Match report: Darlington Mowden Park 40 Fylde RFC 7
A combative first-half performance by Fylde asked plenty of questions of second-placed Darlington Mowden Park but the visitors were gradually worn down in the second period of this top v bottom encounter.
This has been the pattern of so many of Fylde’s away performances and it was never going to be easy against a DMP squad who have had an excellent season.
In the game between the clubs at the Woodlands back in December, Fylde led Mowden untilthe last few minutes before conceding a heart-breaking 78th-minute try to lose 13-10.
This was a crucial turning point in their season as they have lost the 14 league games since that game.
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, earned a succession of penalties.
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, and after two in quick succession fly-half Warren Seals picked a neat line and slipped through for the try which he converted.
A couple minutes later, Mowden were back attacking. Centre Jack Blakeney-Edwards made the break and paved the way for lock Talite Vaoleti to power 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.
Attacking positions in Mowden’s half were spurned through lost line-outs and untidiness.
Fylde 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 Tonga 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.
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 and 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 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 number eight Matt Heaton scored Mowden’s sixth and final try.
Yet again, Fylde came back and battled hard in the final 10 minutes but were unable to add to their score before the final whistle sounded.
Head coach Warren Spragg said: “Following our second-half collapse last time out at Bishop’s Stortford, we set our stall out to address some deficiencies. We did well in the first half and I was very encouraged. We were competitive and asked the second-placed team in the league some serious questions.
“Unfortunately, we fell away somewhat in the second half and DMP had the edge in confidence and in the quality of their squad. The final score flattered them somewhat but there’s no denying they have a strong group of players who deserved their victory.
“We have a chance to affect the relegation battle in National One when Loughborough Students, who are scrapping for their very lives, come to the Woodlands on Saturday. That will be a very competitive game for our last home match of the season.”
Fylde: Carleton, Foster, Briers, Wilkinson, Hadfield (Fowden 80), Smith, Nicholls; Richardson, Loney (Gregory 62), Irving (Lewis 62), Parkinson, Garrod, Corrie, Burtonwood, 8 Harrison; replacements not used: Ashcroft, Vernon.