions would appear to be most likely to move to N2S (as they have in past seasons) should there be an abundance of Northern sides although Luctonians may also come into that equation should the need arise.
It’s safe to say that for the first time in a long time there is much to play for as we move into April with many issues not likely to be resolved until the last round of games on 28th April.