12:40am Saturday 5th April 2014
By Tim Wellock
FIVE points are essential for Darlington Mowden Park at home to Otley today if they are to stay in the frame for promotion from National Two North.
But they are expecting stern resistance from a club who are used to operating at a higher level and for whom further relegation is unthinkable.
Having had five points deducted for fielding an unregistered player, Otley are fourth from the bottom, ten ahead of Sheffield Tigers, who have a game in hand.
While going flat out for the four-try bonus point, Mowden will have to maintain their discipline as Otley's goal-kicker, Mark Ireland, has amassed 231 points, and is easily the league's top penalty taker with 49.
Otley lost 19-17 at home last week to Luctonians, the team Mowden have to visit next week. The Herefordshire side visit leaders Macclesfield today, while second-placed Stourbridge are at Hull.
"The top two have to match us game for game and the first to mess up will be out of it," said Mowden coach Danny Brown, who will not be required for bench duties, despite Josh Bayford suffering an off-the-ball facial injury last week.
"He'll be fine and Henry Sandys is also OK," said Brown. "Talite Vaioleti will play because he's keen to make an impact in the last four games. Will McCauley is also available for the rest of the season."
Tom Kill and Lewis Johnston will be on the wings as Chris McTurk has a hamstring injury but should be fit next week, Tynedale also expect today's visitors to be fighting for their lives as Cinderford occupy the third relegation spot in National One, six points behind their hosts but with two games in hand.
Tynedale chairman of rugby John Shotton said: "Other results would have to go our way, but if we can claim maximum points that should be enough to ensure safety. But we know it won't be easy.
After winning three of their first 15 fixtures, Tynedale have only lost three times in the last 11, two of those defeats coming against the top two teams. They will be without ten-try winger Sep Visser, who is at a wedding, but Matty Outson returns after injury.
With not everyone able to get away at the same time, Blaydon have hired five people carriers for the nightmare trip to Worthing. There is no flight to Gatwick and three club officials are flying via Southampton, then catching a train.
Skipper Keith Laughlin returns after his hand operation and coach Micky Ward also plans to play after a month's absence with a back problem.
Billingham need a win away to mid-table Burnage if they are to have any chance of avoiding relegation in National Three North.
The Stockport-based hosts won by one point at Billingham, whose narrow defeat by Bradford and Bingley last week left them perilously placed.
Hooker Steve Smith has not recovered from the injury he suffered in stretching over for a try, so Kyle Scott switches from prop. Elliott Husband moves from wing to full back in the absence of Luke Wilson.
Percy Park, the team Billingham are looking to overhaul, are at home to leaders Stockport.
Another Teesside team battling against relegation, Middlesbrough, entertain North One East champions Cleckheaton, hoping the visitors will be in relaxed mood after securing the title.
Defeat would almost certainly see Boro overtaken by Sheffield, whose recent form should be enough to account for visitors Rochdale, who have nothing to play for.
Boro are without prop Richard Lonsdale, so Josh Lynas comes in, while Jack Pierce partners Phil Harland in the second row and Richard Metcalfe returns at centre.
Dan Boatman returns for West Hartlepool at Old Crossleyans but will be in the second row in place of the unavailable Michael Hogan.
Horden should secure the Durham and Northumberland One title by winning at Gosforth, but the greatest interest will surround the Consett v Guisborough match in the battle for second place.
Clubhouse work at Belle Vue has seen the match switched to Tynedale, where Consett will defend a nine-match winning run. Their last defeat was at Guisborough in December, when they lost 36-20.
Stockton host third-placed Darlington, who won the clubs' previous meeting at Blackwell Meadows 26-10 in December. Winger Simon Crozier and full back Dan Phinn are unavailable for Stockton, so Joel Simpson returns and Jeremy Good moves to full back.
Prop Simon Brown is available, so Sam Toulson returns to the second row, allowing Phil Douglas to drop back to flanker. Mark Conway starts at prop ahead of Stu Barrass.
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