Old Elthamians 28 Darlington Mowden Park 26
BY JON EDWARDS
Battling Elthamians withstood a storming second half Darlington fightback to secure a thrilling bonus point victory at College Meadow last Saturday.
Scrum-half Euan McKirdy scored a hat-trick of tries to bring the visitors back into contention as they fought back from a 28-12 half-time deficit. But despite enjoying the majority of possession in the second half, Darlington struggled to break down a superb defensive effort from an Elthamians side forced into a reshuffle at the interval with the loss of three players through injury.
The foundations for OEs’ victory had been laid during an impressive first half display in which they were ruthless in punishing Darlington mistakes.
Lock Dylan Flashman gave Elthamians a dream start when he broke away from a ruck on the edge of the Darlington 22 and charged over for the opening try after only eight minutes.
Darlington attempted to move the ball wide at every opportunity, looking for a chink of daylight in the wall of white shirts in front of them. But in trying to force an opening out wide, they were made to pay for two wayward passes which allowed OEs duo Ollie Claxton and Bryan Hotston to score tries from interceptions, either side of a close range effort from Jared Saunders as OEs secured the four-try bonus point before half-time.
Darlington replied with a jinking run from full-back Paul Jarvis and McKirdy’s first try following a strong break from flanker Callum McKenzie.
If the first half belonged to the home side, Darlington had much the better of the second period. They penned OEs in their own half for long periods and built pressure through multiple phases of possession.
They were rewarded of their efforts when the livewire McKirdy dived over on 58 minutes from a driven lineout in the OEs 22.
When the Darlington scrum-half produced a wonderful solo effort to weave through the OEs defence and touch down for his hat-trick on 78 minutes, Elthamians faced a nervous finish to this hard fought encounter.
But with their lead cut to just two points, the home side, led by an outstanding display from No.8 Elliott Quinton, held their discipline and their nerve to secure the win.
Tries: Flashman 8, Claxton 12, Saunders 29 Hotston 38
Cons: Gibbons x 4 (9,13, 30, 39)
Tries: Jarvis 19 McKirdy x 3 (32 58 78)
Cons: Seals x 3 (20 59 79)
Old Elthamians: Lo Brown, Hotston, McGann, Eastwell, Goble, Gibbons, Claxton; Holenstein, Fordham, Hay, Flashman, Parker, Saunders, Barton, Quinton. Subs: Boon, Concu, McGeekie, Jackson, A Brown.
PICTURES BY IAN CARTER
Main Pic: Lock Dylan Flashman dives over for Elthamians’ opening try last Saturday