Stourbridge 14, Darlington Mowden Park 5

STOURBRIDGE took a massive step towards success this season with a vital victory against promotion rivals Darlington Mowden Park.

Second-placed Stour took on third-placed Darlington at a packed Stourton Park today in game that could prove crucial to both sides' chances of getting out of the league this campaign.

It was the home side that started the brighter of the two and showed their attacking intent right from the off.

They seemed to work their way deep into the Darlington half with ease and kept the pressure on well, forcing the visitors to kick the ball on a number of occasions.

One telling area where Stour also dominated in the first period was the scrum. Time and time again during the first exchanges it was Stour who came out on top.

It was this same weapon that proved crucial as the home side went over for a try within the first ten minutes.

After some neat work with the ball in hand, Stour were soon putting pressure on the Darlington defences. When they were awarded the foot in at the scrum near the visitors' line, the Stour pack smelt blood. They got the shove on and powered over the line for Chris Depper to touch down.

Though the conversion was missed, the signs were good for the home team, who looked to attack with ball in hand at every opportunity.

Darlington's cause wasn't helped soon after when the ref gave Ross Doneghan a yellow after bringing down another attacking Stourbridge drive for the line.

Darlington did rally after going behind but they met by a strong Stour defensive live that made it hard for them to progress for over the half way line.

Then, just before the break, Stour added a few more points to the board.

Quick ball from a Stourbridge scrum had the Darlington defence scrambling, eventually resulting in them giving away a penalty in front of the posts.

James Hearn made no mistake to give the home side a decent lead at the interval. Stour could have been forgiven for wanting more considering the pressure they applied in the Darlington half throughout the first period.

The second half started similar to the first, with Mowden Park failing to really get at the home side.

Stour were unlucky not to score another try when the ref adjudged that Tatenda Mukarati's powerful drive for the line had been held up. After consulting with the touch judge the try was not given.

Two quick yellow cards in the first 15 minutes, first to Darlington's Vaioleti and then to Stourbridge's Ben Hughes, both doing their bit to stop dangerous looking opposition attacks, made the game a slightly scrappy affair as the forwards battled for superiority.

Finally, as the game wore on, Darlington got up a head of steam and a managed good spell of possession.

A line out for the visitors saw them catch and drive for Zylon McGaffin to register their first points to make it 8-5.

As the game reached a crucial period, it would be the boot of James Hearn that would take the game away from Darlington.

Stour reacted well after giving away the try and soon got back into a telling rhythm with the ball in hand.

The pressure told and two quick-fire penalties in five minutes extinguished Darlington's fight.

The massive win for Stourbridge keeps all possibilities alive. Not only is this a big step towards securing the league's play-off place for a second-placed finish, but it keeps Stour right in the hunt for title glory should the pressure start to tell on their two main rivals.

Stourbridge: Jarvis, Bressington, Tuipuloyu (De Cothi 71), Barkley, Hearn, Robinson, White, George (Sturdy 26), Wright (Garner 54), Hill, Hughes, Hurrell, Mukarati, Uzoigwe (Dacres 62), Depper (Harper 54).

Replacements: De Cothi, Garner, Dacres, Harper, Sturdy.

Darlington: Robinson, Mcturk, Mitchell, Mackenzie, Kill, McGaffin, Connon, Appelby, Doneghan, Bayford, Vaioleti, Phillips, Macauly, Allcock, Van Den Dries.

Replacements: Sandys, White, Campbell, Hodgson, Smith.

Attendance: 975