DARLINGTON MOWDEN PARK left it late, but a flourishing finish secured a crucial win over fellow promotion chasers Ampthill in a dramatic game at the Northern Echo Arena.

Mowden, who started the day just two points clear of their opponents in second position, came out of the blocks strongly, and almost opened the scoring inside the first minute.

A clever supporting line from full-back Grant Connon saw him race clear, only for play to be brought back for a forward pass.

It didn’t take the home side long to register their first try however, as Adam Radwan crossed on five minutes. The teenage winger latched on to some smart play in the midfield to stretch over in the corner, with Warren Seals converting to hand Mowden a 7-0 lead.

Ampthill responded well and enjoyed the lion’s share of both territory and possession for the next half-hour.

Mowden flanker Matt Heaton was sin binned after 15 minutes for stopping an Ampthill maul illegally, leaving the hosts with 14 men for the next ten minutes. The home side defended manfully however, holding firm during the Canadian’s absence despite constant Ampthill pressure.

Ampthill’s driving maul was a threat throughout, and paid dividends shortly before half-time. Winger Nigel Baker profited from a powerful catch-and-drive to scamper over, with Lawrence Rayner’s conversion levelling the scores. Mowden almost replied on the stroke of half-time, but a knock-on saw the sides go into half-time level.

The second period started with Ampthill continuing to rely on their strong driving maul, and the visitors claimed the lead for the first time through a Rayner penalty.

Mowden responded well and put consistent pressure on the Ampthill line, and a series of pick-and-go’s laid the foundation for prop Adam Brocklebank to burrow over. After much deliberation between the officials, the try was awarded, and Seals again made no mistake with the conversion.

That set up a nail-biting final ten minutes, with Mowden leading by just four points. The game looked to have swung in the visitors’ favour when Billy Johnson found a gap in the host defence. He found Maama Molitika who barged over for Ampthill’s second try.

The conversion drifted wide, though, leaving Ampthill a single point ahead with eight minutes to play.

Mowden’s home faithful were in good voice willing their side on as they attacked the Ampthill 22, but they looked to have missed their chance when an interception took play back into the Mowden half.

With just two minutes remaining, Talite Vaioleti pounced on a loose ball to hand Mowden one last chance, one they made the most of. A pinpoint kick from the impressive Ruaridh Dawson set up a foot race on the far touchline, with Radwan gathering and rolling to dot down the vital try.

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Seals converted once more, and Mowden held their nerve in the final minute to hold on for a priceless win with their impressive defence holding firm against a hugely powerful Ampthill outfit.

“We’re really pleased with the work rate of the lads on Saturday,” said Mowden director of rugby Danny Brown. “They took on a very physical Ampthill side and faced them head on.

“The defence was immense throughout, and when we were accurate in attack we were very dangerous.”

Brown’s side travel to Fylde this weekend, before a huge game against league leaders Coventry at the Northern Echo Arena on Saturday, December 16.

* Mowden are offering free tickets to schools for the top-of-the-table clash with Coventry - any schools interested should contact anne.rose@mowdenpark.com.