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Darlington Mowden Park 40 Birmingham Solihull 10
IF Mowden do not achieve promotion to National One this season it will surely follow next year, unless some of their talented youngsters are lured elsewhere.
Among those likely to be attracting attention at a higher level is last year’s Barnard Castle School captain Guy Van Den Dries, who was remarkably effective on Saturday for one so young playing in the second row.
He began the season at No 8 but Mowden have such a glut of back row talent that he has been moved into the engine room, where his lack of beef might be expected to hinder him.
In fact, both Van Den Dries and fellow lock Chris Campbell compensate for any shortage of kilograms through sheer ability and commitment.
The same is true of Middlesbrough back row product Rory Duff, who was injured at the start of the season and seemed unlikely to force his way into the starting line-up.
Normally a flanker, he was again outstanding at No 8 and is now an automatic choice.
Behind the scrum, Zylon McGaffin zipped smartly into sniping mode with no hint of rust after his month’s sojourn in South Africa.
Only skipper Junior Fagalilo and prop Dan Miller are over 25 and ten of Saturday’s team were no more than 22.
With the benefit of experience most will thrive in National One and to get there they will probably have to beat Hull Ionians home and away then win a play-off against the National Two South runners-up.
The home match against Ionians has been re-scheduled for February 9, the week after Mowden will make their debut at The Northern Echo Arena against Bromsgrove.
They therefore have one match left at Yiewsley Drive, which they should again win in a canter against secondbottom Huddersfield in two weeks.
Birmingham - Solihull showed some enterprise of their own in a lively opening, but any hope they had of staying in the game vanished in ten minutes either side of half-time.
They conceded a penalty to go 15-3 down then their restart was kicked straight back to them and two players got in a tangle, allowing the ball to rebound to powerful winger Shaun McCartney. He romped 45 metres up the right touchline to score.
Shortly after the break the visitors had two men sinbinned in the space of a minute, resulting in two further tries and ending the game as a contest.
Mowden were able to give a few minutes of game time to such talented bench men as Max Connon, Tom Hodgson and Ben Simpson.
But such is their depth of talent they are struggling to create opportunities for 19- year-old lock Blair Rush, the son of former All Black Eric Rush.
Duff scored the first try from close range after flanker Luke Wishnowsky made a break supported by Van Den Dries, who also took a long pass from Grant Connon to send centre Cameron Mitchell in for the second.
McCartney’s try made it 20- 3 at half-time and the bonus point try came straight after the second yellow card. From halfway, the penalty was kicked high to the left corner, where winger Lewis Johnson gathered it to score.
McGaffin nipped over before Birmingham were restored to full strength and scored a catch-and-drive try.
Connon landed his second penalty before making way for Hodgson, who converted the sixth and final try, which was a fitting reward for full back Chris McTurk’s lively enterprise.