DARLINGTON Mowden Park lost a pulsating game 13-5 at promotion rivals Stourbridge last Saturday and will be seeking maximum points from their remaining four games.
As they have the best points difference, they can still finish top of National Two North but will need to win the final match at home to leaders Macclesfield on April 26.
The four-try bonus point should not be a problem at home to Otley tomorrow, but then comes a tough trip to Luctonians followed by the game in hand away to Sheffield Tigers, who are battling against relegation.
In a hard-foughtencounter at Stourbridge the hosts deserved to win after dominating up front in the first half and defending well.
A crowd of almost 1,000 was thoroughly entertained as Stourbridge executed their plan of starving Mowden’s pacy backs of the ball, having learnt the lesson in a 38-8 defeat at The Northern Echo Arena.
Mowden spent most of the first half in their own territory and initially weren’t helped by prop Josh Bayford suffering a blow in the face. He soldiered on until the 23rd minute, but during the time he was struggling the visitors scored a pushover try.
The scrum was steadied when Bayford was replaced by Henry Sandys and Mowden had a chance to level when scrum half Zylon McGaffin broke at blistering speed. Had he noticed full back Henry Robinson in support a try would have resulted.
Stourbridge spurned several kickable opportunities for a kick to the corner, but aggressive defence kept them out.
They did add a penalty to lead 8-0 at half-time, but Mowden stepped up the pace on the resumption and, despite losing Talite Vaioleti to a harsh yellow card, they had hopes of victory when McGaffin forced his way over in the corner in the 55th minute following a series of pick and drives.
But they conceded two penalties in the next ten minutes, which the Stourbridge kicker easily landed to secure victory.
Darlington completed their home programme in Durham and Northumberland One by avenging their heavy defeat at Hartlepool Rovers with a 35-10 home win. They can still sneak into the play-off place if they win their final two games at Stockton tomorrow and Gateshead next week, but they also need Guisborough to slip up.
All five tries against Rovers were converted by Nick Baldwin, whose brother, Mark, scored the first to reward a strong start.
Centre Andy Pugh was a constant threat and he scored the next two on the way to a 21-5 interval lead.
Pugh’s fellow centre, Adam Gardner, and hooker Gary Beck scored the second-half tries.
Middlesbrough are back in trouble in North One East after losing 26-7 at Driffield while the bottom two pulled off shock away wins.
Sheffield continued their great escape with a 29-19 win at second-placed Huddersfield YMCA and are only two points behind Boro with two home games left. Boro are at home to champions Cleckheaton tomorrow then finish off at Alnwick.
Bishop Auckland were relegated after one season in Durham and Northumberland One when they lost 47-3 at leaders Horden.
Stockton still need a point to be sure of survival after losing 39-14 at Ponteland, where they conceded five tries while down to 14 men through yellow cards. Brian Thwaites and Phil Douglas scored Stockton’s tries, both converted by Jeremy Good.
Northallerton were outclassed by Yorkshire Three promotion chasers Leeds Medics and Dentists in their final home game of the season, losing 73-12.
Although they tried to keep the ball among the forwards, North had no answer to the speedy, classy student backs.
Even the introduction of experienced forwards Oliver Watts and Nic Bainbridge couldn’t stem the waves of Medics attacks, but the result didn’t detract from North’s improvement since last season.
One of their few high points was the return of Jake Aspin, who struck up a useful partnership with his brother Greg, both putting in some shuddering tackles.
Northallerton visit Bramley Phoenix tomorrow, while the seconds will be at Acklam, hoping to build on a 38-17 home win against Guisborough.
Prop Brian Jackson scored his first ever try, others coming from man-of-the-match Chris Macaneany (2), Ed Bulman (2) and Duncan Popejoy.
The thirds lost 36-12 at Thirsk, scoring tries through the ever-improving Ben England and Paul Hand. England, playing out of position at fly half, added a conversion.
Youngsters Jack Whittaker, Joe Greiff and Alistair Hugill continued to show promise.