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Bishop’s Stortford remain in National 1 relegation trouble with two games left after losing 17-13 at Darlington Mowden Park





Bishop’s Stortford remain in National 1 relegation trouble with two games left after losing 17-13 at Darlington Mowden Park on Saturday (April 6).

The away team failed to capitalise on numerous first-half scoring opportunities, allowing the resolute sixth-placed side to edge a disappointing second half to squeak home.

Marcus Cattell’s men did pick up a losing bonus point and still sit 11th in the table, two places above the relegation zone.

But the gap to the bottom two has been reduced from seven points to three after second-from-bottom Cinderford won 29-28 at home to third-placed Rosslyn Park.

Basement boys Taunton, who are only two points from safety, also triumphed 41-27 at 10th-placed Sale FC, but Leicester Lions, who sit immediately above the trap door, lost 42-12 at leaders Chinnor.

Stortford could potentially get themselves safe when they entertain Sale this Saturday (April 13) while the bottom two meet as Taunton host Cinderford. Stortford’s last match of the season is away to Cinderford on April 27.

Chris Smith, pictured scoring against Leicester Lions last month, got a try on his 100th Bishop’s Stortford appearance in the defeat at Darlington Mowden Park. Picture: Vikki Lince
Chris Smith, pictured scoring against Leicester Lions last month, got a try on his 100th Bishop’s Stortford appearance in the defeat at Darlington Mowden Park. Picture: Vikki Lince

The visitors had a decisive advantage in both possession and territory during the first half at Darlington, but failed to achieve anything like the scoreboard lead that the dominance should have produced. This could be put down in part to gritty Darlington defence, but the visitors’ error count, once again, was high.

Despite this, numerous try-scoring opportunities were created, but only one was taken. This came after 20 minutes and it was Chris Smith, celebrating his 100th game for the visitors, who did well to touch down after Tom Walker had seized on a loose Darlington ball near halfway and, in one movement, deftly offloaded behind his back to set Nick Hankin slicing through the home defence.

Walker made an excellent conversion and, six minutes later, added three points from a penalty when a crucial Chris Bolton tackle forced a breakdown penalty as the home side tried to run out of defence.

Two golden opportunities for further Stortford tries went begging when, firstly, some slick back play, with Hankin again making telling inroads, ended with Jake Morris being tackled into touch in the process of crossing the line.

Then Harrison Langworthy had the ball dislodged from his grasp as he dived across the try line close to the posts. This came after Stortford had declined a shot at goal to kick for a five-metre lineout.

In the meantime, the home side had dragged themselves back into contention when one of a number of speculative long passes from their three-quarters finally found its target, giving their right wing a clear run to the line for an unconverted try.

A 10-5 half-time lead looked tenuous and an early injury to Will Rogers did nothing to calm Stortford nerves as Darlington came increasingly into the game after the break.

The home side were also doubtless relieved to see Alex Rayment substituted with the hooker having been prominent in the visitors’ pack effort, particularly since a number of subsequent lineout losses stifled Stortford’s increasingly sporadic sorties into opposition territory.

The visitors, nevertheless, extended their lead to eight points with another Walker goal when Smith forced a breakdown penalty, running a quickly-taken lineout from a long Darlington kick.

A turning point followed five minutes later when the home side finally found a gap in Stortford’s midfield defence to send their full-back running at his opposite number. Indecision in this one-on-one situation resulted in the two players crashing into each other in an upright position and the defender was rightly penalised and yellow-carded.

With momentum increasingly in their favour, the home side soon took advantage of the extra man, going over for a second unconverted try from a secondary forward drive from a five-metre lineout after two successive Stortford penalties.

The decisive score followed only four minutes later after Stortford had lost an attacking lineout and Darlington poured salt in the wound by exploiting a tackle off the ball to clear the way for their No 8 to burst from the base of a ruck, well outside the opposition 22, and dash over untouched for a try under the posts.

The visitors battled back, but their lineout travails prevented them from capitalising on further chances in the red zone, one notable one having been won by a tremendous counter-ruck by Austin Pope and a 50-22 kick from Bolton.

The home side were very pleased to end the game shortly afterwards having somehow contrived to win a scrum for a knock-on after a Stortford maul, advancing steadily on the home line from an attacking lineout, collapsed.

Stortford: Hankin, Morris, Mills, Ayrton, Smith, Walker, Bolton; Hill, Rayment, Peck, Kiff, H Charter, Langworthy, Pope, Rogers. Replacements: Jackson, Warren, T Charter, Cole, Biard.



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