DARLINGTON Mowden Park beat Otley 37-24 as the three promotion candidates in National Two North all picked up five points.
As they prepare for the trek to Herefordshire, Mowden will now hope that tomorrow’s hosts, Luctonians, provide as little resistance as they did in losing 59-5 away to leaders Macclesfield on Saturday.
Then Mowden play their game in hand away to Sheffield Tigers, who could be relegated by then after they too lost heavily on Saturday. Finally comes the crunch at home to Macclesfield on April 26.
Otley refused to lie down after a 50- minute delay for a neck injury to their fly half Ben Fairclough. It took 40 minutes for an ambulance to reach The Northern Echo Arena and a further ten to load him on board because of the necessary precautions.
The injury turned out not to be as serious as feared and he was released from hospital that evening.
On the resumption, Otley had two men sin-binned before conceding a try to go 19-7 down, but they hit straight back with a well-worked try and were still in the game at 31-24 with 15 minutes left.
Mowden had cause for concern with A J Smith in the sin bin for a dangerous tackle and prop Josh Bayford having retired after a blow in the face for the second successive week.
He was replaced by Richmond youngster Charlie Purkiss-McEndoo, who made his comeback in the second team only two weeks ago following a horrific ankle injury in pre-season.
With replacement hooker Ross White also on the field, Mowden took two crucial scrums against the head and earned a penalty from another dominant shove as they showed steely resolve in closing out Otley in the last ten minutes.
Mowden had the four-try bonus point in the bag before half-time and led 24-12, but went on to concede four tries for the first time since the opening day defeat at Macclesfield. Man of the match was lock Talite Vaioleti, who forced his way over for the first try after two catch-and-drive attempts.
Otley quickly levelled and it took until the 24th minute for Mowden to regain the lead when a long pass from Henry Robinson gave skipper Cameron Mitchell the chance to show his class.
Max Connon added his second conversion from wide on the left prior to the delay.
On the resumption another line-out drive was finished by flanker Will McCauley but again Otley replied immediately before Vaioleti broke from a ruck and sent Bayford over for the fourth try.
The visitors had the gap down to five points six minutes after half-time through a converted try, but Mowden hit back when Lewis Johnston came off the wing on an angled run to take a pass 25 metres out and scythe through the middle to score.
But after Smith’s yellow card Otley again responded and with the gap only seven points Mowden took the sensible option of kicking for goal, Connon landing two penalties in the last ten minutes.
Darlington go into their final match at Gateshead tomorrow level on points with Guisborough in second place in Durham and Northumberland One. But Guisborough can be expected to claim maximum points at home to struggling Novos and they have more wins and a better points difference.
Darlington won 29-26 at Stockton, for whom the losing bonus point was welcome as it made sure of their safety.
Stockton full back Jeremy Good kicked two penalties and converted flanker Martin Dixon’s try for a 13-0 lead before Darlington hit back with two tries before half-time.
Centre Adam Gardner scored them both following good breaks by Sam Hardy.
Following a third Good penalty, Darlington ran in three more tries to lead 29-16 before Stockton showed great spirit in replying through winger Joel Simpson and lock Steve Taylor. No 8 Tom Wilkinson scored twice for Darlington and winger Jonny Hall also touched down.
Nick Baldwin kicked two conversions after switching to scrum half when his brother Mark departed with an ankle injury after five minutes.
Man of the match was awarded to Stockton’s replacement prop Maurice Douthwaite 25 years after helping Durham beat Cornwall at Twickenham in the County Championship final.
Middlesbrough need to win their final match tomorrow at Alnwick, who are four points ahead of them, to survive in North One East after battling to a 19-19 draw at home to champions Cleckheaton.