[Photo above courtesy of DMP]

Darlington Mowden Park 40 Fylde 7

A combative 1st half performance by Fylde asked plenty of questions of National One 2nd placed Darlington Mowden Park at the 25,000 capacity Northern Arena. However, the visitors were gradually worn down in the second period and eventually conceded six tries in all against one by Connor Wilkinson in the 69th minute. This has been the pattern in so many of Fylde’s away performances and it was never going to be easy against a good DMP squad who have had an excellent season.

In the game between the two clubs at the Woodlands back in early December, Fylde led 2nd placed Mowden into the last few minutes before conceding a heart breaking 78th minute try to lose by 10-13. This was a crucial point in their season as they have now lost the 14 league games since that occasion.

The initial kick-off by Fylde drifted directly into touch so they were on the back foot immediately. However, they established parity at early scrummages and, with the help of some aggressive work at the tackle breakdown they earned a succession of penalties. Some of these helped the visitors get away from their own lines. In the 10th minute Fylde earned a penalty in an attacking position and Greg Smith kicked for the corner. Unfortunately, the lineout was lost and Mowden cleared the danger.

The balance of territory and possession was held by the home side and in the 19th minute they opened the scoring. The penalty count started to turn in Mowden’s advantage. A kick to the corner and a driving maul was brought down illegally and another penalty was conceded. This time fly-half Warren Seals picked a neat line and slipped through for the try. He converted to add the extra two points.

A couple minutes later Mowden were back attacking. Centre Jack Blakeney-Edwards made the break and from subsequent ‘pick and go’s’ lock Talite Vaoleti powered over the line. Seals converted for a 14-0 lead.

Fylde fought back with great spirit and gave as good as they got in the second quarter of the match. Attacking positions in Mowden’s half were spurned through lost lineouts and untidiness. They tried to force their way through the middle with their forwards and then moved the ball wide, but they couldn’t break down a determined DMP defence as the teams trotted off to the changing rooms at the interval.

Just seven minutes into the second period, the home side extended their lead. Following more forward pressure, Vaoleti drove over from close range again. Although a veteran, the former Tongan international is immensely powerful and takes an awful lot of stopping when the try line is near. Seals added the extras for a 21-0 lead.

This was extended further in the 55th minute when, following another penalty conceded by the visitors, the Mowden pack drove forward and openside flanker Joe Craggs claimed his side’s bonus point earning 4th try. Dead eyed Seals kicked successfully once more and his side was 28-0 up.

The same pattern was soon re-established, with DMP in charge. In the 60th minute, centre Ben Frankland stepped through weak Fylde defence and scored a good try. Following Seal’s conversion, Mowden held a 35-0 lead.

Fylde heads didn’t drop as the game became rather fractious. In the 63rd minute Mowden replacement forward Dan Preston-Routledge was sinbinned. Fylde’s Toby Harrison followed him a few minutes later.

It was time for Fylde to put in some sustained pressure inside the Mowden half. An excellent period of continuity ended with centre Connor Wilkinson scoring a fine try. Greg Smith converted to reduce the deficit to 35-7.

Dan Richardson was the next player to be sinbinned and Fylde were down to 13 players. From a scrummage near the visitors’ line, the Mowden pack put in a big shove and no 8 Matt Heaton scored Mowden’s sixth and final try.

Yet again, Fylde came back and battled hard in the final ten minutes but were unable to extend their score before the final whistle sounded. This was a clear and deserved Mowden victory but Fylde will take heart from their endeavours as they look towards their final home game of this very difficult season when relegation strugglers Loughborough Students come to the Woodlands next Saturday.

15 Tom Carleton; 14 Jake Foster, 13 Chris Briers, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Henry Hadfield (Luke Fowden 80); 10 Greg Smith, 9 Greg Nicholls; 1 Dan Richardson, 2 Alex Loney (Ben Gregory 62), 3 Mark Irving (Adam Lewis 62), 4 Olli Parkinson, 5 Matt Garrod, 6 Harlan Corrie, 7 Tom Burtonwood, 8 Toby Harrison.

Non-playing replacements: Nick Ashcroft & Ben Vernon.