Stourbridge 7 Henley 17
By Howard Clews
Stourbridge were overpowered and overtaken in third place by Henley on a quagmire of a pitch from which loose water from the overnight deluge was still being forked away ten minutes before kick-off.
Facing a strong first-half wind and lacking the calm authority and direction of young fly half Sam Robinson, Stour's speedy backs had little chance to shine, with their forwards under pressure throughout from the far bigger visiting pack.
Robinson is beginning recuperation from both a fractured jaw and damaged knee ligaments. Explosive full back Matt Williams proved a capable makeshift deputy in difficult circumstances, doing little wrong, while James Lloyd-Jones made his debut at full back.
Unwilling or unable to make progress with ball in hand — the usual recipe against the elements — Stour were also guilty of some wayward kicking into the laps of their opponents and fell 14-0 behind by the half-hour as a direct result.
A stray free kick from defence by Alistair Bressington was run back by the visitors who went through five phases before left winger Chris Simmons split the defence from centre field.
The impressive Mitch Burton converted and also added the extra points when Lloyd-Jones was caught running from deep, penalised for hanging on and Liam Wordley, Henley's captain and a former Walsall and Pertemps Bees hooker, grounded the ensuing penalty lineout drive.
Stour failed to profit when Stean Williams, their own flanker last season, was in the sin bin for "professional offside", Bressington hitting a post with one 25-yard penalty, then missing another downwind.
However, a splendid 40-yard weaving break in the 52nd minute by Mark Eastwood ended with fellow centre Marcus Cook going over at short range for Stour's only try, which Bressington did improve.
Burton increased Henley's lead with a penalty before unfortunate Stour prop Adam Sturdy was sin-binned for a punch at a maul — he was wearing a scrum cap, the culprit was not — and the match ended in prolonged mud-wrestling on Henley's line.
Harrogate 7 Nuneaton 34
Nuneaton's five-try bonus-point victory in muddy conditions at the expense of hapless Harrogate, who lie rock bottom with just one win, has put them into relative mid-table comfort.
In a scrappy contest, Nuns went 14-0 up by the 23rd minute as Gareth Cull converted two catch-and-drive lineout tries by their flanker pairing of Alex Shaw and John Munro.
Left winger Lee Parry then raced down the touchline for his seventh try of the season, Cull made the interval lead 22-0 from a penalty and right winger Jody Peacock replicated Perry's pace to open the second-half scoring.
Harrogate's only point then came from a penalty try converted Nick Wainwright, when several Nuns players deliberately prevented release of quick ball from a ruck on the visitors' line.
Roles were reversed when Parry was denied his second try, taken out in the act of diving to touch down his own kick ahead, and Cull converted the penalty try.