Darlington Mowden Park are just a game away from promotion into the third tier of English rugby, co-coach Danny Brown getting on with the task of readying his troops for Saturday’s home play-off with Ampthill.
A dramatic final weekend in National Two North’s regular season saw Mowden beating Macclesfield 28-24, Macc’s last-minute try proving enough for them to snatch the pair of bonus points which handed them the league title.
Mowden’s five-point haul meant they still pipped Stourbridge on points difference to claim the play-off spot against their National Two South equivalents, a crowd of 3,500 on hand at the Northern Echo Arena to see it all unfold.
Brown said: “Our aim was to beat Macclesfield with a bonus point and we did that, so we can’t be too downhearted.
“The response from people in the town and the general rugby community around the North East has been brilliant, as demonstrated by the crowd we had in.
“I was blown away by that attendance, and hopefully we can get many of them to come back down on Saturday for the play-off.”
Laying no blame at his players’ door for allowing Macclesfield the try which won them the league, Brown added: “Our lads put in everything they had, but it wasn’t quite enough.
“The lads were outstanding, and I can’t criticise them because we could hardly have done anything more.
“What happened with penalties in the second half I don’t know, because I don’t think we got one.
“You always hope you can hold out when your line is under pressure, and I felt we were harshly done to with some of the decisions.
“We had our hands on the ball and it wasn’t the tackler, but then the other side of me says you just have to learn from it and adapt your play accordingly.
“There are no excuses, though, because the lads grafted their backsides off. They turned over the defeat they had at Macclesfield in the first week of the season and took a bonus-point win against the team who were promoted as champions.
“We only lost three games all season, but we have to go again now and do it through the play-offs.”
Tasked with picking up his troops for Saturday’s decider, Brown said: “I have just had the worst week of my life and I have got too through it all again, but it is not about me.
“I couldn’t sleep with thinking and worrying about the game, but that is just what sport is like.
“Thankfully the lads seem a lot more relaxed than me. They have been magnificent through everything and I can’t praise them enough.
“There were a few devastated lads in the changing room after the game, but everyone just wants to get back out and do it in the play-off.
“It is our job as coaches to get them back up for it and it is a massive week for us.
“I have no doubt the players will rise to the challenge because they are such a good group and they have so much ability and spirit.”
Already familiar with Saturday’s visitors, Brown added: “We played Ampthill in a pre-season friendly. We lost the game but are not reading anything into it, because it was one of those where you throw 35 players on just to have a look at them.
“It will be a very tough game, though, and they are a good side.
“One bonus for everybody is we don’t have to worry about margins, try-bonuses or anything like that, because it only comes down to who wins on the day.
“We have to move on from Macclesfield because it is gone and the lads have what it takes to do that.”