Hull RUFC and Loughborough Students have clashed eight time over the years since 2010 and up to last Saturday the Students had won all of the seven games played. This time it was Hull’s turn for victory as they won the eighth game with a very good 33-20 win at the Ferens Ground. Loughborough had the advantage of a very strong wind in the first half and played some excellent approach rugby but a resolute home defence was up to the task and Hull turned around with a 7-5 half-time advantage. In the second period they built up a 21-5 lead but the Students came back strongly with two tries to make it 21-15. For a short period it was ‘twitchy bum’ time for the Hull fans before their side ran in two more tries to lead 33-15. A late try from the visitors gained a losing bonus point for them which they richly deserved after a highly-entertaining game. Hull scored tries from Tom Tanumi, who passed the 300 points mark for the club, Latu Makaafi, Will Hall, Keane Naylor and Lee Birch, who was playing his 100th game for Hull.
Elsewhere in the division second-placed Fylde lost their fifth match of the season when they were beaten at home by 17-27 by a resurgent Hinckley side who have now won eight of their last nine games. Hinckley led 15-0 at the break and scored four tries to Fylde’s three and are making a very strong challenge for the runners-up spot in the division. Bottom three side Luctonians did their chances a real boost when they defeated Sheffield Tigers by 26-7 at Leominster. The Tigers have now lost four of their five games in 2020 but were leading 7-5 at the break before the home side ran in three converted tries in a fine second-half display.
Otley entertained league leaders Caldy who continued their all-conquering run with a convincing 31-12 win after leading 17-7 at half-time in front of 300 spectators. It is hard to see who will defeat the Wirral side now and they could see the season through undefeated at this rate. Preston Grasshoppers are still firmly rooted in the bottom three after they lost 29-14 at home to Tynedale who led 17-7 at the break. Tyne led by 29-7 up to the final minute when a converted try from Ally Murray was scant consolation for the ‘Hoppers.
Struggling Scunthorpe suffered another heavy defeat when visitors Stourbridge ran in 12 tries in a 76-15 victory. Hooker Jack Lea won the man of the match award after scoring three tries and although a plucky home side also scored three they were denied a losing bonus point. In a very tough game at Sedgley Park, where Sedge led 20-7 after the first half, they eventually defeated Chester by 27-14. They scored four tries to their visitors two to claim all five points on offer which enabled them to close the gap on Fylde.
Finally, in a tense one-try Yorkshire derby fixture at Wharfedale, the Dalesmen completed the double over their visitors from Huddersfield in a game very different from their 40-30 win at Lockwood Park a few weeks ago. The whole game was played in very windy conditions and both sides earned the respect of the 397 spectators for their defensive qualities when playing against the wind.
After the dust had settled the position at the top is once again unchanged with Caldy on 95 points, followed by Fylde on 78 and Sedge on 74. Hinckley are now fourth on 67 points following their recent good run of form. In the nether regions Scunthorpe are on 6 points, the ‘Hoppers are on 29 and Otley are now in the bottom three with 43 points, replacing Lucswho are 12th. There are now five sides between 43 and 49 points and the race to avoid the third last-three place is open to all of them. Very nervy for the clubs concerned but also very interesting with all five clubs having nine games remaining. It does show the quality of the division in many ways.
This week-end’s fixtures throw up some very interesting clashes starting with the top game of the day at Caldy who host Sedgley Park in a first v third meeting. Caldy will be keen to maintain their 100% unbeaten record whilst Sedge will be hoping to keep their third place secure, in the knowledge that the resurgent Hinckley are now snapping at their heels. It promises to be a cracker of a game and I think home advantage may prove the difference towards a Caldyvictory. Second placed Fylde travel to Chester where they will be eager to put last week’s home defeat against Hinckley behind them but Chester can be a tough nut to crack on their own ground and Fylde will have to be at their best to avoid another defeat.
Hinckley v Scunthorpe sees 4th play 16th and if any game can be a home banker surely this must be one and probably by a very large margin. Loughborough Students v Otley is another game where the home side start as hot favourites and I can see that the Yorkshiremen may have to remain in the bottom three for at least another week.
Luctonians v Hull is a fixture between two sides within the six point difference mentioned above. Lucs have only won three of their home games so far this season whilst Hull have won four times on the road and also drawn one so they will travel to Luctonia full of confidence. Having said that, it will be a very tough game for both sides considering their league positions and anything could happen on the day, and probably will!!
A Yorkshire derby is in prospect at Dore Moor where Sheffield Tigers take on Huddersfield. Hudds lost very narrowly last week in another Yorkshire derby, and more to the point the Tigers will be looking to put their poor start to 2020 behind them. Should be a tense and close game up in the hills on Saturday. Stourbridge v Preston Grasshoppers sees 6thplay 15th and should be another home banker for Stour who ran amok against the bottom side last week-end. A much closer game should be seen up at Tynedale where Wharfedaleare the visitors in a 7th v 10th encounter and again, home advantage could prove decisive.
My three games to watch are Caldy v Sedgley Park, Luctonians v Hull and Sheffield Tigers v Huddersfield.
Wherever you are, enjoy your rugby.