TYNEDALE Raiders’ winning run in the Candy League came to an end after a hard-fought match away to a strong Darlington Mowden Park outfit.

But the game was a superb advert for second team rugby in the North-East, with both sides displaying skill, pace and physicality across the pitch. The final score of 22-19 to home side Darlington reflected the even-matched nature of the sides.

Despite being played out in an empty arena, the playing surface was excellent which allowed both sides to play an attractive brand of running rugby.

The Raiders were forced to ring a number of changes to their squad through unavailability and injuries, particularly across the back division which has been so strong in recent weeks.

The Raiders started the match the stronger and worked their way into the DMP 22, but following a series of close quarter plays, they became impatient and could not register any points. After 10 minutes of play, the Raiders found themselves 7-0 down, a turnover of possession giving DMP an opportunity to move the ball and break through the disorganised Tyne defence for the first converted score of the match.

With only 15 minutes played, the Raiders lost influential skipper Ed Craney to injury and this meant an early re-jig of their forwards.

From a resulting set piece, the ball squirted out of the side of the scrum on half way and DMP were first to react and sent their wing on a long and powerful run deep into Tynedale’s 22, where an offload allowed a support runner to finish, making it 12-0 with less than 20 minutes played.

DMP were very much in the ascendancy and when Tynedale tried to relieve some pressure, a loose kick was swallowed up by the home backs and quick passing and good running lines undid the Tyne defence once more, bringing a 19-0 score line with less than 30 minutes played.

This galvanised the visitors and they were finally rewarded on 36 minutes when a series of penalties and close drives from the forwards resulted in the impressive Dicky Dunn crashing over for a score, which Adam Todhunter converted for 19-7 at half time.

This brought belief to the Raiders, who came out for the second half with a renewed energy and tempo that had their hosts rattled.

Stu Johnson had a fine game at number eight, with a series of telling carries and offloads giving the side important momentum and ball for the backs to play off.

On 48 minutes, some excellent handling in the backs set winger Ben Common free to run in for an unconverted try, reducing the deficit to 19-12 with 30 minutes to play.

DMP had a period of pressure of their own, and won a penalty which they converted to extend their lead to 10 points with 20 minutes of the game still to play.

Again, Tynedale would not lie down and played some attractive rugby deep into DMP territory. Adam Shane, who had been an attacking threat from full-back throughout, jinked his way through the defence and raced in to score, again converted by Todhunter to close the gap to 22-19 with eight minutes left on the clock.

The Raiders tried to come up with a killer play to win the match but couldn’t work themselves into the right area of the field in the closing stages and so the game finished with DMP just shading a good contest.

All players from both sides deserve praise for the way in which the game was played. Tynedale’s young props Owen Loughhead and Sam Stephenson played the full 80 minutes and competed very well against much bigger, more experienced opposition.

The Raiders were also encouraged to see the return of Owen Waldin who had a fine game at inside centre. Man of the match was Jacob Brown who was superb in the line-out and tireless in his work around the park.

The Raiders are at home to Alnwick in the Candy League on Saturday.