HUDDERSFIELD had to do it the hard way, producing a gutsy performance to claim a third victory in their first-ever campaign in National III North, 28-26 at Darlington Mowden Park.
The Lockwood Park side had barely touched the ball when they found themselves 10-0 down after three minutes – and that was despite having the benefit of the wind at their backs and playing down the Mowden Park slope!
From the kick-off Darlington took possession and ran it straight down the touchline unchallenged to score, and then from the ensuing kick-off by Chris Johnson the ball was hacked through and the home side won the race to touch down over Huddersfield’s line.
Both conversions failed, but it was still a disastrous start for the visitors, particularly after winning the toss and choosing to play with the elements in their favour.
Fortunately Huddersfield then began to tackle, and shortly after they responded when Nick Sharpe got them back in the game. The big No8 peeled off the back of a scrum, dummied the defence and dived over.
Minutes later big centre James Mortimore bulldozed his way over from close range after coming through on the crash ball, for his second try in two games, and with Johnson on target for both tries, the visitors hit the front.
A successful penalty by Darlington reduced Field’s lead to a solitary point, but skipper Mark Whitehead gave his side a little more breathing space, when on the stroke of half time he broke clear and used his considerable pace to beat off the full-back and cross out wide to send the visitors in 19-13 ahead at the halfway point.
It barely looked enough as Huddersfield turned into the elements in the second half, and after a penalty from Johnson, Darlington exerted some pressure which brought them a converted try and a penalty to put them 23-22 ahead.
Coach Mark Sowerby brought himself on along with hooker Chris Gough with 25 minutes remaining as Huddersfield refused to buckle, and despite hampered by the sin-binning of Lee Paxman, they hit back with Johnson on the mark with his second three-pointer to push the visitors back in front once again.
It was short-lived however, as Mowden Park’s kicker thought he had sealed the points for his side with a penalty just four minutes from the end.
But there was still time for battling Huddersfield to force another error from the home side, and the reliable Johnson slotted his third penalty into the wind and between the posts for a two-point win which keeps his side 11th in the table, but with a game in hand over most of those above them.
Sowerby was definitely pleased with the win and the way his side responded after such a dreadful opening.
“I was very proud of the lads for the way they dug in, particularly after the start Darlington made,” said the player/coach, who is also director of rugby at Lockwood Park.
“Conceding 10 points before we had a touch was a real blow, especially as we had chosen to play downhill, expecting to get some points on the board in the first half.
“But I thought the team fought their way back into the game really well, although I was still worried that six points wasn’t enough of a lead at half time.
“We played some reasonable rugby at times without ever really playing well, but I was very pleased with the way we dug in, and I thought we showed a lot of guts. They were a young team, and I think with better conditions we would have won more convincingly.
“It was very much a bitty, stop-start game, the referee having a big influence, but thankfully Johnno (Chris Johnson) had his eye in, and kicked brilliantly from all over the park, in another top drawer performance.”