BOTH Darlington clubs were relieved to emerge with victories on Saturday from games they expected to win more comfortably.

Mowden Park hung on to beat Billingham 16-12 at Yiewsley Drive, while Darlington’s decision to rest five players for the trip to Sunderland almost backfired before they prevailed 22- 10.

As Mowden tend to play better away from home they will hope to make it three successive wins tomorrow at Waterloo, while Darlington entertain Medicals.

Mowden were unlucky to have a late try ruled out for a foot in touch against Billingham, a decision which surprised Robin Eatough after he had rounded his marker to race over from 30 metres for what he thought was his second try. The tall centre’s first proved to be Mowden’s only try, while Billingham scored two but were unable to match Gavin Painter’s goal-kicking.

Billingham have beaten only the one team below them, Rochdale, since their promotion to National Three North. But they are getting to grips with the higher level and lived up to their reputation for entertaining rugby.

Mowden had the edge in the tight, with player-coach Pete Taylor dominating the line-out.

But at 40 he knows he will not recover as quickly from the bumps and bruises and is likely to stand down after his two outings as Andy Wilson is available again. A new lock is also expected to sign.

Billingham defended ferociously in the first half and did well to trail only 13-5. After conceding a soft penalty on the resumption it seemed they might run out of steam, but instead they gained the upper hand.

They were threatening to steal a victory when Mowden’s desperation saw skipper Danny Brown yellow carded just as Eatough was returning from the sin bin with ten minutes left.

Taylor retired shortly afterwards to allow replacement hooker Andrew Tonkin to come on for Brown, and Billingham were sensing victory until they lost the ball and almost conceded a breakaway try to Charlie Simpson-Daniel.

Mowden were well on top early on, taking an early lead through the first of Painter’s three penalties. Billingham’s first try was slightly fortunate as an attempted clearance was deflected skywards and fell kindly for scrum half Adrian Evans to scamper over.

Peter Evans fluffed the conversion and later made an equal hash of a straightforward penalty, while Painter’s second penalty restored Mowden’s lead. They then drove a maul ten metres before shunting a scrum towards the line, but when they opted for another scrum when awarded a penalty for a high tackle under the posts nothing came of it.

Just before half-time centre Ben Snook almost got to the line, and when the ball came back Eatough took it on the burst to crash over.

Painter converted then added his third penalty just after half-time for a 16-5 lead, but they then found themselves having to defend stoutly.

When they did get close to the line midway through the second half they lost the ball and Billingham moved it left then right for No 8 Mike Evans to gallop over for an excellent try. This time the simple conversion was successful, but Billingham were left to rue the earlier misses.

Richard Snowball was among the players rested by Darlington following the 100-12 win against Wallsend and five of the selected players cried off on the morning for a variety of reasons.

Sunderland scored the first try before Darlington began to assert themselves, only to lose centre Cameron Mitchell with a suspected broken jaw. He was replaced by veteran Leigh Johnson, who might now get a run in the team after deciding to make a comeback following serious illness.

Tries were scored by prop Joe Oselton and centre Henry Carver in the first half, then a break by scrum half Mark Baldwin set up a third for winger Connor Elser. Nick Baldwin added two conversions and a penalty.

Although they lie second in Durham and Northumberland One, they are eight points behind Gateshead, who have earned a four-try bonus point in all eight games. Darlington have twice scored 100 points and twice topped 60, but have failed to achieve the bonus point in their other four games.

Northallerton remain fifth from the bottom of Yorkshire Three after losing 27-7 at home to table-toppers Wath.

The seconds travelled to York thirds and won 7-5 despite the late withdrawals of Gary Eden and Charlie Turner seeing the call-up of hooker Tony Laws and utility back Chalkie White.

The thirds won 45-8 at home to York fourths with Colin Hall and H Johnson playing their first full games for nearly five years.