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As the halfway stage of the season approaches, how is National 2 North shaping up

Last Saturday our side made the long journey to Lightfoot Park, Preston, to take on the famous Grasshoppers and after a very close and even game we posted a very narrow 18-13 win to inflict a sixth consecutive defeat on the hosts who have now slumped to second from bottom in the table. ‘Hoppers led 10-3 at the break and quickly added another penalty goal before Hull took control to score two tries from Steve Johnson and Tom O’Donnell, one of which Simon Humberstone converted. He also added another penalty goal to the one he kicked in the first half and a happy Hull party returned to Hull on a three match winning run.

Elsewhere in the table second and third placed clashed at The Woodlands, Fylde, where the home team beat Sedgley Park Tigers 17-10 after a thrilling game in front of 750 spectators.  Fylde led 14-0 at the break but had to fight hard to retain their lead as Park came back strongly in the second half. In a high-scoring match at Hinckley the home side led 21-17 at half-time against Sheffield Tigers but it was a different matter in the second half as Hinckley romped away to win by 53-23, scoring seven tries in the process. Man of the match was Hinckley’s winger Matt Lamb who scored a hat-trick of tries in what was the Tigers heaviest defeat for a long time.

Fourth-placed Loughborough Students travelled to Huddersfield and were beaten 25-19 after a finely-balanced match which saw both sides score three tries. This was Huddersfield’s fourth win of the season and sent their supporter’s home in a happy mood whilst the Students went home pointless. Up in the Yorkshire Dales on a cold and damp day, Wharfedale recovered well from their heavy defeat at Loughborough the previous week to post a convincing 25-5 win over visitors Luctonians, who led 5-0 at the break.Wharfe scored three tries, two conversions and two penalty goals with fly-half Jack Blakeney-Edwards leading the way with fifteen points.

Scunthorpe’s woe’s continue after their very heavy 62-24 home defeat at the hands of a rampant Otley side who ran in ten tries, six of which were converted. Despite the defeat Scunthorpe scored four tries themselves to secure a try bonus point but have now lost all of their thirteen games and thingslook black for them.  When visitors Chester raced away into a 33-0 lead in the first 25 minutes it looked as if Stourbridge were in for a  very big defeat, but the home side fought back to make it 33-17 at the break. The second half saw them maintain their challenge but it was not be their day as Chester held out for a 33-27 game. Stour did well to salvage both bonus points on a day which could have been a disaster for them.

Finally, in what I tipped last week as likely to be a very tight name at Tynedale, league leaders Caldy showed why they are just that as they ran in seven tries, six of which were converted, in a convincing 47-14 victory. The visitors led 14-0 at the break and such was their superiority it was not until the 65th minute that Tyne scored their first try.

The league table remains unchanged at the top with Caldy on 61 points, with a game in hand, Fylde on 57 and Sedge on 49. At the south end of the table Scunthorpe have only 6 points, behind ‘Hoppers on 19 and Luctonians on 25.

This week’s games herald the end of the first half of the season and the day brings up some interesting fixtures with some likely close ones in respect of league placings and we start with league leaders Caldy at home to 9th placed Stourbridge where it looks very likely to be a home win after Caldy’s demolition of Tynedale last week.  Chester v Hinckley where 6th take on 7th could well be the match of the day with Hinckley well up for an away win after their big win over Sheff Tigers. Chester are pretty formidable at home and this could well be a thriller (but I said that last week re the Tyne v Caldy game!!).  Loughborough v Tynedale sees 4thplay 8th and with both sides losing last week there is much to play for, with home advantage probably deciding the result.

A bottom of the table clash at Leominster sees Luctonians entertain Huddersfield in a 14th v 13th fixture which again, could depend on home advantage in a vital match for both sides. ‘Hoppers will not relish their trip to Otley following the home side’s big win last week but the Lancastrians are desperate for a win and what could be better than a win over a Yorkshire side. I can see nothing other than a home win, by plenty to not many, when Scunthorpe travel to Sedgley Park Tigers. The other Tigers based at Dore Moor, Sheffield, are hosts to second-placed Fylde and I am sure that Sheff Tigers at home will be a different side to the side heavily beaten last week in what has the makings of a very good game.

Last but not least is the Yorkshire derby at the Ferens Ground where 11th placed Hull take on 12th placed Wharfedale.  This will be the first-ever league fixture between the two clubs although they have met in the Yorkshire Cup on three occasions.  Hull will be keen to post their fourth win on the trot and Wharfe will be equally keen to prevent them from doing so.

My top three games of the day are Chester v Hinckley, Sheff Tigers v Fylde and Hull v Wharfedale.

Wherever you are, enjoy your rugby.

Norman Angell.

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