DARLINGTON Rugby Club are to launch an amateur rugby league team next summer as they seek to maximise use of the Blackwell Meadows facilities.
They are already recruiting players for the 13-a-side game, which has become established in most major North- East towns, from Cramlington to Catterick.
A few years ago it would have been unthinkable for the two codes to exist under the same roof when they were still sworn enemies.
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As the numbers playing Rugby Union at senior level continue to decline, some still see rugby league as a threat.
But Darlington chairman Mike Wilkinson said: “We want our facilities to be used 12 months a year and we are spreading the word among the sporting fraternity about what is available here.
“We already had five pitches and with the council’s help we have had five more laid on adjoining land. Two are now in use and are available for any sport. The others should be ready in March or April.
“It’s our 150th anniversary next year and the club has to be fit for purpose for the next 150 years.”
Darlington Archery Club, which has been in existence since 1792, is now based at Blackwell Meadows, while the new pitches are being used by Darlington RUFC football team, who play in the Teesside Alliance.
The Northern Women’s Rugby Festival, which was to have been held there on Sunday, was postponed because of frost. The RFU have told the club that they will re-schedule the event, which was expected to involve 450 players from the six northern counties from under 15s upwards.
After a blank weekend, Darlington resume tomorrow with a trip to Middlesbrough, who have won their last two games in North One East to climb out of trouble.
Darlington Mowden Park face a crucial game at Sheffield Tigers as they attempt to bounce back from their narrow defeat at Hull.
Mowden are fourth in National Two North, while the Tigers are just below them but have lost their last three games.
Northallerton took advantage of the rest from league rugby to travel to Ripon and won the friendly match 12-7.
Starting with a mix of first and second team players, North were under pressure from the off but good defensive work from centre Andrew Clarke and prop Liam Lincoln kept Ripon out until they scored a try through their forwards. North’s forwards then denied Ripon the ball for almost 15 minutes and the boot of scrum half Paul Smith helped to keep them going forward.
They finally drove to within five metres of the line and set up centre Andrew Clarke for a well-taken try, for which he wrong-footed at least three Ripon players. Marc Walden’s conversion made it 7-7 at halftime.
The second half turned in to a stalemate with attacks by both sides being cancelled out by good defence. In one of the few chances North scored their second try via the forwards picking and driving into the Ripon 22 and replacement hooker Jonny Baker driving over for his fifth try of the season.
A youthful second team lost 42-12 at home to Seaton Carew, showing great resolve.
Highlights of the game were the two tries scored by man of the match Dave Lawrence.
Darlington Mowden Sharks’ Ruth Laybourn scored six tries in five games for England at the inaugural IRB Women’s Sevens World Series event in Dubai.
The 28-year-old, who has two caps at 15-a-side, used her pace to score five tries in three group games as England recovered from a 20-5 defeat against South Africa to see off Brazil 22-0 and Spain 17-7.
The Shark’s Katy McLean led England’s 15-a-side team to a 3-0 series whitewash against New Zealand. They won the final game 32-23 at Twickenham with fly half McLean spotting a gap to send a grubber through for full back Emily Scarratt to score the second of the five tries.