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Mowden eye up Durham Cup final
AFTER completing their National Three North programme with away games at West Hartlepool today and Chester next week, Darlington Mowden Park are happy to play the Durham Cup final on Tuesday week.
The county committee have arranged for the match to take place on April 24 at Durham City, but Mowden are awaiting confirmation that opponents Westoe are prepared to go ahead.
The South Shields club will still have a National Two North match to play at home to Hull the following Saturday.
Westoe have slipped to seventh, nine points behind second-placed Caldy, and it is extremely unlikely that they can challenge for the promotion play-off spot.
Mowden do not want the cup final to spill over into May as they are sending a squad to the Amsterdam Sevens and both they and Westoe could have players involved in the County Championship.
Flanker Will McCauley and lock Neil Young return for Mowden today, while in the backs Tom Hodgson switches to fly half to allow Chris Peace to return at centre. With Chris McTurk still injured and Shaun McCartney playing for an England representative side at the Melrose Sevens, Paul Shepherd and Martyn Lithgo are on the wings with Max Connon at full back.
West are without hooker Liam Bailey because of a knee injury, so club captain Andrew Dixon steps in. Another ex-Mowden player, Andrew Foreman, has to settle for a place on the bench as his brother Gareth will partner Stu Waites at half back.
Blaydon visit Sedgley Park in National One and have selected Yarm School's England Under 18 full back Zach Kibirige to make his debut. Andrew Baggett returns at fly half and Matt Clark at centre, with Gavin Painter switching to the wing.
Middlesbrough recall first-choice half backs Paul Lee and Peter Wright at home to Wheatley Hills, a match which looked like being a promotion play-off decider until Percy Park came with their late run.
The Tynemouth club will clinch second spot if they secure a bonus point victory at home to Durham City and have also booked their place in the final of the Northumberland Cup after defeating Alnwick 34-3.
A repeat of last year's final sees them taking on Tynedale Raiders with a 6.30 kick-off in Wednesday's final at Ashington.
In the Durham Intermediate Cup, Stockton will hope for a third win of the season against Darlington, who were handed a semi-final bye by Barnard Castle. The final will be at West Hartlepool TDSOB on April 28.
Darlington need one point at home to Novos today to clinch the Durham and Northumberland One title. The Carver brothers, James and Henry, are unavailable so Rich Parker comes in at open side and Mark Baldwin moves to fly half with David Payne at scrum half.
Third-placed Stockton, now out of the running for the play off spot, visit Guisborough with Simon Brown back at prop and Wayne Brown in the second row as Phil Douglas is unavailable. Scott Powell returns at No 8.
Hartlepool Rovers will face Shrewsbury at Doncaster Sunday, April 22 in the National Under 17 Knockout semi-finals. Rovers beat visitors Wharfedale RFC 24-5 on Easter Sunday.