Nuns keeping it tight at the top.
NUNEATON cantered to a 32-0 victory against bottom club Bedford Athletic to move within a point of Broadstreet at the sharp end of the National Three Midlands table.
And although they were only able to convert one of their six tries - Joe Wilson adding the extras to his own touchdown between the posts - they now boast a marginally superior points difference to their neighbours who they meet in a potential title decider at Liberty Way on March 8. Nuns defied the miserable conditions to bank their bonus inside half an hour courtesy of Jody Peacock, Elliott Brown, Wilson and Sam Gibbons - the latter rounding off a move that started on the half-way line.
With the wind at their backs in the second period, Nuns quickly claimed their fifth when Todd Bullions got the final touch to a pack pushover.
And although they found it difficult to maintain that impetus for the rest of the game another concerted drive gave Huw Thomas the opportunity to launch a move that enabled Peacock to dash through for his second.
Barkers' Butts gave themselves some breathing space at the bottom of Midlands One West when they clipped Market Bosworth 16-10.
The home side's buccaneering start was rewarded with an early converted try, but Jack Howland steadied the Barkers ship with a finely-judged penalty and added the conversion after Tom Stokes had sliced his way through to make it 10-7 at the interval.
Bosworth levelled with a penalty but Barkers nudged ahead via a pushover try and showed admirable discipline to see out the final quarter despite their hosts' frantic attempts to pull level.
Flankers Jack Boland and Callum Lines were particularly impressive, Glen Southwell joined brother Carl to add invaluable experience to the pack for the closing minutes and half-backs Howland and Charlie Mumford remained impeccably calm under pressure.
Old Laurentians shrugged off the disappointment of the previous week's defeat against Stratford to tame Walsall 32-19 on the back of an excellent pack performance.
It took them some time to impose that authority, an early Dan O'Brien penalty eclipsed by Jamie Hickman's try, and although wingers Troy Owen and Lee Hersey logged tries the visitors trimmed the half-time deficit to 13-12 when No.8 Connor McGuirk rounded off a lineout drive.
It remained highly competitive after the break, James Orbinson snapping up a splendidly converted try as OLs in turn made full use of clean lineout possession only for Walsall to reduce the deficit to a single point once more as full back Chris Mould produced an 80m interception try.
Laurentians didn't wilt, however, Iain Wallis and Ben Shepherd carving out the bonus-point try for Jon Bean before Liam Deery added a richlydeserved try by bustling over from another lineout and O'Brien slotted home the conversion.
Newbold on Avon face their biggest challenge for over a decade this weekend when they take on Leek in the semi-final of the Midlands Intermediate Cup at Parkfield Road looking for the win that would leave them two ties shy of a day trip to Twickenham.
And they sharpened up with a 53-3 league victory at Leicester Forest, hooker Darren Dean's early swoop setting the stage for a nine-try romp. It was 29-3 at the interval, Danny Facer, Danny Treharne (2) and Glenn Bond adding tries while Joss Andrews flighted home a brace of conversions.
Bold soaked up a spell of sustained home pressure at the start of the second period, regaining total control when a classic counter-attack saw Phil Reed dart through.
And they rammed home their superiority with three more tries in the closing stages - Sean Pollard's sprint down the wing followed up by Phil Reed's solo special before a multi-handed power play set up Facer's second.
Leamington's promotion push faltered when they went down 18-0 at Banbury, all the scoring compressed into the second half as they slithered to their first defeat in ten matches.
Spa more than held their own in the opening period, Patch Northover's canny chip almost opening the door for Ryan Byrne and Tom Daplyn halted just short of the line after an expertly engineered attack while winger Jamie Harrison produced a try-saving tackle at the other end. But it was Banbury who finally made the breakthrough with an Alex Fogavini penalty and the fly-half then upgraded Andy Ell's try to give them a cushion.
Leamington battled bravely but struggled to make headway against a pack much improved from their trip to Moorefields - Fogavini popping over another penalty before skipper Eddie Phillips wrapped it up with a late try.
Old Coventrians made it three wins on the spin when they eased home 10-7 at Old Leamingtonians.
It was a memorable milestone for the Soesan clan as brothers Jordan (prop), Nathan (second row), Danny (wing forward) and Josh (wing) lined up at the start. And after the Coventry men had absorbed some heavy home pressure Danny who launched the move that produced a lineout, a maul and, finally, an Aaron Croft try converted by Alex Telfer.
OLs piled forward to force a succession of penalties, finally catching their rivals flat-footed with scrum-half Toby Lord's tap-and-go touchdown converted by Angus Rose.
But their policy of running penalties backfired as an equally competitive second half yielded just one all-important score, Telfer slotting home after Croft's run had forced the infringement.
The visitors defended that slender advantage with admirable tenacity but OLs were more than a touch aggrieved at the end, the Bericote Road clockwatchers claiming that the referee blew up seven minutes short of the allotted 80 let alone adding any stoppage time.
Rugby Saint Andrews paid the price for a disjointed first-half display as they were seen off 17-6 by Stockwood Park.
Drained by a depressing run of injuries, Saints' patched-up side featured three teenagers and two debutants - winger Jacob Seal filling both categories very impressively - and they found themselves on the back foot when Park snapped up the opening try inside three minutes.
Jamie Clynes's drop goal and Ryan Taylor's penalty made it 12-6 at the interval, Saints miffed by what they claimed was a brazen knock-on in the build-up to Park's second try.
And that sense of injustice was sharpened by a decisive sequence of events early in the second period - Fraser Caithness dismissed for retaliating after what Saints insisted was an unspotted stamping and the subsequent penalty producing a try even though they felt that the ball-carrier had been held up shy of the line.
The sense of righteous indignation fuelled Saints' best spell of the game but Kallum Goodfellow and Jason Warren were halted inches from the line and the game petered out in totally unsatisfactory fashion after both Stockwood props were ordered off for throwing punches.
Southam couldn't reproduce the splendid effort that ran leaders Old Yardleians so close the previous week and duly suffered a 24-18 home reverse against Pershore . The Worcestershire side's pack power did the damage, building up a 19-7 interval lead as tries by Ashley White, Matt Cyphus and Alex Peel swamped a Pete Burnell effort converted by Will Grindal.
Although Grindal's penalty provided encouragement at the start of the second half, a period of heavy Pershore pressure produced a further try for Martin Hope But Southam responded with impressive spirit, Dan Kimberly's lineout claim giving Sam Bench the opportunity to demonstrate his pace before Grindal smacked home a 40m penalty in the dying seconds to salvage their bonus point.
Pinley retained pole position when they eased to a 12-3 verdict at Shipston On Stour.
It was the home club's VPs shindig but any prospects of a spectacle to match the occasion were sabotaged by a pitch that was barely playable despite copious quantities of sand and sawdust.
Kicking down the hill, Shipston penned Pinley back but could only manage a lone penalty that was swiftly negated when No. 8 James Gair broke from the back of the scrum and lock Leigh Bell took over to claim the try.
With the wind and slope in their favour, Pinley poured forward after the break, crossing the line eight times only to be denied. And although the pressure finally paid off when centre Leighton Clarke teed up winger Jamie Breweton for a try converted by Wayne Lester, they missed out on a bonus that could have stretched their one-point lead on Yardleians who have a game in hand.
Manor Park logged their fifth defeat in six matches when they were foiled 15-10 at Kings Norton.
Inspired by No.8 Ben Boyce, the Birmingham men produced the direct display required in the conditions but having suffered a double setback five minutes before the interval when they conceded the opening try and lost prop Craig Ison to the sin-bin, Park finished the half with a 10-5 advantage as Gaz Hammond was sent over by Chris Goode's tap-penalty break and Lewis Brightmore followed up his conversion with a penalty.
Kings had the wind behind them in the second period and it was a prodigious 60m clearance by their fly-half that paved the way for a lineout drive and a converted try. And despite the efforts of Cameron Forryan, Dave Hickey, and Aaron Willis Park couldn't conjure up a score before Norton helped themselves to a late penalty.
Alcester remain in dangerous waters after being pegged back to a 12-12 draw by Coventry Welsh.
The King's Coughton men seemed on course for their third home win of the season when they came from behind to secure a 12-5 interval lead, Ben Hope snatching the equaliser before flanker Jimmy Watson marked his return to action from a three-year gap and fly half Tom Alder fired home a superb conversion.
But after a nip-and-tuck second half it was Welsh who pounced in the final minute and they, too, added the conversion under intense pressure to claim their share of the spoils.
Claverdon slugged their way to an 18-15 decision at Barton-Under-Needwood, They trailed 10-8 at the interval despite a Jim Williams penalty and a Charlie Byrd try created by Andrew Wenborn's determination although it could have been worse as they were reduced to 14 men when centre Seru Rokotuiloma was singled out for yellow-card penance after a bust-up that involved almost every player on the field.
Matters did deteriorate when Barton bagged a second try and the Lions were again left short-handed by second row Scott Conduit's stint in the sin-bin.
But a Williams penalty trimmed the deficit to four points and Claverdon settled it six minutes from time as Tom Johnson's thrilling break allowed Seru to cross between the posts and present Williams with the simplest of conversions. ??Rugby Lions warmed up for their Vase semi-final against Cleethorpes by demolishing Birmingham Exiles 67-0 to make it 12 consecutive victories in Midlands Five West (South).
Jamie Whiteside and Ben Husthwaite spearheaded the rout with hat-tricks of tries for the Lions, who now require just one more bonus-point win from their final four fixtures to rubber-stamp their inevitable title triumph.
Wellesbourne saw off Rugby Welsh 26-20 at Tiddington, tries by Mark and Joe Aston, Sam James and Rob Wilson earning the bonus point while Will Cox helped himself to three conversions.
Elliott Brown adds a try to the Nuneaton tally.
Jody Peacock, whose two tries bookended Nuneaton's latest league victory, makes life difficult for the Bedford Athletic defence. Left, Luke Macklin heads for a gap. PICTURES: ROBIN BIDGOOD