Fylde 31 Darlington MP 25
To speak of relegation at the Woodlands is like going off-message and is looked on with such disdain as the uttering of some unrepeatable expletive,
There could be no down-playing the importance of this fixture to both sides, having found themselves too close to the National League One relegation zone for comfort.
It was a topsy-turvy, hard-edged affair in which Fylde scored after only 90 seconds, then ceded advantage at various points before recovering to grind out a win.
Darlington Mowden Park were always competitive and in classy fly-half Warren Seals they had the game’s most influential figure.
There were some sterling individual performances, not least by number eight Dave Fairbrother, while hooker Tom Burtonwood would have walked it in any poll to find the Fylde man-of-the-match, but for the fact that his lineout throwing went awry in the tense closing stages.
George Nott got better as the game progressed, and it was more than useful to have Evan Stewart upon whom to call in the final quarter to help shore up the defensive side.
Fylde could hardly have got off to a better start with that early start, the lion’s share of the credit for which must go to full-back Jordan Dorrington.
Fancy footwork and swivel hips combined to take him 40 yards through a befuddled Darlo defence before he off-loaded to Greg Smith, who shipped it to tryscorer Ben Vernon. Smith converted
Far from being a spur to the home side, it served to enliven the visitors and they were level on five minutes with a try by Ben Frankland, goaled by Seals.
For a significant spell after that Darlington MP dominated in terms of territory, though Fylde wing James Bailey. on his full first team debut, made an eye-catching run, one of a number that were to follow later in the day.
It was no big surprise, however when the visitors took the lead on 31 minutes when Seals showed his guile and strength to claim his side’s second try, adding a conversion.
Five minutes later Fylde scored the try of the match.
Fairbrother broke away from the base of a maul and set his backline moving; it went down the line before arriving at Scott Armstrong, who embarked on a strong diagonal run and scorched in for a copybook try.
Smith’s conversion levelled it up at 14-14 at half-time.
Fylde were on the back foot, though, within five minutes of the restart,
The home defence was in some serious strife as winger James Barnard was on the end of a tryscoring move.
The setback proved to be only temporary as Fylde pressed hard and won a line-out.
They carried the ball forward ever closer to the opposition line before Burtonwood plunged over for a try his endeavours had fully merited. Smith converted.
Fylde’s lead lasted fewer than four minutes as Seals struck over a penalty before Darlo were pinged in front of the posts and Smith had a straightforward task to score as Fylde edged ahead, 24-22.
On 66 minutes Fylde went two scores clear; again, excellent lineout work set up an attacking base and this time it was scrum-half Connor Dever, who burrowed over, Smith converting.
That made it 31-22, but there was still lots of hard work to do.
A penalty by Seals reduced the deficit by three on 71 minutes as Park started to bombard the Fylde line – only desperate defence kept them out.
They won another penalty, but rather than go for the penalty, they decided to run it, but the ploy failed to work out and the attacking position was lost, much to Fylde’s evident relief.
Right at the death, the ever-willing Bailey was just second-best in a foot-race to the Darlington MP line, at which point the referee called a halt to proceedings without adding a second of stoppage time.