DIRECTOR of Rugby Seb Reynolds admitted deficiencies in attack and defence were at the heart of Rams’ end-to-end 41-36 home reverse to Darlington Mowden Park.

A nearly year-long unbeaten home run – spanning 10 National One matches – came to a halt as a six-minute, three-try blitz early in the second quarter ushered the visitors to a first victory at Old Bath Road.

Rams had started well, Max Hayman and Jak Rossiter crossing either side of a Louie Johnson penalty for a 10-3 lead inside nine minutes, but Darlington rallied strongly and surged clear with an unmatched 19-point haul courtesy of tries from Harry Yates, Johnson – who slotted two conversions – and Ollie Fletcher.

A stunning James McRae break set-up Ollie Cole for the hosts third try, Fraser Honey with the extras, but the mercurial Johnson’s cross-field kick was then swept up by Corben Ollivent for DMP’s bonus-point try and a 29-17 half-time lead.

Hayman’s second cut the gap on 46 minutes, but Park effectively put the game to bed via a Yaree Fantini double, Johnson’s conversion making it 41-22 with just 10 minutes remaining.

However, the hosts suddenly burst into life with the game seemingly gone, Hayman completing a hat-trick of maul tries – Rowan Grundy with a belting touchline conversion – before Stevie Bryant finished off a flowing backs move on the right.

With four minutes to go Drew Humberstone bisected the uprights with an equally sublime nudge, Rams now with a vocal crowd behind them and optimistic of pulling off a great escape.

Yet despite getting within a metre of their opponents’ line with another surging maul, they couldn’t quite complete the comeback, slipping to a second consecutive defeat ahead of next week’s trip to Sale.

And a rueful Reynolds admitted: “Nearly is the main emotion, but you can’t argue DMP didn’t deserve to win it – they brought the game to us early and while we gained a good foothold in the match, you could see they were dangerous.

“We weren’t quite getting a few elements right in attack and defence – they made line breaks and we coughed up ball on a couple of attacking sets which allowed them to hit us on the counter, which they did very well.

“They came to play and you have to credit good quality rugby – the crowd got a fantastic game but I’m just gutted for them and for James Baker on his 400th game that we couldn’t quite bring it home where I thought we would.”

In an ebb-and-flow contest Rams enjoyed strong territory and possession while trailing 34-22, only to fail to transform this onto the scoreboard before their opponents grabbed their sixth try and a 19-point advantage with 10 minutes to go.

The DoR explained: “We were then chasing it and while it looked like we’d do it at the end, it was a great game of rugby.

“There are things we need to look at about how we execute on our tactical stuff – we’ve got some things we’re working on at the moment, and we need to learn how to deal with our position at the top and the way teams play with freedom against us.

“We’ll go away, look at how we can improve and come back a better side.”

Rams head to Sale FC next Saturday – a team they have lost to in their past four outings – and while The Dogs currently sit bottom of the table, Reynolds emphasised how his side’s past two defeats show the quality on show in National One.

He ended: “This is the best league in the country right now, it’s got jeopardy at both ends, any team can win on their day and we wouldn’t want it any other way.”