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How the league looks ahead of final games of 2019

The very first league match between Hull RUFC and Wharfedale RUFC was played at the Ferens Ground last Saturday and resulted in a very narrow but well-deserved win for the home side by 12-9. With the advantage of the strong wind Wharfe had the better of proceedings to change round with a 6-0 lead from the boot of fly-half Jack Blakeney-Edwards in the 10th and 38th minutes.  Many Hull supporters would have been glad to settle for that considering the wind advantage but the second half quickly saw Hull take control with tries from No8 Latu Makaafi in the 47th and 52nd minutes, the second one being converted by Simon Humberstone. Blakeney-Edwards added a third in the 55th minute and Hull saw the remainder of the game out camped mostly at the Wharfe end of the field. The final ten minutes of the gamesaw some magnificent Hull defending which confined Wharfe to their own 22 area as Hull played as though the 22 line was their own try-line. This was Hull’s fourth consecutive victory, a run which has lifted them to 10th in the table on 35 points.

Elsewhere in the division, leaders Caldy were in uncompromising mood as they swept to a 54-7 home win over Stourbridge as eight different players score a try each, seven of which were converted, sending the majority of a large 454 crowd home delighted.  In a mid –table clash at Chester and visitors Hinckley were scoreless at half-time before Hinckley took a 10-0 lead and with five minutes remaining they were leading 18-12 before a converted try from winger Harrison Vare saved the day for Chester.

Loughborough Students have hit a fine vein of form at the moment and ran in seven tries with wingers Will Brown and Bamidele Fadahunsi both running in hat-tricks in a 46-14 demolition of Tynedale who were trailing 17-0 at the break. In a bottom four clash at Leominster, Luctonians and Huddersfield put on what was ‘a tight but scrappy game’ which ended with Lucs winning by 15-10 to lift themselves out of the bottom three at the expense of their visitors.

In what was head-lined in the Rugby Paper as ‘Scoreboard untroubled in toothless derby clash’, the Roses Derby between Otley and Preston Grasshoppers ended in a 0-0 draw, which is something of a rarity in rugby union nowadays. You have to feel sorry for both club’s press officers!! It was a different story to tell at Sedgley Park where the Tigers ran in nine tries, seven of which were converted to defeat the luckless and winless Scunthorpe side by 59-7 after leading 19-7 at the break.

Finally, in what was probably the match of the day at Dore Moor Sheffield Tigers beat visitors Fylde in what appears to have been a very good and hard game by 16-10 after trailing 10-6 at half-time. This was Fylde’s third defeat of the season and the ninth win for the Tigers whose forwards gave a tremendous display throughout the game.

After the dust had settled on all of these results the top three are still unchanged but Caldy, who are on 66 points, have opened up an 8 point lead over Fylde whilst Sedge have closed the gap between themselves and Fylde to just two points. It is worth noting that both Caldy and Sedge have also got a game in hand over Fylde.

Down at the bottom Scunthorpe are on 6 points, ‘Hoppers are on 21 but have broken their 6 match losing streak, which will be a relief to them, and Huddersfield are on 28 points, just one behind Lucs.

This weeks’ games herald the second half of the season and a good game is in prospect at Chester where the 6th placed side take on leaders Caldy. A Midlands derby at Hinckley sees 7thplay 4th when Loughborough Students come to town in what should be another keen clash with Hinckley eager to put their narrow defeat at Chester behind them.

A good old Yorkshire derby between Huddersfield and Otley should add to the Christmas festivities and it is a hard one to predict but it could be a tight one. Second from bottom Preston Grasshoppers will not be looking forward to the visit of Fylde and their supporters will be delighted if their side produce another 0-0 draw but I think it will be the Fylde fans who go home happy. The same could be said about Scunthorpe who make the trip to Sheffield Tiger’s mountain retreat, which is becoming a mountain fortress this season, with the Tigers strong favourites to win this one.

Eighth take on tenth when Tynedale entertain Hull and although Hull will remember that they won the correspondingfixture by 36-29 on September 14th at the Ferns Ground it will be a different story at Station Road, Corbridge.  Tyne have lost their last three games against Chester, Caldy and Loughborough but will provide a tough test of Hull’s credentials on Saturday. Hull will be equally eager to end 2019 with a five game unbeaten run and will not lack confidence in this game.

The last of Saturday’s fixtures sees 12th placed Wharfedale take on 3rd placed Sedgley Park Tigers in a Roses Derby where Wharfe will probably have about 300 or more enthusiastic Dalesmen roaring them on. Wharfeside Avenue can be a very intimidating place at times and maybe an upset is on the cards.

My three games to watch are Hinckley v Loughborough, Huddersfield v Otley and Tynedale v Hull.

Wherever you are, enjoy your rugby, and compliments of the season to all rugby men.

Norman Angell.

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