AFTER a ten-minute cameo role in last Saturday’s 52-10 home win against Leicester Lions, Darlington Mowden Park coach Danny Brown is praying he won’t be needed again.
A shortage of props forced him into bench duties, but Henry Sandys is expected to be fit to resume in tomorrows crunch match at Stourbridge.
The other reserve prop, Ben Simpson, has a long-term knee injury.
A French prop signed last summer turned out to be short of the required quality so it’s an area Mowden are looking to strengthen for next season.
Former Tonga international Talite Vaioleti will lend his valuable experience to the pack tomorrow after a four-week lay-off since dislocating a shoulder.
Mowden are one point behind Stourbridge in third place but have a game in hand and victory would be a giant stride towards promotion.
Defeat would not necessarily end their hopes, but would almost certainly mean Mowden would have to win at home to leaders Macclesfield in the final match.
They were pleased with the timing on Saturday when centre Callum McKenzie was summoned from the pitch immediately after scoring the seventh try.
Someone was looking after his mobile phone on the touchline and when the call came that his wife had gone into labour, McKenzie made a swift exit. He is expected to be available tomorrow.
The biggest roar from the 720 fans watching the Leicester Lions match came when Brown almost scored in the final minute in his first appearance for two years.
Scrum half Zylon McGaffin broke on halfway and found Brown in support 15 metres from the line. With his legs pumping he was pulled down a metre short, but flanker Ollie Hodgson followed up to ensure the halfcentury was reached. With Henry Robinson back to his jinking best at full back and skipper Cameron Mitchell excelling in midfield, Mowden scored eight tries and fly half Max Connon converted six.
No 8 Guy Van Den Dries finished off a catch-and-drive after five minutes, then came 13 minutes of fluent rugby, which produced three tries and secured the bonus point.
The best was the second as the move started with Mitchell breaking from just outside his own 22. He evaded several tackles on a 40-metre run before moving the ball right to McGaffin, who found Chris McTurk with a long pass. The winger’s trademark chip and chase earned him the try.
For the third Connon broke from a ruck and passed inside to hooker Ross Doneghan, who side-stepped the full back to go under the posts.
It became 26-0 when lock Chris Campbell was on hand to finish a move begun on halfway by Robinson.
The Lions won the middle third of the match 5-0 before Mowden scored three times in eight minutes. Robinson romped over after taking an inside pass from McTurk, who was put away by an excellent pass from Connon.
Then the fly half made a cheeky break and was tackled after chipping to the line, resulting in a penalty try.
McKenzie stormed through for his try before the visitors scored again and finally came Brown’s brush with glory, leading to Hodgson’s try just before the final whistle.
Darlington are still not out of the race for the promotion play-off spot in Durham and Northumberland One after a 30-27 win at Novos took them into third place.
With three games left they entertain old foes Hartlepool Rovers tomorrow, looking to avenge a heavy away defeat.
Darlington trailed 15-0 at Novos and sealed the victory when Nick Baldwin landed his second penalty with the last kick of the match.
Centre Adam Gardner led the fightback with two tries, while prop Dan Miller and full back Alex Lineton also touched down. Baldwin added two conversions.
Middlesbrough are looking safe in North One East after a 22-9 home win against Rochdale. They defended heroically for the first 25 minutes then turned the tide with three tries before half-time.
Winger Michael Thornburn scored in the corner, then centre Richard Metcalfe put in a bullocking run before exchanging passes and charging over.
Just before half-time a shuddering tackle by Rob Bellerby saw the ball run loose and it was kicked on for winger Rhys Kilbride to score.
Rochdale’s third penalty after 60 minutes made it 15-9, but Boro quickly replied when fly half Simon O’Farrell broke through to score under the posts and add the only conversion.
Stockton had almost 150 guests at a reunions lunch but lost 26-22 at home to Hartlepool Rovers, despite the return of Phil Douglas and Martin Dixon after lengthy absences.
Tries by Dan Phinn, skipper Steve Taylor and full back Dan Wilson helped Stockton into an 11-point lead, but Rovers came back strongly.
Northallerton again fielded three full teams with substitutes and the firsts enjoyed a 38-6 win at Aireborough.
A couple of last-minute cryoffs forced the call-up of two second team players, but they proved their worth as North dominated up front with five of the six tries being credited to the larger and surprisingly agile pack.
The only backs try came from 17-year-old Jedd Bainbridge, his first senior try, and he added four conversions.
Lee Peake scored his first hat-trick, which included a 20-metre dash finished off with an audacious dummy.
Martin Dennison also touched down and a penalty try was awarded when Aireborough collapsed a scrum.
Skipper Dougie Mulholland did an excellent job standing in at fly half for the injured Joe Terry, but Peake earned his first man of the match award.
Northallerton entertain Leeds Medics and Dentists tomorrow, while the seconds visit Guisborough after avenging a heavy away defeat by Billingham thirds with a 40-5 victory.
Billingham had only 13 men, so North loaned them a player and the visitors were in contention for most of the first half, despite tries from Andy Ryder, Adam Massey and Jack Radcliffe, all converted by Andrew Fishburn.
Chris Hustler and Edward Pratt both defied their advancing years impressively for North, while the visitors lost three players to injury in the second half. North loaned them two more and added three more tries through Ian Macloud, Tom Rennison and Massey. Fishburn landed two more conversions and man of the match was awarded to Andy Clarke.
The thirds lost 43-21 at Horden, the points coming from tries by Joe Grief (2) and Charlie Turner, who converted all three.