HARTLEPOOL Rovers’ four-match winning run came to an end at Blackwell Meadows where Darlington’s five converted tries giving them a bonus point win.
The victory keeps the hosts in the hunt for the promotion play-off spot. It also showed Rovers the amount of work they will still need to do if they themselves are to challenge for promotion from Durham Northumberland One in the next few seasons.
The scoreline suggests that the Whites didn’t play well. They were some way off their best but Rovers have played much worse than at Darlington this season.
Rovers, already minus Liam Austwicke and David Grand, then lost David Gregory and Anthony Hanley on the day.
The changes clearly affected Rovers who, to their credit, refused to give in after going 21-0 down inside 18 minutes. In fact, Rovers had the lion’s share of possession and territory over the remaining minutes but left themselves with too much to do.
Rovers went close through the forwards early on before a long pass was thrown to Jack Gunn five metres out where the Durham U20 wingman was wrapped up.
Darlington took the lead from their second attack when Mark Baldwin went under the posts.
Some sloppy tackling brought a second try for Darlington after 13 minutes through Nick Baldwin and five minutes later, Andrew Pugh ran a good line to get the third. Nick Baldwin converted all three.
Stung into action, Rovers switched James Evens and Daz Fawcett and this immediately paid dividends as the visitors pulled five points back. Evens and Pelser combined well and a long pass by Fawcett sent Steven Barnfield away down the right and the full-back sprinted in from 30 metres.
The second half started with two great sustained spells of back play by Rovers through Pelser, Stevenson and Barnfield and then Andrew Dring, Glen Wise and Fawcett. But Maddison couldn’t find Stevenson.
The hard work was undone after 54 minutes with a fourth try for Darlington, Pugh breaking clean through and Gary Beck then had a six-metre run-in. Nick Baldwin converting both.
The visitors continued to play some good stuff and Andrew Flounders started a move on half way and then a 30-metre run by Evens saw Rovers reach the right- hand corner. A yellow card brought a tap penalty and Andrew Pinchen powered over.
Coaches Graham Puckrin and Mick Ainslie rued their bad luck.
“The disruption, on top of a couple of poor training sessions cost us,” said Puckrin. “I’ve got to give the lads 10 out of 10 for effort, their heads didn’t drop and our scrummaging and line-out play was very good.
“Our tries came from good play and were well-worked and on another day we might have got closer to them.
“There is still much to do and it’s up to the lads now to bounce back as there are still three league games and the cup to come.”
Darlington: N Baldwin, Hall, Pugh, Gardner, Lineton, Carver, M Baldwin (c), Hargreaves, Beck, Miller, Anderson, Gilroy, McAlorum, Goddard, Rogers. Subs used: Shepherd, Adams, Glendenning
Penalties awarded 9, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 13, 1 against the head; lineouts won 7
Tries: Pugh 18, 54; M Baldwin 8; N Baldwin 13; Beck 66; Con: N Baldwin 8, 13, 18, 54, 66
Rovers: S Barnfield, Gunn, Fawcett, Coulson, Stevenson, Evens, Pelser, Flounders, J Cushlow, Wise, Langley, Pinchen, Wilson, Maddison, Dring (c). Subs used: Smith, Wood, Dakers
Penalties awarded 14, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 14; lineouts won 7
Tries: Barnfield 21; Pinchen 75
Referee: Philip Walton (Durham)
Sent off: none; sin bin: Gardner 75