Hodgson stakes claim for place

Darlington and Stockton Times: OVER YOU GO: Darlington’s Mark Baldwin scores a try, shielded by Joe Oselton OVER YOU GO: Darlington’s Mark Baldwin scores a try, shielded by Joe Oselton

AFTER Darlington beat Stockton 26- 10 in Saturday’s Durham and Northumberland One derby both clubs revealed they have voted against a reduction in the number of league games.

The RFU apparently favour divisions of 12 rather than 14 and votes had to be cast by today, but the indications were that the move would be heavily defeated.

By way of compensation, the RFU had offered two home games as part of a new cup competition, but after all the previous tinkering Saturday’s consensus was “why can’t they just leave things alone.”

The reorganisation would probably see six teams being relegated from D and One, putting Stockton in danger of slipping to an unprecedented level.

They have produced some fine players, including England lock Geoff Parling, who was due at the club last night for a question and answer session.

But they are struggling at the moment and there was no great merit in this victory for Darlington, who stayed in touch with the leaders but will probably need to improve both their execution and discipline if they are to go up.

They had plenty of quality in midfield with Adam Gardner posing a constant threat at fly half.

He had Alex Lineton and Andy Pugh outside him. But the latter suffered ankle ligament damage late in the game and will be out for some time, which will probably mean Gardner reverting to centre for tomorrow’s visit of Durham City.

Following four yellow cards in the previous week’s defeat at Hartlepool Rovers, Darlington received two more, starting with skipper Paul Shepherd after 15 minutes. They went 7-0 up while he was off, driving a maul almost to the line before a switch in midfield sent winger Tony Taylor over.

On his return Shepherd was penalised for not rolling away in the tackle and Jeremy Good’s sweet 40- metre strike made it 7-3. With Darlington butchering a couple of chances that’s how it stayed until half-time.

A jinking Gardner run set up the position for scrum half Mark Baldwin to nip over from a scrum and add his second conversion. Then No 8 Colin Rogers picked up from a dominant scrum and gave Baldwin the space to send full back Jack Tully over.

Stockton rallied with ten minutes left when they moved the ball right and winger Simon Crozier sidestepped two tackles to score.

Good’s conversion made it 19-10 but Darlington hit straight back with unstoppable momentum in a maul from 15 metres, prop Joe Hargreaves touching down.

Baldwin again converted and there was just time for him to be sinbinned, along with an opponent, for their part in the game’s only fracas.

Darlington Mowden Park scored three of their four first half tries from catch-and-drives, two of them finished by flanker Ollie Hodgson, in a 31-5 win at Otley.

Scrum half A J Smith also bagged a brace as Mowden maintained second place in National Two North ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Luctonians, from Herefordshire. The three casualties from the previous week could all be out for some time with flanker Liam Riley suffering ankle ligament damage, while Grant Connon and Henry Robinson have knee injuries.

Gavin Painter took over at fly half from Connon, whose brother, Max, deputised for Robinson at full back.

Hodgson, from Middlesbrough, has had few opportunities because of the glut of back row talent, but staked his claim for a regular place by scoring the first two tries in the 14th and 19th minutes.

Smith and No 8 Guy Van Den Dries had the four-try bonus point in the bag by halftime, Painter adding three conversions for a 26-0 lead.

Winger Tom Kill was injured early in the second half but the rout looked set to continue when Smith grabbed his second after 51 minutes.

Otley stuck at it, however, and with Mowden’s replacement lock Glen Young in the sin bin they scored their consolation try two minutes from time.

Middlesbrough saw a 10-5 lead after 30 minutes turn into a 45-10 defeat away to leaders North One East Cleckheaton, who scored at regular intervals once they began to run the ball.

A break by fly half Matthew Todd set up a tenth-minute try for winger Connor Foley, Todd adding the conversion and a penalty for Boro’s points. With the forwards holding their own, they trailed only 10-5 at the interval but conceded five tries afterwards.

Northallerton suffered an agonising 24-23 defeat at home to Burley, who are one place below them in mid-table in Yorkshire Three.

The first half was frenetic and entertaining as the teams shared five tries. Captain Dougie Mulholland scored for North before Burley equalised straight from the restart. A try by Joe Terry regained the lead before the visitors again responded with a converted try.

North started to dominate and were pushing the opposition backwards in the scrum, with prop James Baker impressing on his first team debut.

Just before half-time No 8 Martin Dennison touched down under the posts after a 15 metre rolling maul and Alec Porter’s conversion earned a 17-12 interval lead.

With the visitors growing stronger and bolder, North were under pressure for long periods, but in their brief forays into the Burley half they came away with two converted penalties to lead 23-12.

North then relaxed slightly to allow Burley back into the game with an easy try out wide. Three minutes from time Burley’s No 7 brushed aside four tacklers before offloading to his winger, who again scored out wide. With Burley needing the conversion to go ahead, their fly half produced the best kick of the day to seal the win.

Northallerton are at home to Old Modernians tomorrow, while the seconds visit Acklam hoping to continue their fine form after a 33-17 win at Stockton.

North’s tries came from new winger Adam Massey, powerful No 8 Iain Townsend, and two opportunistic tries for Gareth Essex. Fly half Brian Tucker capped a fine performance with two conversions, two penalties and a drop goal.

North’s man of the match was shared for the second week running between Chris Hustler and Chris Macaneany.

The thirds travelled to Middlesbrough with 12 players and put in a valiant effort before falling to a 48-7 defeat, North’s only try coming from flanker Ben England and converted by Paul Cuthbert.The thirds are at home to Hartlepool tomorrow.

With no league rugby this week, but wanting to keep the players together, Wensleydale went up a level and played North Ribblesdale seconds away.

However, despite Wensleydale competing well for all 80 minutes, North Ribblesdale were found to be more organised, bigger and more aggressive.

Age clearly told on this occasion but, losing 36-7 was by no means a disgrace. Dale look forward to another friendly this week but this time at home.

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