Darlington Mowden Park v 1stXV, Sat Jan 23, Match Preview
This Saturday sees Ampthill travel to the Northern Echo Arena to face Mowden Park for the fifth match between the clubs since August 2013!
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. The league fixture played in October 2015 was originally scheduled to be played in Darlington but, at Mowden Park’s request, was played at Ampthill due to the World Cup as the All Blacks had based themselves at the NEA for the early stages of the competition. On this occasion Amps ran out 32-20 winners.
DMP currently lie 8th in the National 1 table with a played 17 won 10 record, however, they have won their last 8 games in a row and must be considered the form team in National 1 having beaten Plymouth, Esher and Rosslyn Park in that run. Their last loss came at home to Richmond where they went down 21-22!
Ampthill’s defeated Henley at Dry Leas last week after a very competitive first half had ended 11-14. The second period saw the visitors out score the hosts by four tries to one to run out convincing winners 16-38.
The win kept the 1stXV in 5th place in National 1 with a played 17 won 11 record, a game in hand on those above and, due to other results, a narrowing of the points gap between the top five clubs.
There are a number of changes to the squad this week, more will be confirmed after training on Thursday.
Up front, Ralph Adams-Hale has been called into the England U20 squad where he joins fellow front row Billy Walker.
In the backs, James Pritchard has returned to Bedford on the completition of his loan spell, his place is taken by the fit again Elliot Clements-Hill.
The team sheets below are provisional and are very likely to change after Thursday training, please check back here before kick off.