After several months battering their National Two North opposition into submission, and just one having a minor wobblette, Stourbridge reach the beginning of the end this weekend in the incongruously grandiose surroundings of the Northern Echo Arena.
Saturday’s trip to third-placed Darlington Mowden Park is the first of a three match run that will effectively seal their promotion back to National One, a sequence that sees them try to tame Sheffield Tigers at home next weekend and conquer nearest rivals Hull Ionians on April 6.
Victory at Brantingham Park in a fortnight should see them absolved of the sins of last season when they under performed their way to relegation.
But first the trip to Darlington to take on a side that at one stage this season looked as though they would be Stour’s main challengers.
That optimism has dissipated through the winter but nevertheless Stourbridge’s day out at the town’s 25,000 seater white elephant is still viewed as a severe test of their title credentials. Only one team has beaten DMP at home this season – and that was Ionians by just a single point.
Not that such a statistic is giving Neil Mitchell any sleepless nights. Stour have already beaten DMP this term and he used his team’s free Saturday last weekend to watch Ionians labour to a last-minute win over lowly Dudley Kingswinford.
On the basis that Ionians beat Darlington and didn’t look very good against DK who Stour thrashed, Mitchell’s men travel north in confident mood.
“Not being arrogant or anything but we’re going there to get five points,” the director of rugby said. “We’ve done the ‘Let’s do whatever it takes to win ugly’ thing and it didn’t suit us. We’re at our best when we’re taking it to teams, setting the agenda, going for the corner and taking control of games.”
Indeed Stour’s wobblette came after a shock defeat to Bromsgrove, which prompted them to pull in their horns and try to nick games by whatever means possible. It was an approach that cost them dearly a few weeks later when Otley edged a close one.
However, they are back clubbing seals again and Mitchell’s sees their last match – a 41-3 drubbing of Leicester – as a sign of their restored confidence.
“As far as you can ever get a complete performance, that was pretty much it,” he said.
“Leicester Lions are probably in the top three or four teams we have played and they upped their game, and we dealt with it clinically.
“When Darlington came down to us there was niggle and going up there that niggle will probably be five-fold. They are still in with a sniff of the play-offs and they have got a dynamic back-line so we’ll have to play well again.”
To make sure they do that Stour are travelling up the night before and their chances are helped by the fact they are able to recall Rob Hurrell, who has recovered from an shoulder injury and the hamstrung Nathan Bressington.