Not quite a cast of Thousands but close
Almost 2 full squads take up the Darlington challenge
A gloomy and breezy Saturday saw 28 3TM players make the short journey to Darlington's Blackwell Meadows to face a team who sit only 1 place below us in the league.
The number of players available meant a headache for selection and virtually the full squad was to be changed at half time.
The first 5 minutes saw Billingham a little on the back foot, mainly through indiscipline and some sloppy play although there was definitely an air of some confusing decisions by the man with the whistle.
6 minutes in and Billingham broke to within 5, a couple of phases saw captain Anthony Kelsey run a short line off the back of a ruck to cut through the defence and touch down for the 1st score, Carl Robinson
with the extras and 0-7.
The indiscipline was to cost us next as a penalty on the 22, bang in front saw the ball go over via the upright.
Billingham were next to trouble the scoreboard. Some good hands and a great run from Johnny Farrell
saw him stopped just short. A couple of pick and goes saw the Ball squirm loose with Jamie Birkbeck
first to react and touch down, the extras missed this time around.
Now starting to play a little more freely the next score came from some quick thinking. Out on the 22 the ball was loose and rolling towards the touch, shepherded by the Darlington wing. Callum Sanderson
stuck out a foot to kick the ball on just in time, he then chased his own kick to score, Phil Greenbank this time missing the conversion.
With the half coming to a close a Billingham scrum 10 metres out. Daniel Sayers
seeing the gap and carving his way through for the 4th try, not a great day for the boot with the conversion again missed.
Half time Darlington 3 - 22 3TM
As mentioned 13 replacements at half time with only Phil Greenbank and Carl Robinson
As expected with that many changes it was a slow start and it was the home team who were 1st to score, from a Billingham scrum on our own 5 it was comical as the ball was struck twice only the rebound off a Billingham shin both times, eventually coming out on the Darlington side with their 10 stepping his way over to reduce the arrears, conversion missed.
For 20 minutes now the play was mainly in the middle 3rd with neither team getting a foot hold.
That was until Jambo came back into the game, his initial run took players with him, a great offload and the move continued, a further 2 offloads and pickups around the ankles and we were a couple of metres short, the final offload, again picked up by Jambo at shin height saw him finish the move he started with a great try, the icing on the cake was a great kick from Phil adding the 2.
It wasn't long before Phil was to get a bit of pie for himself, a couple of Dummies saw him race clear to go in wide but missing his own conversion with it coming back off the crossbar.
Things were getting a bit niggly now and there were a few cheap shots going in however the lads kept their cool and did it where it mattered.
From a scrum outside the 22, a pick from the base by No.8 Alexander Blenkinsopp
had us moving forward again. A pass to Phil Donaldson
saw him finish the move with our 7th try although in the breezy conditions the conversion was again missed meaning we left 10 points from the boot on the pitch.
At the end of the game it was a comfortable win and with all 28 players having the opportunity at least half a game a succesful day which just shows the strength in depth at our club.
Remarkably after having 7 cry offs against us so far this season we are now only 4 points off the top with everything to still play for and a title to defend.
Next week Guisborough at home, if you havent seen us play this season, why not make this your opportunity.