Darlington Mowden Park 30
AT LAST some rugby.
After five weeks of snow and frozen grounds Beverley finally got back into action, albeit on a heavy-going second-team pitch.
They might have wished they had had another week off. They certainly looked the rustier of the two sides here and could hardly complain at a 13-point defeat.
With their half backs away in Australia for the rest of the season and several other key players absent it was always going to be a tough afternoon against a Mowden side riding high in the table.
They made a spirited fight back in the second half and got to within a converted try of a bonus point but the damage had been done by half time when they were already 17 points adrift.
As so often this season they started brightly but failed to make anything of plenty of possession.
After 10 minutes Mowden with almost their first assault of the match showed the way with some crisp movement which led to winger Rob Eatough sweeping over in the corner.
Full back Gavin Painter converted with a fine kick from the touchline.
Jamie Gill responded with a penalty for Beverley almost direct from the restart but five minutes later Mowden struck again.
All afternoon Beverley were bedevilled by basic handling errors and when they knocked on in midfield Mowden wing forward Will McCauley pounced on the loose ball to race clear from halfway for a simple converted try under the posts.
Despite having more than their fair share of both possession and territory
Beverley found it hard to make progress and frequently struggled to get over the gain line.
Props Francis Pickering and Mark Hatfield were both prominent in some determined forward drives but generally delivery was slow and the backs were quickly crowded out.
There was a marked lack of urgency about some of Beverley’s forward play. Skipper David Worrall had clearly been singled out beforehand by the opposition as a marked man, but despite the attention given him he still remained the side’s most influential player.
A lovely break-out from his own 22 to put winger Glen Walden away down the left was one of the few bright moments in an otherwise disappointing first half for Beverley.
Two carelessly conceded penalties cost Beverley another six points to leave them trailing 20-3 at the interval.
Mowden turned round in complete control and within five minutes they had added another converted try from Eatough taking them 24 points clear.
It looked at that stage as though we might be in for a rout. But Beverley reorganised their line-up and almost straightaway looked a different side.
Manu Kirkwood, Martin Shaw and newcomer Sam Montague all came off the bench with Phil Dale moving from full back to scrum half.
Suddenly Mowden found they no longer had things all their own way. Although the backs continued to struggle to find any penetration Beverley at last began to look like a side which was up for it.
Twice their pack powered its way to the line bringing tries for James McKay and Manu Kirkwood.
Two splendid conversions by Dale to go with them and Beverley were suddenly within a converted try of getting a bonus point, despite Painter having thumped over a third penalty for Mowden.
With time running out it was the best Beverley could hope for.
A thrilling run by Walden down the left nearly brought it but it was the nearest they came as Mowden cleverly closed the game down in the dying minutes.
No-one could deny that Mowden were the better team on the day and fully deserved the victory but Beverley at least finished the game looking a totally different proposition from how they had started it.
On the overall balance of play they probably deserved at least a bonus point. A pity it took them so long to get their act together.