NEXT WEEK’S derby duel between Woodford and Chingford has taken on even greater significance after the Highams men closed the gap between themselves and their fierce rivals in London One North to just three points after a second victory on the bounce against Welwyn.

Woodford were made to work hard for their 8-5 triumph against the division’s whipping boys at the weekend, while Chingford’s promotion chances appeared to be dealt a fatal blow when they were dismantled by high-flying Westcliff, going down 36-3.

Woodford got off to the perfect start against Welwyn, Ben Lloyd taking three points from a penalty straight from the kick-off.

The hosts tried to impose themselves on the game but they were met by stubborn resistance. Eventually, the pressure from Woodford paid off when scrum-half Richard Barrett darted over from the base of the scrum for his debut try.

As half-time approached Welwyn brought themselves within striking distance with an unconverted try.

An even second period ensued, with attacks and possession largely shared by both sides, but there was to be no further score and Woodford held on for a win that hauls them closer to Chingford, whom they will take on at Waltham Way.

Phil Howell’s men will have to lift their game for that tie, as his side were not at the races on Saturday.

Westcliff proved too strong for the local side, who suffered their fourth successive league defeat.

The run has seen the team drop down into fifth place, seven points off leaders Staines, despite early results suggesting that they would mount a serious promotion bid this season.

Meanwhile, Eton Manor moved into eighth place with a narrow 9-3 victory over Brentwood. The win is the team’s fifth of the campaign and hopes will be high of a sixth when they make the trip to bottom side Welwyn next week.

Elsewhere, Wanstead were beaten 13-3 at home to third-placed Basildon in London Three North East at the weekend.

In Essex One, Bancroft remain hot on the heels of leaders Campion, following their sixth straight win.

The Bs made light work of Maldon, winning 19-5, as they stay six points adrift of top spot, with a vital clash against third-placed Clacton to come this weekend.

Ilford Wanderers were easily beaten by top dogs Campion, 20-0.

Loughton gained sweet revenge over Runwell Wyverns when they came out on top, having endured a 20-point defeat earlier in the season in Essex Two.

After falling behind to an early penalty, Loughton rallied and Scott Taylor bowled over the line for their first try. They were soon two tries to the good when Richard Stock completed an incisive scissor move. He later crossed over for his second score and Loughton were clear winners, 20-3.

Ongar were defeated 29-17 in an entertaining encounter with Kings Cross Steelers.