DARLINGTON MOWDEN PARK 54 PRESTON GRASSHOPPERS 24
After scaling the heights in amassing 83 points the week before, Hoppers plumbed the depths, conceding 8 tries and 54 points at high-flying Mowden Park.
Coach Michael Lough made no excuses: “Today, we just weren’t at the races, it was our worst display of the season, not taking anything away from Park who played some good rugby and thoroughly deserved the win. Last week everything went well for us whereas today things did not and we lost confidence. But late on we rallied and showed that we can score tries”
The hosts were on the scoreboard as early as the second minute when a counter attack was rounded off by predatory wing Chris McTurk who, after more pressure and some poor tackling, ran in his second, Grant Connon converting the first. Straight from the restart, a charged down clearance was touched down by centre Cameron Mitchell and the kick was good.
Hoppers continued to make handling errors and fall off tackles and home hooker Tonkin secured the 4-try bonus on 24 minutes before McTurk took advantage of a lucky bounce to get his hat-trick. Both were converted and Hoppers were looking down the barrel at 33-0.
A dangerous tackle brought a yellow card for home full back Robinson, and at last Hoppers’ backs produced some fast hands and Phil Baines strolled over, Sean Taylor converting to reduce the deficit at the break.
Hoppers threatened briefly at the restart but failed to keep possession and flanker Callum McKenzie mopped up spilled ball to race in at the posts.
The visitors were at last getting into the game but failed to break down solid home defence until Gareth Gore touched down after a drive from the pack and replacement Josh Purnell converted. The momentum was halted as Gore was sinbinned and first Robinson touched down a kick through before Connon weaved through a static defence, converting both tries to bring up the half-century.
To their credit, Hoppers battled on and sustained forward pressure saw Chris Gale driven over before the backs at last showed what they could do as Purnell cleverly looped round to put in Anthony Elliott for the bonus try but by now it was merely damage limitation.
Hoppers now need one win from their remaining two home games to secure fourth place in the league.