Hartlepool Rovers get vital win against Acklam

Rovers on their way to victory on Saturday
Rovers on their way to victory on Saturday
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Hartlepool Rovers earned a crucial victory at the New Friarage scoring five tries in the 32-26 bonus point victory over Acklam.

Rovers had started the day in third bottom place in the Durham Northumberland One table and could not afford to lose the game against the side two places above them.

Given Rovers’ struggles and below-par form this season, the win was more important than the performance.

The try-scoring bonus point win has lifted the Whites one place with the try and losing bonus points taken away by the visitors being just enough to prevent Rovers climbing above them.

Of course, this wouldn’t be Rovers unless they had to do it the hard way, and this was the case with them coming from 12-0 behind after conceding two quick tries.

The problem for Rovers this season has been scoring enough points to win games. Defensively they have been pretty solid – only the top three before kick-off had conceded fewer points – it is the creating and taking of chances where they have suffered. Only the bottom two of Darlington and Ponteland had scored fewer points.

Given Rovers’ struggles and below-par form this season, the win was more important than the performance. But there were sufficient signs that Rovers might just have turned the corner and that this might be the win to kick-start, or resurrect, their season.

Rovers had the chances to have won more convincingly but credit has to go to Acklam whose defence of their try-line was, at times, both heroic and phenomenal.

If there was a weakness on Saturday it was with Rovers’ place-kicking.

This is no slur on Ian Coulson who manfully and bravely took on the task and whose stoppage-time penalty calmed the nerves but he will be the first to admit he is only a stand-in.

The lost points - and there were at least eight on Saturday – might be costly on another day.

Conditions were good with the pitch showing no effects of the week’s heavy rain and Acklam made their intentions clear by running the ball from the off and scoring two almost identical tries in the left hand clubhouse corner.

After three minutes, the men in black spread the ball right-to-left across the pitch with John Hall shipping the final pass to Marcus Sudron to outpace the cover, Daniel Ashton kicking an excellent touchline conversion.

The move was repeated on 10 minutes with Hall this time the scorer courtesy of a well-fashioned overlap.

Rovers then put together a promising attack but Lee Maddison could not take an inside pass from Stephen Flounders and the hosts then had a let-off when Ashton missed with a 32-metre penalty.

Despite Coulson being in the sin bin, Rovers pulled a score back when they ran two kickable penalties and were rewarded when James Evens went over after Liam Wood was held up.

Maddison pulled off a try-saving tackle on Andrew Dalton after 29 minutes with Rovers then twice in quick succession failing to use a 3-1 overlap.

The Friaragemen levelled just before the interval when Callum Whitehead shrugged off three tacklers on his way to the line with a barnstorming 24 metre run. Coulson converting.

The dangerous Hall looked to have won the race to his kick ahead four minutes into added time but referee Carl Hall gave the covering Maddison the benefit of the doubt.

Rovers started the second half strongly and took a 17-12 lead inside two minutes when they swarmed all over the Acklam line with David Grand playing Stephen Flounders in at the right hand corner flag.

Coulson looked to be home two minutes later but was inches short as he stretched for the line but the bonus point try wasn’t long in coming.

The hosts once again were hammering away at the Acklam line and Liam Austwicke crossed after Evens, Andrew Flounders and Whitehead were stopped short and Rovers had a ten point lead, 22-12.

Acklam reduced the deficit on 54 minutes when number 8 Tim Savage broke from an attacking scrum to feed Chris McRobert who was injured in the act of scoring. Ashton kicked the extra points but then missed a 25 metre penalty that would have levelled the scores but the lead was still with Rovers 22-19.

Coulson went wide with 30 metre and 26 penalty attempts in a four minute spell before the White Shirts took another ten point lead 29-19 after 77 minutes.

Some good counter-rucking by the pack on the Acklam 10 metre line saw Evens pick up and break down the blindside and run behind the posts for a simple conversion kick for Coulson.

With the 80 minutes up, Acklam got their try-scoring, and losing, bonus points when the ever-dangerous Hall touched down in the Railway Corner with Ashton kicking his second touchline conversion of the game.

There were still four minutes of extra time and when Mr Hall advanced a 36 metre penalty for dissent it brought Coulson within kicking distance and he coolly kept his nerve to put Rovers 32-26 ahead and allow them to play out time in more comfort.

Rovers: Austwicke, S Flounders, Grand, Coulson, Gunn, Evens, Stephenson, A Flounders, Dakers, Pinchen, O’Callaghan, Whitehead, Wood, Maddison, Dring (c). Subs used: I Flounders, Maguire, J Little

Tries: Evens 23, 77; Whitehead 39; S Flounders 42; Austwicke 46; conversions: Coulson 39, 77; penalty: Coulson 80+2

Penalties awarded 12, kicked 1, missed 2; scrums won 5, 1 against the head; lineouts won 8

Acklam: Roberts, Dunn, Sudron, Dalton, Hall, Ashton, McRobert, Pearson, Robson, Bowtell-Porter, O’Brien, Moss, Ffitch, Chambers (c), Savage. Subs used: Hutchin, Garton, Albert-Bengo

Tries: Hall 10, 80; Sudron 3; McRobert 54; conversions: Ashton 3, 54, 80

Penalties awarded 13, kicked 0, missed 2; scrums won 13, 2 against the head; lineouts won 3

Referee: Carl Hall (Durham)

Other results: Horden 19 Consett 34; Medicals 28 Gateshead 30; Middlesbrough 69 Darlington 5; Novocastrians 27 Stockton 15; Ponteland 19 Gosforth 23; Ryton 3 Durham City 29