Final Score: Durham 24 East Midlands 8
DURHAM are going back to Twickenham on Sunday, 25 years after lifting the county championship trophy in a memorable final against Cornwall.
This year’s visit is merely in the hope of earning promotion back into the top tier of what is now the Bill Beaumont County Championship, rather than the Toshiba as it was then.
The 1989 players were invited to lunch at Darlington’s Blackwell Meadows on Saturday and many turned up, presumably to swap memories rather than to sample the current fare.
In those days the RFU didn’t allow a ball to be kicked after April 30, but nowadays the county championship is an after-thought tagged on at the end of a lengthened season that they don’t even bother to tell the media it’s happening.
None of that is the players’ fault and those who make themselves available are keen to represent their counties with pride.
It also offers the chance to earn selection for the England Counties squad and Darlington Mowden Park skipper Cameron Mitchell can expect to retain his place for the summer tour of Georgia.
He scored two tries as Durham finally found their feet after being outplayed for the first half hour by their unfancied visitors.
East Midlands piled on the pressure from the outset and a centre stepped inside two tackles to score. They added a penalty after 20 minutes and would probably have had more to show for their domination had they been more patient in allowing their forwards to batter over.
After the early try letting the ball out to the backs in damp conditions proved fruitless.
Durham had eight Mowden players in the starting lineup, while a ninth, Craig Dominick, replaced Gavin Painter when he was carried off after 15 minutes.
They broke out of defence with an attack up the left prior to Mitchell ghosting through a gap for his first try, converted by Durham University scrum half Henry Johnson.
Shortly after half-time East Midlands won a scrum against the head but were penalised for crossing and Johnson put Durham ahead.
As at the previous restart, Blaydon prop Trevor Davison caught the ball and showed his strength in making good progress, while Westoe’s former Stockton No 8 Scott Powell also carried well.
In broken play open side Callum Mackenzie was prominent and he sped over when, in a move going left, the ball was turned back inside for him to take at pace.
Johnson again converted, as he did with the final kick after Mitchell gathered a loose ball 60 metres out to race unchallenged to the posts.
Durham will face Kent at Twickenham.
*England Counties Under 20s, captained by Mowden Park No 8 Guy Van Den Dries, suffered an agonising 23-22 defeat against Georgia at Cambridge’s Volac Park.
Mowden flanker Jack Allcock scored a try and England appeared to have snatched victory with a late converted try, but they conceded a penalty for handling in a ruck and the Georgia full-back found the target.
The defeat followed two onepoint reverses for the England Counties senior side, including the one against an Ireland Clubs XV at The Northern Echo Arena.