Billingham are fluent performers if not tackled early, and on a day when all defence came at a premium, they scored five tries in each half to rack up 68 points. On almost all occasions, such a performance would put a team completely out of sight, but for all the home team’s defensive frailties, their similar potency in attack meant they weren’t finally subdued until the last eight minutes.
The game began as a fairly even, end-to-end affair, with two converted tries each in the first quarter. Billingham led 7 – 0 on five minutes, but a powerful drive to the line by hooker, Mark Bell
, produced a try converted by fly-half, Alex Metcalfe
, and things were all-square three minutes later.
Non-existent tackling allowed the visitors in again on fifteen minutes, and they were looking to add to their 14 – 7 lead shortly after, when a telegraphed pass was expertly picked-off by winger, Alan Jones, who raced the full length of the pitch for a lung-bursting solo try. Metcalfe again added the extras, but the half deteriorated rapidly from that point on, from a Mowden point of view.
More weak defence allowed converted tries on 26, 33 and 35 minutes, and half-time came with the visitors leading 35 – 14.
Mowden had shown enough in the first twenty minutes to believe they could get back into it if things went their way, but another Billingham try and conversion within a minute of the restart made it seem as though the second half was going to be a procession. To the home side’s credit, they refused to let this be the case, and they managed to match their more experienced opponents score-for-score for the remainder of the game.
A powerful run by centre, Adam Gardner
, brought him another trademark try, and Metcalfe added the extras to reduce the deficit to 21 – 42 on 46 minutes. A period of relative quiet ensued, before another sustained bout of Mowden pressure brought a second try for hooker, Bell, on 55 minutes, and straight from Billingham’s misplaced restart, Metcalfe split their defence with a superb solo run under the posts, and added the afters to pull the score back to 33 – 42.
At this point, the away team looked a little rattled, but to their credit, they rallied, and put clear daylight between themselves and their opponents with converted tries on 62 and 65 minutes. If they thought that was that, however, they were mistaken, as Gardner stormed over for another try, converted by Metcalfe, on 72 minutes. 40 – 56 gave the home side some faint hope, but this was quashed within a couple of minutes, as the visitors scored their ninth converted try to put the game to bed.
Still the brave young Mowden team wouldn’t lie down, and incredibly, Gardner managed to complete a great hat-trick, and score his eighth try in two games, as the game moved into the final minute. Fittingly, Billingham had the last word, scoring their only unconverted try of the day from the final play of the match, to confirm a well-deserved, if somewhat bizarre, 45 – 68 away win.