We are now facing the penultimate week-end of the current season and while the relegation issues have now been settled and the runners-up place has been whittled down to either Blaydon or Harrogate there is still much of interest in the division to consider.
Last week’s games saw Alnwick post a very good home win over Billingham by 22-15 after a very close game to deny the visitors any chance of now reaching the play-offs. Hull posted yet another big victory when visitors Sandal were defeated by 67-14, but it must be said that in the first period Sandal held the home side to 17-7 at half-time. Three converted Hull tries between the 42nd and 47th minute ended the game as a contest as Hull went on to score a further six tries. Only one try came from a forward, Mike Jobling, and the game was a personal triumph for winger Mike Adlard who touched down six times. His partner-in-crime on the other wing Steve Hihetah scored three tries with full-back Keane Naylor also crossing the line. Simon Humberstone landed six conversions to complete the scoring.
Ilkley posted a very easy 52-0 home win over bottom side Wilmslow, Kendal lost 57-21 at home to play-off contenders Blaydon and Kirkby Lonsdale recorded their eleventh win of the season with a 23-14 home win over Wirral. Harrogate posted their eighth consecutive league win with a comfortable 26-9 victory at Lymm to keep their play-off hope alive and in a high-scoring fixture at Vale of Lune visitors Rossendale triumphed by 54-32.
All this means that Kendal, Vale of Lune and Wilmslow are now relegated while at the top Blaydon are second on 90 points and Harrogate are third on 89 points with two games each to play. Blaydon have to lay Kirkby Lonsdale (h) and Vale of Lune (a) while Harrogate have Ilkley (a) and Sandal (h). Best of luck to both clubs.
This week’s fixtures see a top four clash at Billingham where Divisional Champions Hull are the visitors. Back on December 8th it was first v second when the two sides met at the Ferens Ground but Hull were at their very best that day and posted a surprisingly easy 49-7 victory, running in seven converted tries. Billingham, who are unbeaten at home this season, will be eager to turn that result around on their G4 artificial pitch but they will find Hull a hard nut to crack.
Blaydon travel to Kirkby Lonsdale who can be a tough proposition on their own ground but the Geordies should have far too much fire-power for them and should be good for maximum points. The same cannot be said for Harrogate who travel to Ilkley for a Yorkshire derby game against a side who have proved they can compete with the best in the division at Stacks Field. Gate should win this one but it could be tight, although ‘Gate need a five-pointer to keep in touch with Blaydon.
The remainder of fixtures fall into the ‘end of season – nothing to play for’ bracket, but there are often times when such games turn out to be very good entertainment. Rossendale v Alnwick where sixth play seventh could be a close game with the home side being favourites to win and Sandal v Lymm should go the way of the home team. Two relegated sides clash when Wilmslow entertain Kendal and finally seventh-placed Wirral are at home to the third relegated side Vale of Lune, which should be a big home win for Wirral.