12:00am Monday 21st April 2014
By Tim Wellock
DARLINGTON Mowden Park achieved all that could be asked of them in thrashing Sheffield Tigers 69-5 to set up an intriguing final day in the National Two North promotion battle.
Starting the day with a points difference 25 inferior to Stourbridge's, they now have an advantage of 39, which could prove crucial in their bid to take the one automatic promotion spot.
Assuming that Stourbridge will win their final match at Harrogate comfortably, Mowden will need victory with the four-try bonus from Saturday's visit of leaders Macclesfield if they are to finish top.
Failing that, they will want to secure a home play-off against Bedfordshire club Ampthill by winning by more than seven points to ensure that Macclesfield leave empty-handed.
The Cheshire club are four points ahead of both rivals but the equation is so tight that two points would guarantee them top spot, whereas one could see them drop to third if both Mowden and Stourbridge picked up the four-try bonus.
Stourbridge might not have things all their own way at Harrogate, who provided some encouragement by winning 33-24 at Birmingham and Solihull on Saturday. But coach Mike Aspinall had to go on for the last ten minutes because of injuries.
Mowden rested Talite Vaioleti, bringing Chris Dodd into the second row for his first appearance following a long-term injury.
They also handed a first senior start to prop Charlie Purkiss-McEndoo, while Ollie Hodgson took advantage of a rare start at No 8 to claim a hat-trick by finishing off forward drives.
Tom Hodgson, also given a start at fly half with Max Connon on the bench, converted seven of the first nine tries and added a penalty.
There were 11 tries in total, the first coming after three minutes when winger Shaun McCartney beat the home defence on the outside.
Tigers' only points came from a catch-and-drive, making it 7-5, but Mowden attacked from the restart for centre Chris Peace to score.
Zylon McGaffin nipped through a gap to touch down and Ollie Hodgson's first secured the bonus point and made it 24-5 at half-time.
In addition to his second half brace, Mowden's forward power also earned a penalty try and there were touchdowns for skipper Cameron Mitchell, flanker Will McCauley, full back Henry Robinson and Connon.
Billingham's survival, by one point, in National Three North was confirmed when Percy Park were relegated after losing 38-19 away to champions Huddersfield.
Novos stayed up at the expense of Ponteland in Durham & Northumberland One, winning 22-17 at home to a Consett side whose promotion hopes had ended the previous week.
Ilkley beat York 49-7 to clinch the Yorkshire One title, confirming that Guisborough will visit Dinnington in the play-off.
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