Hartlepool Rovers in good health after Medicals win
Hartlepool Rovers made it three wins in five matches with this well-deserved 27-13 win over Medicals at the Friarage.
Saturday’s victory maintains the Whites’ upturn in form that started with a home win over Novocastrians; two heart-breaking last-gasp two-point and one point losses to Ryton and Stockton respectively and the previous week’s away success at Gosforth.
A little more steel, application and luck would have undoubtedly have overturned the defeats into wins and made it a clean sweep.
The crucial point, however, is that Rovers look to have put a woeful first four and a half months of the season behind them and could and should be able to look forward to a good final two months of the campaign.
The foundations have been laid and the players now need to build on the last five weeks and improve further and in doing so climb up the Durham Northumberland One table and look to lift the Durham Intermediate Cup.
Next up for Rovers is a consecutive home date with Gateshead, The Tynesiders lost 26-22 at Gosforth at the weekend who were beaten 28-17 by Rovers the previous week.
A try-scoring bonus point win next Saturday could lift Rovers two places if other results go their way.
It is important that Rovers don’t get too far ahead of themselves and it is hard to believe that coach Carl Robinson and right-hand man Alan Brown will allow that to happen.
What would undoubtedly help this young side is an increase in supporter numbers.
The Friarage Faithful are incredibly loyal but match attendances have dropped, perhaps understandably given the rocky first half of the season.
This young team has turned the tide, though, and is playing some good rugby and, hopefully, the absentee spectators will return, like what they see and stay.
Back to Saturday and what was a must-win game with Medicals who were breathing down Rovers’ neck, lying immediately below their hosts in the table.
Rovers failed to get a fourth and bonus-point try but scored three good and all-different touchdowns.
Liam Austwicke was, once again, in superb form at full back; James Evens and David Grand on the front-foot in attack and solid in defence in the centre and the young half-back duo of Ryan Foreman and Taz Pelser, whilst not scaling the heights of Gosforth, continued to impress.
In the pack, well marshalled and led by Ian Pinchen, the front, second and back rows all played their part in the set-pieces and the loose.
Rovers endured early pressure but countered to take a sixth minute lead to set them on their way, just as had happened at Gosforth.
Jack Gunn broke from near his own line with Liam Wood taking over to reach half-way where the ball was flung along the backline to Austwicke who slipped a tackle and headed to the Steetley Corner, Foreman added the touchline conversion and Rovers led 7-0.
Medicals’ kicker Henry Parkinson pulled three points back on 12 minutes with a 28 metre penalty which was cancelled out after 19 minutes by Foreman from 30 metres after a neat chip and collect by Austwicke.
Parkinson slotted another three-pointer two minutes later to keep his side in contention at 10-6 but Medicals were being kept in the game by the penalty count.
Medicals could feel aggrieved on 27 minutes when referee Mark Jude didn’t look to call a halt to an advantage for the visitors and then proceeded to award Rovers a penalty to relieve some danger.
Rovers put a promising move together through Lee Maddison and Austwicke but the final pass to Gunn was low.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
The Friaragemen extended their lead to 17-6 right on half time with a try for Foreman.
The move started from their own 22 and reached the away end after a flowing move involving Evens, Tyrone Church and Maddison. Gunn should really have put the supporting Kevin Maguire in but, after playing several more phases, Rovers were rewarded when Foreman evaded a cover tackle and ghosted under the posts and then added the conversion.
Medicals pulled back to 17-13 after 45 minutes when a tap and go by skipper Richard Clegg and quick hands saw Parkinson cross and he also added the extra points to his try.
After a mazy run by Austwicke, Medicals countered only for Jack Haire to be called back for a forward pass.
The lead was extended to 20-13 on 52 minutes when Pelser made a lightening break before handing over to Maddison who was high-tackled, Foreman kicking the 27 metre penalty.
For a second time in the match, Mr Jude seemed to call time on an advantage to Medicals after Rovers touched down a grubber kick by Haire.
Evens and Austwicke then broke clear to create an opening for Alex Rochester who maybe ought to have backed himself on-on-one with Tom Witter but tried to give a return pass to Austwicke.
A barnstorming 30 metre run by Grand after 69 minutes set Rovers up for their last score which came after six minutes of pressure inside the away 22 with sub Danny Baxter forcing his way over the whitewash, Foreman kicking the extra points for a personal 17 points’ haul.
“It was scrappy at times,” said Robinson afterwards, “but earlier this season this was a match that we could well have lost.
“I gave the lads the chance at full time to speak first and they said that they were frustrated and owned up to not having performed to their potential. It’s a good sign that they are feeling that way.
“I don’t like to single out anyone but I thought that Ty (Tyrone Church) at number eight and Liam (Austwicke) again stood out and Dylan (Langley) and Mick (Ryan) are starting to gel in the second row.
“If we had taken those dropped points things would have looked healthier but we have a chance to get revenge for a poor game at Gateshead next week. They like to start quickly and so we have to be on our guard against that.”
Rovers: Austwicke, Gunn, Grand, Evens, Rochester, Foreman, Pelser, A Flounders, Maguire, Pinchen (c), Langley, Ryan, Wood, Maddison, Church. Subs used: M Stephenson, Wise, Baxter. Tries: Austwicke 6; Foreman 40; Baxter 75; conversions: Foreman 6, 40, 75; penalties: Foreman 19, 52
Penalties awarded 8, kicked 2, missed 0; scrums won 7; lineouts won 5
Medicals: White, Haire, Parkinson, Coulthard, Witter, Battle, Baines, Clegg (c), Bath, Leaver, Roebuck, Jones, Stuart, Colville, Hawe. Subs used: Brown, Horrocks, Oddie.
Tries: Parkinson 45; conversion: Parkinson 45; penalties: Parkinson 12, 21
Penalties awarded 12, kicked 2, missed 0; scrums won 9; lineouts won 14
Referee: Mark Jude (Durham)
Sent off: none; sin bin: Pinchen 44
Other results: Acklam 21 Novocastrians 41; Consett 18 Ryton 10; Darlington 14 Ponteland 28; Gosforth 26 Gateshead 22