Bishop's Stortford 1st XV 22 Darlington Mowden Park 22
Stortford show huge courage to battle back for a draw from 12 points behind after 50 minutes against a very impressive and, at that stage, dominant DMP side.
What a great game! This was a hard-fought contest from start to finish and the result was in the balance until the final kick of the match. Stortford enjoyed slightly the better of the early exchanges, but the visitors scored first with an excellent try after 12 minutes from a lightning quick attack after Stortford were penalised at a midfield breakdown. The home team ground their way back into the game, though and, having gone through multiple phases, forced an opening some 10 minutes later, with Matt Riddington cutting a great line to touch down under the posts for George Cullen to convert. The game remained evenly balanced for the next quarter of an hour, but a big turning point came on 37 minutes, when, Stortford had the well-drilled Darlington defence seriously stretched for once, but a short pass in midfield was read perfectly by opposition centre, Ben Frankland, who intercepted and ran 60 yards for a converted try. There was just enough time left in the half for the visitors to launch another attack and they took full advantage, with Grant Connan clinically rounding it off by beating his injured opposite number for pace to stretch his side’s lead at halftime to 10 points and take them into the break with their tails well and truly up.
Darlington duly came out fast in the second half and deservedly scored their bonus point try 9 minutes in, with their strong backs exploiting some uncharacteristically weak Stortford tackling in the final phase for winger, Shaun Mcartney to register his second touchdown of the match. Playing controlled and purposeful rugby, the powerful visitors looked as if they might run away with things, but Stortford showed their usual grit and determination to battle their way into the game, going through phase after phase of hard, driving rugby to dominate the final half hour. This brought a try for Steve Ball on 57 minutes and with Cullen kicking both the conversion and a long penalty goal 9 minutes later, the visitors suddenly started to show signs of feeling the pressure. The gap was now down to a tenuous 5 points and the momentum had clearly swung in Stortford's favour. The home side continued to hammer away and, through sheer force of collective will, ratcheted up the pressure on the visitors, eventually forcing a yellow card for one of the opposition props for collapsing a maul in the red zone. Stortford then demonstrated their own ability to finish clinically, when Nick Hankin exploited a two on one, created as the ball was quickly spun wide form a solid scrum. This brought the scores level and with time effectively up, George Cullen stepped up to take the tricky conversion kick. As Stortford's many supporters held their breath, the ball slid narrowly wide and the game ended with honours properly even.
This was a powerful and well-organised Darlington side who, judged on this performance will be hard to shift from their second place in the league. They had clearly managed to overcome their recent difficulties away from home and, against such strong opposition, these were two really well-earned points for Stortford, which will move us up to within a point of Blackheath in 5th spot in the league. It shouldn't be difficult, therefore for the squad to lift itself again for the long trip next week to Fylde, who, despite their lowly league position will offer stiff opposition at home, with their performances appearing to be getting better as the season goes on.
Stortford's Man of the Match was presented this week by the BSRFC Lunch Club and the award in this pulsating match, in which the whole squad put in a massive shift, went to Matt Riddington.