THE region's three National League promotion hopefuls all suffered significant setbacks to their plans for ascension as Darlington Mowden Park, Blaydon and Percy Park were beaten.
Third-placed Mowden were 28-27 losers at home to second-placed Hull Ionians in a result which extended the gap between themselves and the one-and-only play-off place to ten points in National Two North.
Luke Wishnowsky’s last-minute score at least delivered a pair of bonus points as the Kiwi flanker dotted down their fourth try to get to within the seven-point buffer.
A see-saw game had seen the home side, playing their second game at the town’s arena, leading as early as three minutes when full-back Chris McTurk exploited a two-on-one to score down the left.
Hull Ionians battled back through their forwards to lead 25-8, but were given a late scare when Cameron Mitchell and McTurk once again scored tries in the closing quarter.
One red card apiece for an all-in brawl ensured a heated finale, but Chris Reakes’ penalty was just enough for the visitors to withstand the Mowden surge and stay in front despite Wishnowsky’s score at the death. In National One, Blaydon’s promotion prospects look all but doomed, their 21-20 home defeat to Blackheath seeing a pair of bonus points after tries from Tommy Banks, Jordi Pasqualin, Shaun English and Sam Hanks.
Esher’s defeat at Old Albanians keeps Blaydon in second, although a nine-point gap to leaders Ealing who have a game still in hand seems a bridge too far.
A Hamish Smales hat-trick was not enough for Tynedale as they fell 33-20 at Cinderford, while Percy Park’s 30-17 home loss to Waterloo fourth in National Three North and adrift of the play-off picture.
Newcastle’s Sarah Hunter captained England’s Women’s side against Ireland, but could not prevent the Grand Slam winners from suffering a 25-0 defeat in Ashbourne as they battled on without a host of their star players who had been withdrawn for IRB Sevens duty.
Blaydon pair Matt Hall and Robbie Kalbraier, plus Tynedale’s David Dickinson, were part of the England Counties squad beaten 30-20 by the Ireland Club XV in Cork.
Tynedale’s George McGuigan helped the Irish Under-20s defeat an England side containing club-mate Scott Wilson, winning 16-15 in Athlone.
Northumbria University won city bragging rights after beating Newcastle 31-18 in the rescheduled BUCS Premier North encounter at Bullocksteads.