Darlington Mowden Park 18 Esher 16

DARLINGTON MOWDEN PARK made it three wins in a row as they claimed a hard-fought 18-16 victory over Esher.

The win keeps Mowden in second position in the National One table, with a trip to third-placed Ampthill to come this weekend.

Saturday’s game at The Northern Echo Arena was played in testing conditions, making handling difficult for both sides.

The visitors broke the deadlock inside a minute, courtesy of a Basil Strang penalty, with the same player adding a second three-pointer minutes later to hand Esher a 6-0 lead.

It got better for the away team after 13 minutes as a loose ball was worked wide for Niall Saunders to cross for the opening try. Strang converted to stretch Mowden’s deficit to 13 points.

The hosts reacted well though, and closed the gap through a Garry Law penalty on 20 minutes, before a pivotal five-minute spell prior to half-time.

Mowden’s first try came through Talite Vaioleti, with the Tongan lock burrowing over from close range. The second came just before the break, with Callum Mackenzie doing well on the left wing to find Ben Frankland, with the centre dotting down smartly. That handed Mowden their first lead of the game as they entered the interval with a 15-13 advantage.

The second half saw Mowden enjoy the lion’s share of possession, but they struggled to convert their dominance into points. Esher defended well to deny the hosts any further tries, setting up a nervy finale.

There was no further score until the 75th minute, as Strang kicked a long-range penalty to hand Esher the lead once more. Mowden trailed by two at that stage, and had just five minutes to find a decisive score.

A long-range effort from replacement Warren Seals drifted narrowly wide, before Mowden went through a series of phases on the Esher five-metre line.

The visitors’ defence held strong until they were penalised for offside in front of the posts. Law kept his cool to convert the penalty and hand Mowden their 13th home win of the season. Vaioleti was named Man of the Match after signing a new deal earlier in the week.