Hartlepool claimed the bragging rights in Saturday’s Durham Northumberland One derby with Hartlepool Rovers at a bitterly cold Mayfield Park.
In what might possibly be rugby’s most local of derbies, the hosts took the four points available, while Rovers had to settle for a losing bonus point which keeps them just above Pool in the table.
In what was the first league clash between the clubs for 13 years, there was precious little quality rugby played with both sides guilty of some very poor handling and frequent turnovers.
The Whites may have edged the technical contest thanks in the main to two long spells of forward pressure in the second half but they also committed the greater number of mistakes.
The hosts’ defence, especially in the pack, was of the highest order, and it needed to be to keep the marauding away eight at bay.
Hartlepool’s win will give them heart for two tough games to come at Horden and Peterlee and at home to Northern. Rovers, on the other hand, have now lost two of their last three contests that hardly instills confidence for a home date with Consett and a trip to Medicals.
“This sets us up nicely for Horden,” said winning coach Sean Wiles.
“The lads were really down after last week but this has picked us up. I thought there were too many mistakes by both sides but our defensive work was awesome to be honest.
“Maybe the heat of a derby match was to blame but I have to praise Andrew Foreman; he knew exactly what to do and when.”
In what was a match short of any great skills, Foreman was, indeed, the one man to stand out.
Like his two brothers, Brian and Gareth, Foreman had played for both clubs and the number nine showed he is still a force to be reckoned with a clear man-of-the-match display.
Had he been in the away line up then it would not be harsh to say that Rovers would have taken the win instead.
He showed all of his experience to know when to break, pass, kick and slow down or quicken the game up. Hartlepool are very lucky to have him.
Callum Whitehead and Andrew Flounders weren’t far behind Foreman and neither deserved to be on the losing side; more often than not being the visitors’ go-to men to gain hard yards or make something happen.
Rovers, playing uphill towards the clubhouse, started like a train but four knock-ons, caused by nerves or, possibly the low sun, halted promising moves.
It took 12 minutes for Hartlepool to enter the Rovers’ half and they took a 3-0 lead five minutes later when Keagan Thomas slotted a 36-metre front-on penalty.
Two penalties put Hartlepool in the left hand corner after 28 minutes where a five metre scrum saw Tom Johnson control the ball as the set piece headed over the away line only for Rovers to illegally disrupt the scrum and Mr Todd award a penalty try. Keagan Thomas added the easy conversion for a 10-0 lead.
Daz Fawcett put Rovers’ first points on the board on 33 minutes after Whitehead, Jonny Cushlow and Taz Pelser had been halted just short.
The home defenders were in the Friaragemen’s faces the moment they had the ball and another lost ball on half way eventually found its way after some two-way kicking over the Rovers’ line where David Chester touchdown for a 15-3 half time lead.
Fawcett made it 15-6 three minutes after the break from 11 metres after some solid driving play in the right hand corner by Cushlow, Whitehead and Andrew Flounders.
Hartlepool rocked Rovers after 46 minutes when what seemed an innocuous kick upfield by Foreman was chased by Dean Dickson who just got to the ball before it rolled dead. The conversion failed but Hartlepool were now 20-6 ahead.
The White Shirts, now without hooker Cushlow, wasted two penalties they could have kicked, or kept their driving play going, by opting for lineouts in both corners only suffer a steal on the first and a turnover on the line from the other.
Rovers used four quick-in-succession penalties to lay siege to the home line with Whitehead eventually squeezing over by the right hand upright on 66 minutes, Fawcett’s conversion cutting the deficit to 20-13.
The away eight had Hartlepool under huge pressure inside their 22 for much of the last ten minutes but some heroic and, at times, desperate defence kept Rovers out.
“Fair play, the team that wanted it more won today,” said Rovers’ coach Carl Robinson. “Our speed and ball retention were poor and we’ve had a bad couple of weeks. We struggled in the scrum but were excellent once again in the loose but couldn’t get over the whitewash.”
Hartlepool: L Wilson, D Thomas, Chester, K Thomas, Ryan, Greensmith, Foreman, T Stead, Small (c), N Stead, Hansen, Begley, R Wilson, Carney, Johnson. Subs used: G Wilson, Dickson, Emanuel
Tries: penalty try 28, Chester 40+3; Dickson 46; conversion: K Thomas 28; penalty: K Thomas 17
Penalties awarded 6, kicked 1, missed 1; scrums won 12; lineouts won 6
Rovers: S Barnfield, Coulson, Pelser, Evens, A Smith, Fawcett, Stephenson, Pinchen (c), Cushlow, Wise, Langley, Whitehead, A Flounders, Wood, Dring. Subs used: D Smith, Little. Sub not used: S Flounders
Try: Whitehead 66; conversion: Fawcett 66; penalties: Fawcett 33, 43
Penalties awarded 15, kicked 2, missed 1; scrums won 11; lineouts won 10
Referee: Michael Todd (Scottish Rugby Union)
Other results: Barnard Castle 45 Novocastrians 22; Consett 27 M’brough 22; Gateshead 15 Northern 15; Gosforth 21 Horden and Peterlee 20; South Shields Westoe 32 Medicals 16; Stockton 76 Ryton 0