Fylde make one change for DMP at the Woodlands

Bolstered by consecutive wins over Cinderford and Henley Hawks, Fylde welcome Darlington Mowden Park to the Woodlands on Saturday (ko 3pm) for what promises to be another exciting National One fixture. DMP gave the Lancastrians a serious 10-33 beating at the Woodlands last season and Fylde will hope to exact retribution this time against a squad bolstered by extensive quality recruitment in the summer and more recently.   
Given the investment in the squad and the ambitious upward trajectory of the club fuelled by the move to the 25,000 capacity Northern Echo Arena in 2013, they've had a rather disappointing start to this season. They have won four (37-24 at Cinderford & 25-15 at Plymouth, 39-16 v Loughborough & 43-11 last Saturday v Hull Ionians) and lost seven of their fixtures to date. However, this overall record is deceptive as, owing to the Arena being tied up for All Blacks use during RWC2015, DMP played four successive matches away from home in September and October. Even now, they have only played four matches at home to date. Only leaders Hartpury College have put them to the sword with a 50-7 performance in Gloucestershire.
DMP struggled initially to adjust to life in National One last season following promotion in 2013/14 and they lost five out of their first seven matches. On top of this, a player registration irregularlity led to a five points deduction. Given the quality of their squad, there was little doubt that they would eventually adjust to the required standards in the division - and so it proved as they finished comfortably in 9th position.
All twelve games between the clubs during the period 2003-2009 were played in National Two (North), level 4, and were split 6 wins-all. With a 29-29 draw at the Northern Echo Arena a year ago and the DMP win at the Woodlands in February, the visitors just shade the ongoing battle. 
DMP has an interesting history. First it was Darlington Grammar School Old Boys in 1950. Then, in 1972, it became Mowden Park before a final change adopting the town's prefix to Darlington Mowden Park. DMP were promoted to National Two (North) at level 4 in 2001/2 and for a heady period, the town of Darlington had two national league clubs - DMP and Darlington RUFC - before the latter fell away and are currently struggling at level 7. DMP moved on and had a successful period culminating in finishing as runners up in 2007/8. In a tense play-off game, DMP lost by a single point at Cinderford in May 2008 and followed that a season later by being relegated to level 5. Back they came in 2011/12 with promotion to N2N and in 2013/14 they had better luck in another nail biting play-off match at home to Ampthill when they scored an extra time try to be promoted to N1, their highest ever achievement.
With this rise on the pitch came even more exciting developments off it. After more than a decade of negotiation with landowners, developers and planners, DMP sold their Yiewsley Road ground and bought the massive but financially troubled Northern Echo Arena along with 17 acres of adjacent land and an option on a further 20 acres. Some of their plans have already brought rewards as they successfully staged an England Counties game in 2014 and in March 2015 staged a double header when England Women and England Men’s U'20s squads took on their Scottish counterparts in their respective 6 Nations competitions on the same evening. Even more notably, the Arena hosted the New Zealand squad, as part of the Rugby World Cup 2015 Team Base programme and, of course, they went on to win the Final.
Under Director of Rugby John Newton and coach Danny Brown DMP were determined to build on last season's mid-table finish and strengthened the squad with the recruitment of a host of new players. There has been a strong international element in this activity with players such as Italian former U19s, U20s & 'A' international back row Luca Petillo (ex-Cavalieri), Argentinian 7s international scrum-half Bruno Bravo (ex-Doncaster Knights & San Albano) & hooker Santiago Socino (ex-Los Matreros & Hull Ionians), Portugal 15s & 7s international Tomás Appleton, South African back five forward Seb Ferreira (ex-Newcastle Falcons, Western Province & Hamiltons) & fly-half Warren Seals (ex-University of Cape Town) arriving.
High quality domestic recruitment in 2015 has also brought to the Arena centre Ben Frankland (ex-Tynedale), former England Counties U'20s winger Pete Homan (ex-Plymouth Albion, London Scottish and Rotherham Titans), wing Michael Tait (ex-Newcastle Falcons, Edinburgh, Tynedale), former England U'20s lock Tom Jubb (ex-Plymouth, Saracens, Bedford Blues, Old Albanian & Cambridge), centre Chris Auld (ex-Edinburgh) and fullback Ed Coulson (ex-Newcastle Falcons & Bath).
Their pack is based on a very solid front row including props Ralph Appleby, legendary former Westoe skipper Gareth Nesbit, Ignas Darkintis (ex-Old Albanian, Coventry & Birmingham/Solihull), newcomer Tom Harrison (ex-Plymouth & Clifton) and hooker Simon Uzokwe. Prominent in the roster of back-five forwards is lock Rob Conquest (formerly with Loughborough & Cambridge), newcomers Tom Jubb & Alistair Bone (ex-Plymouth Albion & Loughborough Students), Tongan international Talite Vaioleti (ex-Jersey & Wharfedale) and local players Rory Duff and Oliver Hodgson
Amongst the backs, the most high profile star is Scotland A & Barbarians centre/fly-half/fullback and goal kicker Garry Law (formerly Rotherham Titans, previously Border Reivers & Lazio). Scrum-half duties have been shared by two newcomers, Bruno Bravo and Matthew Walsh (ex-Chester). The highly promising Newcastle Falcons Academy fly-half Grant Connon was injured early in the season and South African Warren Seals has been recruited as cover.
Leading try scorer to date is hooker Simon Uzokwe with seven. Winger Peter Homan, with the benefit of his four tries last Saturday, is on five and Bruno Bravo has four. Overall points leader is Gary Law with 100.
Fylde make one change in their starting line-up with Evan Stewart, available once more, replacing Ben Vernon at open side flanker. Onto the bench comes lock Nick Gray who has returned from two weeks with his home club Nottingham where he played in the B&I Cup games.
15 Warren Spragg; 14 Anthony Bingham, 13 Chris Briers, 12 Scott Rawlings, 11 Oli Brennand; 10 Chris Johnson, 9 Greg Nicholls; 1 Dan Birchall, 2 Tom Burtonwood, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Joe Robinson, 5 Gareth Rawlings, 6 Dominic Moon, 7 Evan Stewart, 8 David Fairbrother.

16 Simon Griffiths, 17 Phill Mills, 18 Nick Gray, 19 Ryan De La Harpe, 20 Jordan Dorrington.

Match officials
Referee: Fergus Kirby; AR1 Colin Burrell, AR2 Derek Blake.


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