Hartlepool Rovers’ Durham Intermediate Cup Final woes continued with a humiliating 44-20 defeat at the hands of Gateshead at Hollow Drift.
Rovers have now lost four Intermediate Cup finals on the trot and this was, easily, the most disappointing.
Gateshead were by far the better team and fully deserved their win.
The writing was already on the wall for the Whites when they trailed 10-0 after only five minutes and when Gateshead led 22-3 after 23 minutes it was effectively game over.
While Rovers showed some spirit to only lose the last hour 22-17, they simply couldn’t live with their foes.
Gateshead were by far the better team and fully deserved their win with a tremendous display of running rugby by their feared backline and a powerful effort from their pack.
Very few Rovers’ players came out of the game with any credit. Alex Rochester, Liam Austwicke and Adam Smith had their moments in attack but had precious few opportunities to run at Gateshead while Andrew Flounders and Liam Wood put in typical energetic displays upfront.
Gateshead’s full-back Scott Cartner put three points on the board for his side in the second minute with a 28-metre penalty and he then stole up the blindside and ran behind the posts on five minutes and converted his own try for a 10-0 lead.
Rovers pulled three points back with a 32-metre penalty by Ryan Foreman three minutes later but a tremendous pack drive by Gateshead immediately put the pressure back on Rovers and flanker John Charlton crashed over from a catch and drive from an attacking lineout on 17 minutes.
Gateshead disrupted and then turned over a Rovers’ scrum to extend their lead to 22-3 after 23 minutes. Winning possession from the set piece in midfield, veteran centre David Tate grubber-kicked through to the line for winger Matty Banning to beat the cover to touch down, Cartner kicking an excellent touchline conversion.
Rovers’ ball retention and protection were poor and time and time again they failed to use the ball whereas Gateshead were always running with intent and getting past the gain line.
Gateshead ended the first half swarming all over the Rovers’ defence but just when it appeared thaey would hold out, skipper Martyn Heelbeck steamed up the right-hand flank and timed his scoring pass to Banning to perfection. Cartner’s second touchline conversion making for a 29-3 half-time lead.
A good start to the second half was essential for Rovers but they fell 32-3 behind with less than a minute played when Cartner slotted a 27-metre penalty.
Rovers were finally stung into action and Rochester and Adam Smith combined well to take place into the Gateshead 22 for the first time in the match.
Andrew Dring, Ian Pinchen and Andrew Flounders used two tap penalties to make ground and further pressure saw Dring stretch for the line. Referee Will Halford consulted linesman Alan Hughes for advice as to whether the try was good and after several moments the Durham official awarded the score and Rovers had cut the deficit to 32-8.
Rovers were then rocked when, on 52 minutes, Mr Halford not only sin-binned sub Kevin Maguire for a breakdown offence close to the line but followed this by awarding a penalty try, Cartner’s simple conversion making the lead 39-8.
A typical elusive run by Wood saw Andrew Flounders being held short and with Johnny Thandi now in the sin bin, Pinchen powered over on 59 minutes, James Evens’ conversion making it 39-15.
The Tynesiders’ 18th lineout take on 72 minutes saw the ball spread along the back line and Cartner kicked through for Banning to complete his hat-trick.
Evens added a third Rovers try late on but the match which had threatened to boil over duly did in the dying minutes when a full-scale battle ended with a yellow card for Paul Ingham and red for Danny Baxter.
The ref blew two minutes early with Gateshead celebrating wildly – and justifiably – while Rovers looked a pale shadow of their recent selves.