Fylde 17 Darlington Mowden Park 21

Fylde's Anthony Bingham almost snatched victory
Fylde's Anthony Bingham almost snatched victory
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Fylde’s second-half revival couldn’t spare them a home defeat at the hands of Mowden Park for the second successive season.

A much-improved second-half display almost saw Fylde snatch victory in added time, though the early 21-0 deficit proved just too much to claw back and Paul Arnold’s side had to settle for a losing bonus point.

Evan Stewart returned to the Fylde pack as Ben Vernon began his four-week suspension and Fylde were forced into a last-minute change on the bench: winger Jordan Dorrington suffered a back injury in the warm-up and so Ralph Dowds was pulled out of the Second XV game on a neighbouring pitch.

On a truly wretched afternoon of driving rain and strong winds, DMP got their tactics just right from the start, using their powerful pack to dominate the set-pieces and kicking sensibly for territory.

After only three minutes, they attacked down their left and impressive centre Gary Law powered through an ineffective defence on a 40-metre surge to the line, converting his own try.

Making light of the wet pitch, DMP attacked again in the same area, but they were guilty of a crossing offence with a two-man overlap and blew the try-scoring chance.

Led by skipper Gareth Nesbit, DMP repeatedly pushed Fylde backwards at the scrum and won a series of penalties.

Law missed with his first penalty kick at goal, but he kicked the next into the corner on 10 minutes and Italian international flanker Luca Petillo scored from the drive. Law’s goal made it 14-0, with Fylde not yet out of first gear.

It got worse for the home side on 18 minutes, when Law raced in for a 40m interception try. His conversion continued what was fast becoming the Gary Law show.

It was no day for Fylde’s running rugby but in the first half they didn’t appear to have a plan B, making it all too easy for the Blaydon defence.

When winger Anthony Bingham did make a break, he was eventually penalised for not releasing the ball in the tackle as it remained 21-0 until half-time.

Whatever the Fylde coaches said in the changing rooms had immediate effect as the backs set Bingham free down the right in the first minute of the second half.

He was eventually tackled but Fylde won a penalty, which Chris Johnson took quickly to plunge over for a try, converting himself.

Fylde were now warming to their task, playing with greater intensity and their handling improved as the rain abated.

They scored again on 49 minutes, when Oliver Brennand came in off his left wing to join the attacking line and sprinted through a gap to score. Johnson’s conversion drifted wide but the home side were back in the game at 21-12.

Replacement Simon Griffiths was proving a major physical presence until he was forced off with an injured ankle.

In an end-to-end second half, Johnson used the wind to pin back Mowden with touchline kicks.

DMP were now making the mistakes and on the hour Fylde centre Scott Rawlings crashed over for a try down the right.

Johnson’s conversion attempt from wide out hit an upright but the deficit was down to four.

DMP fought back grimly and dominated possession for 15 minutes, pinning Fylde in their own 22 and breaking down the right only to be denied a possible match-clinching try by a forward pass.

Fylde struggled to get out of their own half as the clocked ticked down, and all hope seemed lost when Dan Birchall was yellow-carded with three minutes remaining.

But the 14 men launched a final attack in stoppage time from a break by captain Chris Briers.

The ball was hacked forward and Bingham outsprinted the cover defence only to be adjudged to have knocked on in gathering the ball five metres from the line. The ball arguably went forward off the winger’s shin rather than his hand but a Fylde victory would have been hard on DMP.

Following back-to-back wins for Fylde, this setback sees them drop back into the lower half of National One and facing three tough matches before Christmas, starting with a trip to third-placed Blackheath on Saturday.

Head coach Paul Arnold said: “I was very disappointed in the first 25 minutes. We were slow to react to the conditions and to Mowden’s tactics.

“We struggled to get any possession at all and conceded 21 points in as many minutes.

“Some harsh words were spoken at half-time and the performance in the second period was much better.

“We could have even nicked the game at the very end but all credit to DMP– their gameplan was simple and effective. They were a very well-organised and disciplined team.”

Fylde: Spragg, Brennand, Briers, S Rawlings, Bingham; Johnson, Nicholls; Birchall, Burtonwood, Lewis, G Rawlings, Robinson, Stewart, Moon, Fairbrother. Replacements: Griffiths, Mills, Gray, De La Harpe, Dowds.