11:41am Monday 3rd March 2014
By Tim Wellock
MOWDEN had to dredge the depths of their resolve to tame the Tigers and stay on course for promotion from National Two North.
The Manchester-based visitors, one place below their hosts at the start, proved to be the best team to visit The Northern Echo Arena this season and were the better side for long periods of an absorbing contest.
They were threatening to stretch a 13-10 lead until they missed a penalty midway through the second half and when it came to the crunch Mowden had the greater will to win.
The victory, in front of a 740 crowd, took them back into second place as title rivals Stourbridge and Macclesfield drew 26-26.
Feeding on scraps, Mowden’s normally fluent backs found their space closed down and the forwards fell back on the driving maul to set up the winning try.
After kicking a penalty to touch they advanced 20 metres and battered at the line until replacement scrum half Zylon McGaffin nipped over.
He was sent on five minutes before half-time and succeeded in injecting some zip, although it still proved difficult to break down the Tigers’ defence.
Flanker Rory Duff also made a difference when sent on ten minutes after the break, but this was his final appearance before leaving to play and work in Australia.
Full back Henry Robinson went on at the same time for his first appearance for three months and there was also some welcome impact in the last 15 minutes from prop Josh Bayford.
The man he replaced, Henry Sandys, tackled well and carried powerfully, but Bayford made a crucial difference in the scrums.
It proved to be the end of the Tigers’ threat when they had an attacking scrum on the 22 and were driven off the ball.
Mowden surged up to the other end and impressively dominated the last five minutes, when stern defence was needed to keep them out.
Against a side with some stocky citizens up front and pace behind, Mowden were under pressure from the outset and it took a 40-metre run by scrum half A J Smith, from a quickly-taken penalty, to get them on the front foot.
He was rarely able to get any quick ball to the backs, however, other than when fly half Max Connon made a break from a scrum 40 metres out and sent Cameron Mitchell under the posts.
Connon converted, but Sedgley hit straight back when they exploited Mowden’s lack of cover on the right with a speedy attack from halfway.
Quick recycling near the line allowed a centre to go under the posts.
The conversion was followed by a penalty to put the visitors ahead and little was going right for Mowden until Connon kicked a 30-metre penalty to level the scores just before half-time.
But they then made a hash of collecting the restart and conceded a penalty, which was landed to give the visitors a 13-10 interval lead.
Sedgley were again on top at the start of the second half, when a catch-and-drive was stopped just short and Connon secured a crucial turnover.
That typified Mowden’s will to win because every time Sedgley got close the hosts found a way to keep them out, with back row men Jack Allcock, Guy Van Den Dries and Talite Vaioleti well to the fore.
That trio will need to stay fit with Duff gone and Liam Riley out for the season.
There are seven games left and this week’s is another tough one at Chester. Saturday’s hard-earned win should stand Mowden in good stead as it got a three-week lay-off firmly out of the system.
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