Darlington 20 Old Crossleyans 37
Gareth Sweeney showed he is capable of filling the void left by the loss of Leigh Thomas with a 22-point haul for Crocs against the next-to-bottom side in North One East.
Sweeney came in at fullback following the free-scoring Thomas’s move to London and scored two tries, two penalties and three conversions as the fifth-placed Broomfield men collected a bonus point win.
It was by no means a straightforward success. The hosts, crushed 71-7 in Halifax at the end of September, led 15-8 at the break but, as anticipated, Crocs were able to run in some tries once the big home forwards flagged.
Nick Baldwin drew first blood for the hosts with a penalty for offside under the posts on five minutes.
Sweeney made it 3-3 on 10 minutes and the visitors scored the game’s first try seven minutes later when stand off Gareth Ott’s feint and dummy took him through and his floated pass enabled Billy Hammond to touch down wide out. Sweeney’s kick was just short.
Darlington had a good spell and hit back with two tries in five minutes.
Scrum half Arun Keens got the first following an interception on half way, Baldwin converting, and Colin Rogers peeled off a rolling maul to score from close range.
The visiting forwards upped their game after the break and it took Crocs only three minutes to draw level.
The ball was swept out following quick lineout ball and Sweeney joined the line and stepped inside the cover to touch down just to the left of the posts, making it 15-15 with the kick.
A penalty from the fullback gave Crocs the lead and three tries in 10 minutes from the visitors, plus two more conversions from Sweeney, settled the contest.
Centre Neil Richardson’s interception led to a try for lock Tony Oxley; Sweeney got his second after Ryan Hammond had broken the line following a quick tap penalty; and Jack Hammond scored almost straight from the restart, finishing off from 40 metres.
That took Crocs into a 37-15 lead but Darlington had the last word through Michael Shepherd’s try with three minutes left.