ON a disappointing day for North-East rugby Newcastle Falcons laboured to a 16-6 home win against Connacht’s second string, while all the region’s other top teams lost.
Blaydon’s 11-match winning run in National One ended with a 23-19 defeat at Fylde and Darlington Mowden Park’s promotion hopes in National Two North were similarly dented by an 18-15 reverse at Dudley Kingswinford.
The Falcons did at least ensure qualification for the quarter-finals of the British and Irish Cup, but Dean Richards’ desire for a more clinical performance did not materialise.
They struggled to capitalise on forward domination, scoring one converted try through prop Jon Goulding before replacement fly half Joel Hodgson kicked three penalties in the last 20 minutes.
Richards was not happy with the officiating of Kevin White at the scrum and breakdown, saying: “If that’s the way Scottish refereeing is, then so be it, but we need to made aware of it before they come down to referee a game like this.”
Blaydon left it too late to salvage more than one point from a hotly-contested match at Fylde. They trailed 20-5 and late converted tries by full back Nathan Bailey, who again impressed, and No 8 Jason Smithson were not enough.
It was 10-5 at half-time with centre Tommy Banks finishing an enterprising move for Blaydon’s try after good work by Andrew Baggett.
Fylde began the second half strongly, adding two more unconverted tries before Blaydon sent on young scrum half Jonny Burn for Hall Charlton and began to run the ball more.
They broke from their own 22 with Banks making 50 metres before sending Bailey over before they finally got into a position to go for a catch-and-drive and Smithson got the touchdown. Blaydon now trail leaders Ealing by six points.
Mowden led 12-8 after facing a strong wind at Dudley and when Grant Connon stretched the lead with a penalty early in the second half victory looked assured.
But they began to struggle up front, losing a few strikes against the head and being beaten to the ball on the floor.
A lock barged over for Dudley after 53 minutes and Worcester Academy No 8 Josh Buggea picked up from a scrum and drove over for the winning try two minutes from time.
It wasn’t what Mowden had expected after scoring a second minute try through Connon, who also converted winger Shaun McCartney’s try just before half-time.
Mowden are now eight points behind promotion playoff rivals Hull Ionians, who won 33-8 at Westoe.
Although they started well and led 3-0 after 20 minutes, Westoe were outgunned up front and their former flanker, Kerry Wood, scored one of Ionians’ five tries Winger Dan Rundle scored Westoe’s try.
West Hartlepool competed well but lost 33-10 at home to a more clinical Sandal side, who led only 14-10 before they benefited from two disputed tries midway through the second half. The first stemmed from a forward pass and the second from a West attack breaking down by a player being tackled off the ball.
Stu Waites and Jonny Boatman set up West’s try for Colin Cheslin, with Waites adding the conversion and a penalty. Otherwise they were unable to break down a wellorganised defence.
The alarm bells are ringing for Middlesbrough after a 20-13 home defeat left them only one point ahead of visitors Keighley, who occupy the third relegation spot.
Boro dominated for long spells but contrived to trail 20-3 early in the second half and it took them until the last 15 minutes to muster two tries.
Full back Jack Bircham was bundled over and flanker Sean Kay scored with four minutes left.
Darlington lost 50-12 at Sheffield, despite having the better of a 40-minute period after a slow start saw them trailing 31-0 after 30 minutes.
They also conceded two late tries after winning the intervening period 12-7 through tries by props Paul Shepherd and Joe Oselton, plus a conversion by Henry Carver.
In Durham and Northumberland One, Stockton continue to contest the promotion play-off place with Guisborough, who have a game in hand and remain ahead on points difference after winning at Consett.
They remain 12 points behind leaders Alnwick, but Stockton are on a good run, registering their fourth successive win when they defied a very heavy pitch at Ponteland to win 20-8.
They led through a wellstruck 40-metre penalty from Jeremy Good and after 35 minutes the ball was moved right for winger Danny Phinn to squeeze over.
Good’s excellent conversion gave Stockton a 10-3 half-time lead and with the pack continuing to dominate No 8 Martin Dixon picked up from the back of a scrum and drove over. Lock Steve Taylor was driven over before Ponteland scored a late try.
Former Barnard Castle schoolboy Rory Clegg, on loan from Harlequins to Leeds, was the star man in a 27-12 win away to Jersey in the British and Irish Cup.