Huddersfield RU v Darlington Mowden Park
Huddersfield RU 27
Darlington Mowden Park 42
National II North
IF HUDDERSFIELD are going to survive in the division this season and prove that there is life after Chris Johnson, they need to discover all their defensive qualities – and quickly.
With the ball in hand and going forward, there was plenty to encourage coach Dan Hyde. It’s not often a side scores 27 points and finish empty-handed.
But against a team with plenty of enterprise (and most teams in National II have that in abundance) there were too many gaps that needed plugging all over the park.
Too many players were guilty of flying into the tackle to make the big hit but either missing the tackle altogether or not wrapping up the attacker and allowing the off-load.
And that was what killed Huddersfield on Saturday as they let Darlington run in five tries at the wrong end of the field, most of them through sloppy tackling rather than Mowden Park’s brilliance.
Grant Connon gave the visitors an early lead with a penalty before full-back Richard Young came into the line on the outside and found no-one in front of him, Dave Hall having come in-field to attempt a tackle, and the No15 crossed in the left corner for an unconverted try.
Hall made amends almost straight away as he latched on to to a loose ball when Young and his own winger made a hash of a Joel Hinchliffe kick which Hall scooped up and raced away to go round the posts.
Tom Owen added the conversion and Huddersfield were right back in it.
Ben Hoyle then found himself alongside visiting hooker Andrew Tonkin in the sin-bin for an innocuous-looking shoulder charge before Hinchliffe cleared his own try-line after Darlington had dropped the ball over the whitewash.
But the relief was short-lived as a clever crossfield kick from stand-off Connon found winger Chris McTurk in oceans of space and he easily rounded Alex Brook to get the visitors’ second try, converted by Connon.
Huddersfield replied immediately with the best try of the game when Owen hit the line at pace and combined well with stand-off Tom Andrews and Brook before Ben Mitchell cut through for an excellent score, Owen again converting.
It was end-to-end stuff at this point, and on Darlington’s next possession they notched try No3 when poor tackling on the touchline allowed big No8 Dan Dixon to reach over in the corner, Connon converting from the touchline.
A bad knock to prop Alex Battye saw him blood-binned and substituted by new signing Ben Bill, although he did return in the second half.
Two Owen penalties reduced the deficit to 22-20, only for Connon to hit a three-pointer from the second re-start, leaving Mowden Park 25-20 ahead at the break.
Tom Hanson replaced Gavin Rhodes in the second row to start the second half, while Jack Moon replaced Harry Whitfield at centre.
The visitors were over for their bonus point try on 50 minutes when another overlap enabled Luke Wishnowsky the space to cross and Huddersfield were again down to 14 when Brook was felled going for a high ball, but then found himself yellow-carded by Lockwood Park’s ‘favourite’ referee Brendan Fitzmaurice.
A break by busy little scrum half Zylon McGaffin put Mowden’s substitute Rory Duff through a hole for the visitors’ fifth try, with Connon’s fourth conversion pushing the score out to 39-20.
Adam Lancaster replaced Niall Murphy at hooker in the 58th minute and he was involved in a set of powerful drives from Huddersfield’s forwards, taking them to within smelling distance of the line, and after several infringements, Fitzmaurice – to everyone’s amazement – awarded the home side a penalty try.
Owen added the conversion and briefly there were hopes that Huddersfield might manage to conjure up a fourth try and with it a welcome bonus point.
Ollie Scrimshaw replaced Brook on the wing when his sin-binning expired, but was given no real chance to get into the game as the last 15 minutes or so became very much bogged down in midfield with Connon’s third penalty the only other score.
Huddersfield: Owen; Brook, Mitchell, Whitfield, Hall; Andrews, Hinchliffe; Battye, Murphy, Stringwell, N Rhodes, G Rhodes, Hinchliff, Hoyle, Sharpe. Subs: Bill (34 blood), Hanson (40), Moon (47), Scrimshaw (64).
Darlington Mowden Park: Young; McTurk, Mitchell, Peace, Connent, Connon, McGaffin, Appleby, Tonkin, Miller, Campbell, Wilson, McCauley, Wishnowsky, Dixon. Subs: Simons, Segula-Fagalilo, Duff, Hobson, Hall.