Injury delay can’t halt the Mowden march

First published in Rugby Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by

Final score: Darlington Mowden Park 37 Otley 24

MOWDEN achieved their objective as the top three in National Two North all picked up five points on Saturday.

But they were made to work hard by an Otley side who refused to lie down after a worrying injury.

The visitors might have capitulated when, after a 50- minute delay for a neck injury to fly half Ben Fairclough, they had two men sin-binned before conceding a try to go 19-7 down.

But they gamely hit straight back with a wellworked try and were still in the game at 31-24 with 15 minutes left before Mowden showed steely resolve in nailing down the win.

There was cause for concern with A J Smith in the sin bin for what was deemed a spear 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 closed out Otley in the last ten minutes.

The visitors’ frustrations boiled over in a couple of melees, as though the physical nature of rugby had not already been amply demonstrated by Fairclough’s inury in the build-up to Mowden’s second try after 24 minutes.

It took 40 minutes for an ambulance to arrive and a further ten to manoeuvre him on board, but he was released from hospital later in the evening.

Mowden had the four-try bonus point in the bag before half-time and led 24-12.

But if they thought the job was done they were mistaken as they conceded four tries for the first time since the opening day defeat at Macclesfield.

The need for four tries of their own prompted Mowden to send early kickable penalties to touch and go for the catch-and-drive.

The first attempt was stopped just short and the second got to the line, where outstanding lock Talite Vaioleti forced his way over.

Otley barely touched the ball in the first ten minutes, but then scored a good try 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.

He glided through a barely existent gap to score and Max Connon added his second good conversion from wide on the left prior to the delay.

On the resumption two catch-and-drives were illegally thwarted, prompting the two yellow cards in quick succession before the third attempt was finished by flanker Will McCauley.

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 when referee Wayne Falla initially signalled that the ball had been held up over the line but then consulted a touch judge and awarded the try.

Mowden hit straight back when Lewis Johnston came off the wing on an angled run to take a pass at pace 25 metres out and scythe through the middle to score by the posts.

But after Smith’s yellow card Otley again respondedwith a try 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.

Mowden will now hope that this week’s hosts, Luctonians, muster no more resistance than they did in losing 59-5 at Macclesfield on Saturday.

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