We'll take the win!
Ugliest W of the season
Ryton typically started like a train and within 3 minutes, following some offloading and support, had scored through centre Adam Williamson, converted by Andrew Oxley.
Darlington had the look of a side that would relish a close-quarters arm wrestle in the mud, and Ryton needed to realise that and make Darlo run around. Unfortunately they spent most of the remainder of the first half driving it up short then failing to clear out the tackle, allowing Darlo to compete and even dominate, at times, the exchanges. At a scrum on their own 22, Ryton got a good drive on. The Darlo front row stood up and their scrum disintegrated, wheeling out of their binds, so Ryton 8 Coulson kept the ball at his feet to ensure the obvious penalty. The ref was on a different wavelength to everyone of a blue persuasion and ignored the broken Darlo scrum, so that when the ball rolled forward from Coulson's feet, the Darlo 9 picked up and headed for the line, being tackled just short. All that was required of the Darlo juggernauts from there was to bosh it tight and they scored an undeserved try from a field position they had no right to be in. Following long bouts of 8-man rugby and some half-hearted tackling, they repeated the trick to make the half time score 10-7.
After the break, the eccentric Darlo kicker, with his 'funky chicken' routine, knocked over his first accurate kick from in front to make it 13-7.
Poor play from both sides followed, with numerous errors including several knock-ons by both sides which were somehow missed by the ref. Ryton momentarily saw the light and moved the ball wider, which inevitably got them deep in the opposition 22. After bashing away at the line without any penetration they finally shot the ball out to lock Matty Oxley, who was loitering in his preferred position of centre and ignored a simple pass to an unmarked player outside but justified it by driving through a tackle on the line to score. Brother Andrew converted to give Ryton the slender lead at 13-14.
For almost all of the rest of the second half, Darlington and Ryton both played the game just the way Darlo wanted it -Ryton picking and driving down narrow corridors or running off the 9 but not latching and driving the carrier, who repeatedly was isolated - and the result was that Darlo, who did it rather better, drove over as a pack again - Foghorn Leghorn missing the simple conversion to leave it 18-14.
As the game, the light and Ryton's hopes were fading away with minutes left, they finally chose the correct option and moved it wide where, after the kind of offloading and exchange of passes with which they started the game, prop Sam Laidler showed pace and determination to run 20 metres and dot down in the corner. The conversion was missed but it scarcely mattered as Darlington had no time to hit back.
Ryton celebrated at the whistle but it felt much more like relief than real satisfaction, and the positive to take from this is that we were able to travel away, play without our usual spark, play to the opposition strengths rather than our own, give the ref far too much opportunity to punish us, yet still come away with a win.
With no injuries sustained on the day, a strong side should be fielded against Bishop Auckland at home next Saturday. We must hope that the lads work hard to get back to the standards they set themselves at Kingston Park on December 2nd.