Promotion favourites Darlington Mowden Park edged out Harrogate 38-20 at the Darlington Arena on Saturday.
For the first 6 minutes, Harrogate dominated possession and forwards and backs linked well to run through a range of attacking moves.
DMP counter attacked when they finally gained possession but knocked on from a clattering tackle. Steve Parsons gathered the loose ball and went into overdrive for a 40 metres try under the posts. Joe Rowntree’s conversion made it 0-7.
Minutes later, good line-out ball was quickly spun and Kyle Dench powered through the midfield defence for another stunning long range converted try.
DMP mounted their first real attack from the restart and strong running breached the Harrogate defence.
Shaun McCartney made the extra man to score in the corner. The home pack then began to gain ascendancy and a well controlled 35 metres driving maul took them to the Harrogate line.
At a crucial moment they went offside and Harrogate’s penalty clearance brought them back into attacking mode.
A period of entertaining attacking rugby followed from both sides but the next score came from a DMP attacking line-out. Ross Donghan drove over to score and Gavin Painter’s conversion made it 12-14.
The DMP power play continued but burrowing turnovers from Rob Adair enabled Jake Brady, Jimmy Browne, Dan Metcalfe and Jimmy Browne to respond in kind.
At half-back, creative play from Phil Wickham and Callum Irvine set up dangerous attacks from Dench, Sam Bottomley, Parsons and Harry Parrish. DMP went offside in defence and Rowntree’s penalty extended Harrogate’s lead.
The home pressure continued and a try seemed to have been scored from a driving maul. However, DMP were penalised for a double movement and Harrogate cleared the line.
A darting Bottomley break ended when Harrogate went offside and DMP set up another driving maul from which flanker Anthony Harrison scored a converted try to put the home side in the lead at half time.
The same pattern continued from the restart but a poor Harrogate midfield pass was intercepted by Cameron Mitchell who sprinted clear to score DMP’s bonus point converted try.
A touchline dust-up led to yellow cards for 2 back rowers, Harrogate’s Nathan Smith and DMP’s Guy Van Der Dries.
A Dench break led to a home offside offence and Rowntree’s penalty proved to be Harrogate’s last score of the match.
The DMP forwards took more and more control of the match and injuries to key Harrogate players lessened the effectiveness of their attacks.
Flanker Rory Duff scored the 5th home try from a driving maul and McCartney again made the extra man for their final score.
DMP: McTurk, McCartney, Mitchell, Mackenzie, Wood, Painter, A Smith, Appleby, Donghan, Sandys, Phillips, Vaiolete, Duff, Harrison, Van der Dries
Harrogate: Rowntree, Parsons, Dench, Bottomley, Parrish, Irvine, Wickham, Metcalfe, Yorke, Browne, Brady, Gardiner, Adair, N Smith, Heaton
Referee: Brendan McGaffney (RFU)