DARLINGTON MOWDEN PARK made a winning start to the new National One season as they ran in five tries to record a convincing opening-weekend win over Loughborough.

There were home league debuts for lock Jake Brady, scrum-half Matt Dudman and prop Alfie Barron, while fly-half Warren Seals, full-back Grant Connon and wing Chris McTurk all made their returns to the club after re-signing in the summer.

Loughborough have linked up with Leicester Tigers this season, but only one dual-registered player featured at The Northern Echo Arena. No fewer than 16 players will be available to Loughborough eventually, ensuring the Students will be a different proposition come the return fixture.

The visitors had the pace and enthusiasm traditionally associated with any student side and were combative in the lineout, but were out-muscled at the scrum and in the collisions.

Mowden were the stronger side throughout, and opened the scoring in the sixth minute as Seals saw a gap in the students defence and cut through it, touching down for the opening try.

He converted his own score, but Loughborough responded with a penalty from fly-half Owen Waters as Mowden were guilty of a transgression at the ruck in front of their posts.

Pressure at scrum time brought the next rewards for the home side, as the pack pushed their opposition over the line from a five-metre scrum, enabling number eight Ollie Hodgson to score.

Seals converted again, and claimed his second try of the game shortly before half-time when he cut another line through the visitors defence.

Just when it looked that would be the last score before the interval, confusion in the home defence allowed quick thinking Loughborough scrum-half Cameron Dobinson to gather the ball and sprint to the line for the Students’ first try, which was converted by Waters.

That made it 19-10 at the break, and the Students started the brighter after the interval with Waters adding another penalty.

Mowden regained their stranglehold though, with a break by wing Callum Mackenzie supported by Connon, enabling the latter to take an inside pass and outsprint the visitors’ defence for a score under the posts. That guaranteed a bonus point, with Seals converting to make it 26-13.

Again the students tried to get back into the game, as replacements were introduced from both sides, which consequentially interrupted both teams’ flow.

Mowden underlined their superiority when, in the 76th minute, home skipper Chris Auld took possession and set off for the visitors’ line, passing to centre Ben Frankland, who weaved his way to the line for the hosts’ fifth try.

Seals once again added the extras, but Loughborough grabbed two late consolation tries in stoppage time. Centre Tom Stapley scored the first, before winger Tim Bitirim also crossed to make the final scoreline closer than it should probably have been.

The victory represented a fine start to the campaign for Mowden, who head to Hull Ioanians on Saturday.

Darlington Mowden Park: Connon, McTurk, Frankland, Auld, Mackenzie, Seals, Dudman, Appleby, Wood, Darkintis, Brady, Craggs, Fisher, Heaton, Hodgson.
Replacements - Barron, Vaioleti, Duff, McCartney, Law.