National 3 leaders Bury St Edmunds travel to East Grinstead, Sudbury can win title
- Credit: Andy Abbott
His side may be on the verge of winning promotion to National 2 but Gavin Hogg says today’s opponents, East Grinstead, will be feeling the most pressure.
Bury St Edmunds travel to West Sussex for a pivotal clash, knowing a bonus-point win will put them out of sight of their fourth-placed hosts, with three games to go.
Five points today will essentially set up a shoot-out with second-placed Barnes for the top two positions in the league, such is the West Suffolk club’s superior points difference over third-placed London Irish Wild Geese.
Bury still have to go to Barnes in a fortnight’s time but could secure a significant advantage in their pursuit of the title today, albeit against an East Grinstead side that have lost just one of 11 matches at home this season.
Elsewhere today, Barnes host fifth-placed Hertford, while the Wild Geese go to Tonbridge Juddians.
Only top spot will ensure automatic promotion with the league’s runners-up facing an end-of-season play-off game and Hogg is feeling relaxed ahead of the run-in.
“It’s a must-win game for East Grinstead, the pressure will be on them as they can’t afford to lose,” said Hogg, whose side lost the reverse fixture, 18-7, at the Haberden, in November.
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“It’s an important game for us but we can go there with the pressure off a little and hopefully play with a bit more freedom.
“We are trying to not look too far ahead, but today’s fixtures will shape the remainder of the season, with three or four teams in the mix, but they won’t define whether we finish first or second.”
While Hogg is hoping for an impressive display from his side today, the Irishman does appreciate that results are the most important things at this stage of the season.
“We played Tonbridge a couple of weeks ago (Bury won 36-14) but the standard of our performance was not the best,” recalled Hogg.
“We came away with the win though and no-one is going to remember the performances at the end of the season. However, if we do not play close to our best, it will be difficult. If we do, we will be very difficult to beat.”
Bury go into the game without injured scrum-half Simon Sexton for the second game running with New Zealand-born James Stevenson-Wright set to make his second first team start.
Elsewhere, Sudbury will secure the London 3 title with a victory at home to Beccles today.
The unbeaten league leaders, with 18 wins from 19, are already guaranteed a top-two position but will be playing London 2 rugby next season with four points today.
Graham Richards’ side will be looking to wrap things up today or next week with second-top West Norfolk set to visit the Suffolk side on the final day of the season.
In London 1, Colchester remain two points clear of Eton Manor in second, with the two teams set to play each other on April 18, the final day of the season, in Leyton.
Ipswich, in second-bottom position, are at home to Brentwood.
Leaders Chelmsford will wrap up a top-two spot with victory at home to Diss today in London 2 North.
In addition, with Diss in second spot, a win will virtually guarantee the title as the Essex side would be 10 points ahead of their nearest challengers with two games to go and a superior points difference.