GEORGE Reynolds can rest easy. Word will not be spreading like wildfire round Darlington that rugby is the game to watch after the first national league derby.

It was far preferable to a car boot sale, of course, but for any first-timers prepared to be converted to the sport the lack of spectacle would have been disappointing.

Both teams could afford to spoil and concede penalties because the kicking was so poor, and after a reasonably entertaining first half Mowden, predictably superior up front, seemed content to grind out a victory.

The threequarters have rarely clicked in the last two years, partly because the personnel seem to change every week.

Dave Richardson has failed to live up to his billing as hat-trick hero in the opening match and retired early from the derby fray, apparently suffering from blurred vision.

This allowed newcomer Craig Firth to switch from wing to centre but he still saw little of the ball, only once having the chance to show some real pace.

It was the pace off the mark of full back Iain Dixon and scrum half Andy Foreman which produced the three tries, which Darlington matched, albeit with the last one coming at the death.

Dixon's brace came courtesy of forward pressure stretching the visiting defence and when Dixon spots a gap from 25 metres out he needs no second invitation to accelerate through it.

His first, on the stroke of half-time, was a crucial score as Darlington had gone 12-10 in front after 35 minutes then Craig Lee missed a simple chance to stretch the lead with a penalty.

Mark Bedworth landed three penalties and two conversions for Mowden, but he also missed four penalties to cancel out Darlington's obvious lack of a goal-kicker. Lee missed three times before new full back Richard Lang topped his solitary effort.

In contrast with last April's one-sided Durham Cup clash, Darlington competed well in the first half. But with a 17-12 interval lead it seemed inevitable that Mowden's greater forward power would take its toll.

They duly dominated the second half but needed two Bedworth penalties to stretch the lead before the third try came after 75 minutes.

The barrel chests of No 8 Tom McLaren and hooker Tasi Tuhana were prominent up front for Mowden, while new flanker Andrew Carphin stood up well for Darlington.

The game was played in a good spirit, but a minor dust-up after 25 minutes saw opposing props Phil Lancaster and Dave Sinclair sin-binned.

It proved a bad day for the hard-working Sinclair as he was helped off towards the end with a suspected broken leg.

Darlington began brightly with Lang having a hand in the move which put them ahead after two minutes. It ended with a half break by Craig Lee putting fellow centre Tosh McIntee over in the right corner.

Five minutes later Mowden made ground from a quick penalty and when the ball was recycled Foreman shot away on a looping run down the narrow side to score wide out on the right. Bedworth added an excellent conversion.

Darlington got into a tangle when trying to run a penalty from their own half then Lang had a kick charged down by Tony Irwin and it needed a blind side break by Rob Stewart to relieve the pressure.

A break by Mowden centre Chris Strong put Darlington under pressure again and when they conceded two penalties Bedworth kicked the second.

Darlington came back with flanker Martin Howe breaking off the back of a line-out supported by scrum half Stewart.

They kicked a penalty to the corner and from the line-out prop Dan Miller burrowed over, with Lee's conversion putting them 12-10 ahead.

They attacked again in first half injury time, but winger Frankie Coulson was isolated after a good run and Mowden countered strongly with lock Kelekolio Paino twice featuring in the sweeping move which brought Dixon's first try.

After 35 largely forgettable minutes he repeated the effort to make sure of victory for Mowden. They almost scored again when Bedworth collected a Paino pass off his bootlaces, but Darlington maintained their brave defence to the end and five minutes into injury time they swept up field for replacement centre Ben Snook to be given a clear 15-metre run to the right corner.

Neither side has a game next Saturday, but after losing their first two matches in National Three North Darlington will hope to break their duck at home to Dudley Kingswinford in two weeks.

Result: Darlington Mowden Park 28 Darlington 17.