DARLINGTON MOWDEN PARK made a perfect start to the new National One season as they claimed a maximum five-point haul from their trip to Bishop’s Stortford.

Mowden triumphed after a thrilling second half that saw both sides cut loose after a tense and scoreless first 40 minutes.

Mowden, who finished second in the National One table last term, travelled south with a depleted squad through injury, but Danny Brown’s side enjoyed the upper hand in the early exchanges.

However, with neither defence conceding much ground, the interval arrived without either team having been able to put a score on the board.

Mowden lost flanker Joe Duffy to the sin bin shortly before the half-hour mark, but Stortford were unable to make full use of their numerical advantage as the visitors defended strongly.

In contrast to the scoreless first half, the second period yielded a total of 49 points, with the lead changing hands four times.

Mowden opened the scoring shortly after the break through front row Ralph Appleby, whose close-range try was converted by Warren Seals.

The visitors’ lead was cut to four points shortly after through a George Cullen penalty, before Bishop’s Stortford took the lead on 48 minutes. Mowden full-back Chris Georgiou was shown a yellow card for a high tackle, with the officials awarding the hosts a penalty try for the offence.

Another Cullen penalty took the score to 13-7, before a well-taken try from Warren Seals wrestled back the advantage for the visitors.

The lead changed hands once more through another Cullen penalty, which set up a nail-biting final quarter with Stortford leading by two points.

Mowden struck next through returning winger Chris McTurk, who sped away from the Stortford defence to make the score 19-16 to the visitors.

The home side responded with a period of pressure, but the Mowden defence stood firm, enabling Georgiou to claim a bonus point try on 70 minutes.

That extended Mowden’s lead to ten points, and while Stortford hit back again through Robert Duff’s 77th-minute try, Darlington held on to claim a hard-fought win.

Mowden director of rugby Brown said: “We’re delighted to be coming away with maximum points against a strong Bishop’s Stortford side. We came into the game with a lot of injuries but the boys applied themselves brilliantly. Bishop’s Stortford are a great club and I’m sure they’ll do really well this season.

“We scored two tries while we were down to 14 men, and the team dug in really well to hold on for the win.

“All of the lads on debut performed well - George Stokes was our Man of the Match and the likes of Josh Hall and Chris Georgiou had a good game.

“It’s a nice way to start the season, but it’s only going to get harder now. It’s the most competitive the league has been in years so it’s going to be a tough year, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Mowden host Rotherham Titans in their first home game at The Northern Echo Arena on Saturday. Tickets are available on the day, priced £10 for adults and £8 for concessions. Under-16s are admitted free.