By Brian Lowe, Date: 1/7/12

Two teams have started to make a break from the pack, while a third is still in contention at the midway point of the 2012 American National Rugby League Atlantic Conference season.

Round 5 winners included the New York Knights, Pennsylvania Bulls and Northern Raiders. The results saw the Knights remain on top of the standings with the Bulls leapfrogging the Connecticut Wildcats into second place and the Raiders taking a firmer grip on the four spot.

The Game of the Week saw the high-flying PA Bulls continue their hot streak with a high-scoring 52-30 victory Saturday over rivals the Bucks County Sharks. It was the Bulls’ fourth straight W.

The Sharks were very much in touch at the end of the first quarter trailing just 10-8, but from then on the home team made every post a winner to eventually outscore the visitors by 10 tries to six.

Getting on the board for the Bulls were captain Bryan Confer (2), Kevin Wiggins (2), Kyle Barger (2), USA Tomahawk Andrew Kneisly, Nick McBride, Alejandro Valentin and Mike Brazill. Extras were added by John Grace (4), Kneisly and Ben Hopson.

Bucks County got a bonus point for tries by Zac Padgett (2), Justin Zadnik, Dean Schofield, Brian McCall and Steve Thompson. Thompson also converted two of the scores with Phil Shipos booting another.

In a battle for first place, the New York Knights overcame an early deficit to beat the Wildcats 42-28 in a seesaw battle Friday evening at The Castle in Manhattan.

The game started in typical fashion between these two adversaries with both teams’ defensive efforts leading the charge. It looked like it was going to be a long night with both teams completing their sets of six until the Wildcats struck first with a try by USA Tomahawk prop Salesi Tongamoa. Gaining confidence, the Cats continued their domination of the first quarter and another quick converted try by Mike Goward, who scored a hat-trick, saw them push the scoreline out to 10-0.

The Knights started the second quarter a bit flat footed, but then started to show their form with a try by Andrew Moody. They went on to control the second quarter scoring three more tries by Gareth Baxendale, Todd Fisher and dual code US international Luke Hume. The Wildcats answered with another try by Goward, but the Knights hung on for a 22-14 halftime lead.

The third quarter started better for New York, who settled in with a score by Tomahawk Ian Elliott. Fisher and Hume both scored their second tries of the evening to increase the Knights’ buffer. The Wildcats stayed in touch when Mike Schacter got their fourth try of the game to earn a bonus point, but their enthusiasm was cut short when the Knights scored again through Chris Ward just before the end of the third quarter.

Leading 42-18, the Knights thought they could hold their line intact for the remainder of the game when, out of nowhere, the Cats scored two quick tries by Goward and Luke Barrow to close the gap to 42-28. Mike Mulvihill converted two of Connecticut’s six tries. Notwithstanding their efforts, however, it was a little too late as the Knights cruised to victory as the final whistle blew a few moments later.

“This was a big game for the boys tonight!” said Knights coach Guill Cieutat. “We could have very easily just given up during the first half, but we continued to trust the system and execute our game plan.”

Knights president Rob Balachandran added; “It was great to see the Wildcats back in NYC. They have always been one of our toughest opponents, and Curtis [Cunz] is doing a great job with the club. I’m just glad that we made it out of The Castle with a win tonight.”

The Knights will take a week off and prepare to face the Raiders at home in two weeks.

In the other Round 5 matchup, the Northern Raiders crushed the expansion team Northern Virginia (NOVA) Eagles 86-12. Eleven tries by the home team completed the point-scoring avalanche.

Earning their fourth bonus point in five weeks, Raiders try-scorers included Mick Esdale (2), Oliver Moorehouse, Matt Reilly, Jon Walton, Adam Wendland, Michael Klostermann and Josh Vescio. Skipper Joel Venables went

10-for-11 on conversions, while the Australian Esdale added to his personal tally with three extra pointers.

Atlantic Conference standings:

New York Knights (4-1) 22pts

Pennsylvania Bulls (4-1) 21pts

Connecticut Wildcats (3-2) 18pts

Northern Raiders (2-3) 12pts

Bucks County Sharks (1-3) 7pts

Northern Virginia Eagles (0-4) 1pt