Ampthill Host Darlington Mowden Park This Saturday, Nov 24
Darlington Grammar School Old Boys was founded in 1950, 1970 saw the club buy land and build a pitches and a clubhouse at a site in Mowden, to the West of Darlington. At the same time the club changed it’s name to Mowden Park RFC, a more appropriate name as the club was no longer just for Old Boys. The last decade of the 20th century saw on field success with the club eventually promoted to level 4 in the rugby pyramid (then National 3 North, now National 2 North) and another renaming, to the current Darlington Mowden Park.
The year 2000 began a remarkable series of Tetley Bitter Cup runs with DMP reaching the 5th round in 2000 and the fourth round in both 2001 and 2002, all three times losing to much higher ranked opposition.
During the noughties the club’s role in the community expanded with a thriving mini & youth section fielding squads from U7 to U18 and four adult sides. More recently U15 & U18 girls squads have been established as well as the Sharks, the ladies squad.
In 2012, a too good to be refused offer on their Yiewsley Road ground from a developer was followed by a planned move to West Park falling through, at this point an audaciously entrepreneurial plan was conceived and executed to acquire the 25,000 seater Northern
Echo Arena, previously home to Darlington FC, plus sufficient ground locally to accommodate all 21 squads. It is a matter of record that the Arena was purchased for £1m in December 2013!
The concept of a then level 4 club playing in modern stadium with better facilities and a larger capacity than just about any Premiership club was a hard one to get ones head around but all credit must go the visionaries that drove the move and the subsequent on field success.
DMP’s on field performance saw them finish 2nd in National 2 North in 2013-14 which secured a place in the end of season playoff for the third National 1 promotion spot. Their opponents in the playoff were none other than Ampthill who had finished 2nd in National 2 South. In an extraordinary co-incidence Ampthill had travelled to Darlington for a pre-season fixture played in the NEA in August 2013 where, for what it was worth, the visitors had secured a narrow victory.
In front of an enormous (by National 2 standards) crowd containing a goodly fraction of the population of Ampthill, a titanic struggle ensued which was only settled by a try to the hosts in the 3rd minute of time added on at the end of 10 minutes each way extra time, the game ending 25-25 after 80 minutes. The long, quiet bus journey home remains vivid in Ampthill players & supporters memories.
DMP returned the pre-season favour by visiting Dillingham Park for an August 2014 pre-season fixture running out narrow winners.
Since then matches between the two sides have been closely contested affairs with one exception the remarkable 45-29 result at the NEA a couple of seasons back.
This season Park have a played 11 won 6 record to lie 9th in the table, 4 places but just 3pts behind Ampthill.
Having won three and drawn with league leaders Old Elthamanians in their last four matches Ampthill have hit a rich vein of form, being denied a 4th victory only due to an uncharacteristic last kick of the game penalty miss last week.
There are a number of changes to the squad this week, Up front, Paino Hehea returns at lock partnered by dual registered with Saracens Jon Kpoku, in the backs Mikey Waters returns at fly half while the bench sees Samson Ma’asi (Hooker, DR with Saints), Alex Coles (DR with Northampton Saints) covers lock, Joe Bercis returns to cover flanker and Mickey Wilson provides backs cover.
DoR Mark Lavery comments “A big game against a familiar and very good opponent who have had the Indian sign over Amps for a while. Usually extremely tight contests the visitors have made a habit of winning in the last five minutes.
The Maroon and Gold are beginning to show signs of their potential and unbeaten now in four games. When we look back on last weeks clash with OEs away it was one that got away with the last play of the match a penalty that was just pushed wide so there is no doubting A’s potential but we will need an eighty minute performance if we are going to continue the current good run of form.”