Hartlepool Rovers eye revenge ahead of Acklam trip but will be without several key players

Hartlepool Rovers travel to Acklam tomorrow (kick off 2.15pm) looking to right a huge wrong from earlier in the season.

Friday, 15th February 2019, 13:46 pm
Updated Friday, 15th February 2019, 13:57 pm
Hartlepool Rovers RFC (red/white/black) v Barnard Castle RFC (black) at The Friarage, Hartlepool, on Saturday.

The Whites turned in a shambolic performance in the reverse fixture last October, being hammered 43-17 but their attempt to gain revenge has been dealt a blow with, once again, a lengthy list of absentees.

Last week’s line-up, which beat Barnard Castle for the first time in league rugby, was close on a first-choice selection for player-coach Steve Smith and got its reward with a try-scoring 33-15 bonus point win.

There was also a welcome improvement in discipline over some recent games.

A massive 20 penalties in the defeat on home turf by Acklam was a contributory factor that day but some woeful tackling and game management weren’t far behind - all traits that have combined too often this season to see the players almost beat themselves.

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Trailing 12-0 to tries scored whilst Acklam had a man in the sin bin, things got worse before they got better with Rovers falling further behind 19-0 before tries by Adam Smith and Joe Little and a Steven Barnfield touchdown and a Chris Sainty conversion pulled them back to 19-17.

That was as good as it got with a sequence of tries handing the initiative and result back to the visitors.

Last week’s win over Barnard Castle had needed a fightback by the Friaragemen who, after a second-minute try for Ian Pinchen, had conceded three tries to trail 15-7 at the break, half time giving the hosts time to regroup.

An early score from Liam Wood in the second half and the boot of Daz Fawcett cut the deficit to a single point and was the spur for Rovers to show the form of which they are capable and further tries by Liam Austwicke, Tom Stead and a second for Pinchen and a further two conversions for Fawcett making for the 33-15 winning margin.

Acklam, despite sitting in third bottom spot in the Durham Northumberland One table with only four wins, will provide very difficult opposition at Saltersgill Avenue but Rovers have won 17-10 and 36-17 on their last two visits

“I know the table suggests an easy game and a win for us,” said Smith. “But if we’re complacent and think that way then we could easily come a cropper.

“That defeat at home was a huge embarrassment and we got what we deserved after we had got ourselves back into the game.

“We’ve proved that we can put bad starts and poor patches of play behind us but no team can afford to do that too often because the law of averages says that there are days when the opposition is not going to give you an inch or your chances just don’t come off.

“Some of the performances and the tries we’ve scored over the last three weeks have been exceptional and prove that we have it in us to be higher in the table than we are.

“If we turn up and play as we know we can then I fancy us to win.”