MIDDLESBROUGH need to win their final match at Alnwick, who are four points ahead of them, to survive in North One East after battling to a 19-19 draw at home to champions Cleckheaton.
The latest win in Sheffield’s remarkable run took them a point ahead of Boro and they can be expected to win their last game at home to Pocklington.
So it looks like Boro or Alnwick, who must have felt they were safe on 50 points, to join Morpeth and Malton and Norton in the drop.
With the wind behind them in a hard-fought contest at Acklam Park, Boro led 19-0 after 30 minutes but Cleckheaton cut the gap to 19-12 at half-time. They drew level by converting their second-half try from the touchline with 20 minutes left, but spurned a kickable penalty in the closing stages by going for the corner.
Boro went ahead after five minutes, when quick hands allowed Rob Bellerby to nip over and 20 minutes later Michael Thornburn came off his wing to score.
Simon O’Farrell converted both and Boro were firmly in command when hooker Ashley Kearney forced his way over in the corner. But they ended up having to repeat their excellent defence of the last few weeks.
The relegation battle in National One also produced a draw at Tynedale, who needed an injury-time try from scrum half Greg Illingworth to make it 24-24 against Cinderford.
The visitors led 19-0 after 30 minutes before Tynedale fought back to earn three points with the four-try bonus. Two more points for the win would have clinched safety, but if they lose at Richmond this week the odds are they will have to win the final match at home to Henley.
The first of Kiwi flanker Dan Temm’s two tries began Tynedale’s revival just before half-time and winger Dan Rundle got the second early in the second half before the visiting pack drove over again.
Gavin Beasley converted Temm’s second but was unable to add the winning points when Illingworth crossed.
Blaydon remain fifth after a third successive win, making light of the trek to Worthing with a 32-24 victory, despite receiving four yellow cards from a young referee.
One of them went to winger Sean Brown for a deliberate knock-on when attempting an interception and in the last five minutes Blaydon were down to 12 men but still pushed their hosts off the ball in a scrum.
After conceding an early try they hit the hosts with three tries between the 12th and 25th minutes from lock Chris Wearmouth, flanker Harry Bate and Brown.
Replacements Tom Bramwell and Andy Davies scored in the second half, while Andrew Baggett added a penalty and two conversions.
Billingham gave themselves a lifeline in National Three North when they won 17-10 at Burnage to leave Percy Park in the third relegation spot.
Billingham have a tough final match at home to titlechasing Huddersfield, who Percy Park also have to play after visiting Waterloo this week.
Tries by Danny Dixon and Peter Evans, who converted both, gave Billingham a 14-7 interval lead and Evans added a second half penalty.
West Hartlepool confirmed they will finish third in North One East when they drew 13-13 at Old Crossleyans. Stu Waites kicked two penalties and converted a try by No 8 Sam Miller for a 13-6 lead, but the hosts drew level with a last-minute try.
Despite winning 18-17 at home to second-placed Guisborough, Consett need to beat Horden then win their two games in hand with full points to clinch the play-off place.
That’s assuming Guisborough take maximum points from their final match at home to struggling Novos this week, which would prevent third-placed Darlington from overhauling them.
Guisborough’s losing bonus point at Consett proved crucial as Darlington’s five from a 29-26 win at Stockton took them level on points. But they have fewer wins and an inferior points difference.
The one point Stockton gained made sure of their safety, despite Ponteland’s shock 30-25 win at Blyth. Ponteland could now overhaul Novos by recording a third successive win at home to Bishop Auckland.
Stockton full back Jeremy Good kicked two penalties and converted flanker Martin Dixon’s try for a 13-0 lead before Darlington hit back with two tries before half-time.
Following a third Good penalty, Darlington ran in three more tries to lead 29-16 before Stockton showed great spirit in replying through winger Joel Simpson and lock Steve Taylor.
Adam Gardner and Tom Wilkinson scored two tries each for Darlington and winger Jonny Hall also crossed. Nick Baldwin added two conversions. Their last match is at Gateshead.
Man of the match was awarded to Stockton’s replacement prop Maurice Douthwaite 25 years after helping Durham beat Cornwall at Twickenham in the County Championship final.