Hartlepool Rovers lose again to well-drilled Durham
Hartlepool Rovers slumped to an, arguably, predictable heavy defeat at league leaders Durham City on Saturday.
The result extends Rovers’ losing run to six matches and it doesn’t get any easier for the Whites with second-placed Barnard Castle next up at the Friarage.
City are a solid, hard-working and well-drilled outfit and, on Saturday’s evidence, had a better level of fitness than what was a far from a first-choice Rovers’ line-up.
It is easy to see why Durham top the league, and are favourites for the Durham Northumberland One title, but the first half an hour at Hollow Drift saw Rovers with the upper hand and having the bulk of the territory and possession.
This made it all the harder to take when Rovers went in at the break 21-3 down and, as has been the custom of late, having to chase down the game.
A further five tries for the hosts in the second half produced the final winning margin but, once again, Rovers did themselves no favours with some mediocre defending and tackling allowing some of City’s tries to come a little too easily.
Whilst the pack fronted up well, especially in the loose, being without the likes of Ian Pinchen, Kevin Maguire, Andrew Dring and skipper Callum Whitehead was a massive hindrance and another much-changed back line didn’t get much chance to shine.
Daz Fawcett had a chance after only three minutes with a 38-metre penalty but went narrowly wide and Rovers then failed to take a couple of good chances through poor ball retention.
Despite looking in control, Rovers leaked a try on 32 minutes when Paul Armstrong cut through the 10/12 channel to cross and also convert and he also added the extra points to a touchdown by Chris Metcalfe after a break by Peter Dent for a 14-0 lead.
Tony Ross then went close for the Friaragemen before Fawcett slotted a 22-metre penalty after 38 minutes.
It looked like not being Rovers’ afternoon in first half added time when a crooked lineout throw went unpunished and City scored seven points when David Elliott scored in the left hand corner, Armstrong’s touchline conversion making for a 21-3 half-time lead.
Disaster struck three minutes after the break when Steven Barnfield allowed a speculative kick ahead to bounce and, when he failed to gather the ball, the chasing Tom Elliott picked up to score and the lead was 26-3.
The Friaragemen hit back and Mark Burnside went over on 49 minutes after good approach play by Tyrone Church, Fawcett’s conversion making it 26-10.
Some awful tackling after 55 minutes saw Bradley Pears beat four tacklers in a run from the away 10-metre line, Armstrong converting.
It was then two tries in three minutes when sub Howard Johnson broke up the left wing and put Dent in from 18 metres out, Armstrong’s extra points making the lead 40-10.
Dent looked set to score again on two occasions and, when held, he put Metcalfe in for his brace on 69 minutes and, with City queuing up to have a go at a weak defence, Craig Dominick concluded the scoring after 72 minutes.
The White Shirts ended the game on the attack but were gaining inches at a time whereas Durham had been gaining metres.
“Another defeat is tough to take,” said player-coach Steve Smith afterwards.
“I don’t think the scoreline reflected the game but, ultimately, City created and took their chances and we didn’t.
“Some of their tries could have been prevented and we might have made them work harder for the others but the game’s now over and gone.
“Continuity and commitment are so important and we’re not matching other teams at the moment as the results show.
“I could think of easier games than Barnard Castle but the fixture list has given us them and we need to look back at the fright we gave them at their place and look to go one better on Saturday.”
Durham City: Stewart, T Elliott, Pears, Metcalfe, D Elliott, Armstrong (c), Paxton, Hogg, Davison, Parkinson, Holden, Showler, Dias, Dominick, Dent. Subs used: Hay, Jones, Johnson
Tries: Metcalfe 35, 69; Armstrong 32; D Elliott 40+2; T Elliott 43; Pears 55; Dent 58; Dominick 72; conversions: Armstrong 32, 35, 40+2, 55, 58, 72
Penalties awarded 5, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 12, 1 against the head; lineouts won 8, 3 stolen
Rovers: C Harrison, Coutts, S Barnfield, Gunn, S Railton, Fawcett, Pelser, S Smith (c), Ross, Lloyd, Burnside, Little, Church, Wood, Langley. Subs used: Buttery, Kirton, O’Callaghan
Try: Burnside 49; conversion: Fawcett 49; penalty: Fawcett 38
Penalties awarded 11, kicked 1, missed 1; scrums won 10; lineouts won 8, 1 stolen
Referee: Leslie Cash (Durham)
Sent off: none; sin bin: Dias 62
Other results: Barnard Castle 38 Ponteland 0; Gosforth 25 Medicals 23; Horden and Peterlee 26 Stockton 5; Novocastrians 35 Guisborough 19; Redcar 8 Gateshead 54; South Shields Westoe 23 Consett 16