Much to play for as NCL regular season comes to a climax

SEVERAL issues will be resolved on Saturday, when regular fixtures in the National Conference’s 2022 season come to a close.

West Hull sealed the Premier Division’s League Leaders’ Shield some time ago, and the identity of the top six ahead of the Grand Final play-offs is already determined, but Lock Lane will go second, ahead of Hunslet Club Parkside, if they can win at Wests, and if Hunslet lose at Wath Brow Hornets. At the other end of the section York Acorn will avoid relegation if they can beat visitors Pilkington Recs, who will go down instead. However, Rochdale Mayfield could, mathematically at least, slip through the trapdoor. Mayfield, who are at home to reigning champions Thatto Heath, would be relegated on points’ difference if they and Pilks both lose – but only if their losing margin is 33 points greater than the Recs’.

The Division One title depends on the outcome of the fixture between Wigan St Patricks and Hull Dockers. The Dockers will leapfrog Kells, who closed their regular season on Saturday with victory at Saddleworth, if they win or draw at Wigan St Patricks. Both Kells and the Dockers, though, are assured of promotion while Pats will be keen to prevail in the hope of going above Ince Rose Bridge in the battle for third spot ahead of the promotion play-offs (which will involve the sides finishing third to sixth); an ambition that West Bowling also harbour. The Bridge are at Featherstone Lions, who have fetched up in the `no man’s land’ between the play-off berths and the relegation zone, while Myton are already condemned to the drop, alongside Saddleworth and Milford.

The identity of the last team to be involved in the play-offs will be resolved on Saturday, with sixth-placed Skirlaugh visiting Stanningley, who will go ahead of the Hull outfit if they prevail. Division Two champions Heworth, together with Crosfields, are already promoted as the top two. Barrow Island, Normanton Knights and Clock Face Miners are certain of being in the play-offs, although in quite what order depends on their results against, respectively, Wigan St Judes, Crosfields and Dewsbury Celtic. Woolston are in the coveted sixth spot but will relinquish it to Celtic if they lose at home to Dewsbury Moor – and if Celtic topple Clock Face. At the other end of the scale, meanwhile, the bottom three of Beverley, Hunslet Warriors and Bradford Dudley Hill has already been established, although the Warriors last week withdrew from the competition. Fourth-from-bottom Judes are some way clear of the doomed trio.

The Division Three title chase has, a touch unexpectedly, gone right down to the wire. East Leeds, who were well clear of the chasing pack a few weeks ago, will snare the silverware if they beat visitors Millom. But should they lose to the Woolybacks (and should second-placed Waterhead win at Bentley by enough to make up on an inferior points’ deficit of 21) then the Warriors will close in pole position.

Both, however, are certain of promotion. The teams due to take part in the play-offs are Seaton Rangers, Oldham St Annes – who will go above Rangers, who have completed their programme, if they can account for bottom side Eastmoor – and Shaw Cross, together with either Bentley or Leigh East; East will leapfrog the south Yorkshire side if they win at Shaw Cross, and if Bentley lose to Waterhead.

Hensingham and Eastmoor are certain to finish in the bottom two. Whether the Hens will have to seek re-election, given that third-from-bottom Batley Boys withdrew from the NCL some time ago, is a moot point.