Darlington Mowden Park 10 Cinderford 7

DARLINGTON MOWDEN PARK left it late to clinch a vital win over Cinderford, with Warren Seals’ dramatic drop-goal securing a narrow victory after a tight contest at The Northern Echo Arena.

The win sees Mowden close the gap on the top four in the National One table as they head into a pivotal run of festive fixtures.

On a bitterly cold afternoon, both sides showed plenty of attacking endeavour early on. Cinderford arguably had the better of the opening exchanges and almost took the lead inside five minutes, but Mowden defended well to keep the game scoreless.

A big visiting pack had a number of attacks on the Mowden line but were unable to convert their pressure into points as their opponents fronted up physically.

The hosts grew into the game and almost broke the deadlock through Pera Gibbs and then Talite Vaioleti, both of whom came close to crossing the whitewash.

Mowden did eventually open the scoring after 38 minutes with a well-worked team try. Fly-half Garry Law started the attack inside his own half, finding Brandon Asher-Wood and then Seals, who took play up to the 22.

Law finished off the attack in the corner, before converting brilliantly from out wide to give his side a seven-point half-time advantage.

The game continued in similar fashion as the sleet started to fall after the restart, but it was the visitors who scored next.

Winger Jacob Morris profited from a loose pass in the Mowden midfield to race away under the posts. Liam Hemming added the simple conversion to level the scores.

The following half-hour saw neither side able to gain the upper hand, with a host of handling errors in the testing conditions.

Mowden began to empty their bench heading into the final quarter, with replacements Joe Duffy and Ollie Walker making a big impact in attack.

In a nervy final five minutes, the home side worked the ball into the Cinderford 22 as they looked for the decisive score. Law saw his drop-goal attempt drift narrowly wide, before Mowden set up another opportunity to win it with time beyond the 80 minutes.

A huge carry from Vaioleti took his side within striking distance, and Seals held his nerve to slot the match-winning drop goal from 20 metres out.

Mowden director of rugby Danny Brown said: “It’s great to come away from a very tough match against a good Cinderford side with the win. It probably wasn’t the prettiest of games, but it was very physical and dominated by two good defences.

“I’m delighted for the boys as they have had it tough over the last few weeks and that win will do them the world of good.”

Saturday’s game helped raise funds for young club member Luke Bell, who is fighting high risk neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer. Brown added: “That today was for Luke, a true hero of the Mowden family.”