Hartlepool Rovers put in sorry show in Gosforth hammering

Hartlepool Rovers suffered a humiliating 42-5 defeat at Gosforth on Saturday.

Monday, 15th January 2018, 9:06 am
West Hartlepool take on Morpeth at Brinkburn on Saturday.
West Hartlepool take on Morpeth at Brinkburn on Saturday.

The hosts had started the day in second bottom spot in the Durham Northumberland One table but stunned the Whites by running in six tries.

They had the try-scoring bonus point score by half-time, and racked up their highest points haul of the season for easily their biggest win of the campaign.

Every now and then, Rovers turn in a performance of such ineptitude as to beggar belief. Saturday’s display at Broadway West was easily their worst for some time; it arguably wasn’t worthy of a 42-5 margin of defeat but that’s what is shown in the results.

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For the second game running, Rovers gave their opponents a 22-0 start but, unlike the heroic comeback against Westoe the previous week, there was to be no repeat.

There was little in the way of team play; no support for the odd piece of ball-carrying and some slip-shod defending.

It is hard to find any positives; you might award a mark each to flankers Danny Charters and Patrick O’Callaghan but that would be about it.

Like most clubs, Rovers aren’t blessed with a huge number of props and player-coach Steve Smith has been naming himself to start at loosehead of late but this performance and result might force a rethink.

A place on the bench allowing him to direct operations from the touchline might be in order.

The obvious conclusion to reach is that Rovers just thought they had to turn up and win. The first five minutes should have dispelled that.

Home kicker Mark Anderson kicked a 40-metre penalty on three minutes and three missed tackles after five minutes on Oli Stephenson proved costly with the centre releasing speedy winger Liam Hawthorn to run in from the 22.

Both teams then had spells of pressure ruined by poor handling and Gosforth strangely declined a sitter of a penalty.

Two aimless kicks by Rovers led to Gosforth’s second try when Oli Stephenson scored in the right-hand corner after a break by Andy Black, Anderson kicking the touchline conversion for a 15-0 lead.

Some woeful defending on 31 minutes saw the dangerous Stephenson break free again and this time, when tackled, he had flanker Darren Kelly on his shoulder to take the try-scoring pass.

Anderson kicked the extra points, this time from the opposite touchline, and the lead was 22-0 and the game arguably already in the bag for the hosts.

Full-back Matthew Struthers was the next to burst clear all too easily from half way and Angus Miller touched down and the lead at the interval was 27-0.

When the Friaragemen did string some passes together at the start of the second half they were turned over and then penalised in the home 22 and when play quickly switched to the Rovers’ 22.

Anderson kept the scoreboard ticking over with a 22-metre three-pointer.

Every time that the home backs had the ball they looked like scoring and sub Chris Voss created a simple try for Struthers after 58 minutes and a lead of 35-0.

With Darren Kelly sin-binned as Rovers attacked the line, the numerical advantage told when Callum

Whitehead dived over from close range on 65 minutes to reduce the deficit to 35-5.

Play soon reverted to the White Shirts’ half and, after Gosforth had wasted several chances and Rovers put in some excellent defence of their line, they found themselves stretched by Struthers who popped up a floated pass to Aidan McCall-Hagan to score, Anderson again converting for a 42-5 lead.

In added time, Charters looked to have galloped home but the flag went up five metres from the line.

“I’m really disappointed with this performance,” said Steve Smith afterwards. “Including my own. There were too many unforced errors and we collectively failed to deliver.

“Our culture has to change, we can’t keep giving teams a start, let alone twenty-odd points from which, for all we defied it last week, there should be no way back.

“I will have to look at making changes for next week and some of our plays, Novos has now become a must-win game.”

Gosforth: Struthers, Jones, Locke, O Stephenson, Hawthorn, Anderson, Marshall, Robinson, Gavin, Vening, Miller, Tucker, McCall-Hagan, D Kelly, Black (c). Subs used: Rooney, Voss, T Kelly. Tries: Hawthorn 5; O Stephenson 25; D Kelly 31; Miller 39; Struthers 58; McCall-Hagan 76; conversions: Anderson 25, 31, 76; penalties: Anderson 3, 47

Penalties awarded 12, kicked 2, missed 0; scrums won 3; lineouts won 13

Rovers: S Barnfield, Hodgson, Church, Evens, S Railton, Fawcett, M Stephenson, S Smith, Cookland, Lloyd, Langley, Little, Charters, O’Callaghan, Whitehead (c). Subs used: D Smith, Gunn, R Clayton. Try: Whitehead 65

Penalties awarded 5, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 7; lineouts won 6

Referee: Antony Manley (Northumberland)

Sent Off: none; sin bin: D Kelly 63

Other results: Barnard Castle 44 Gateshead 10; Horden and Peterlee 41 Medicals 12; Novocastrians 22 Durham City 48; Ponteland 20 Stockton 8; Redcar 12 Consett 45; South Shields Westoe 31 Guisborough 31