New Hartlepool Rovers coach starts with win against Ryton
The Jon Benson regime at Hartlepool Rovers got under way with victory at Ryton on Saturday.
The fixture list conspired to make the new coach’s first game in charge being at one of his former clubs.
The win was more important than the performance but there were signs at Barmoor that Benson might have the resources to work with to pull the Whites away from the Durham Northumberland One drop zone.
While Ryton have endured a disastrous season and look set to be relegated, this game, at one of Rovers’ least favourite venues had every chance, given Rovers’ poor form of late, to be a banana skin.
As it happens, the way that Saturday’s match panned out meant that this ended up being an unlikely event.
The only downside to the away win was Rovers’ failure to secure a try-scoring bonus point which, come the end of the season, could be crucial in determining who will join the seemingly-doomed Ryton.
The win lifted Rovers a place in the table to fourth bottom and a mere four points separate the five sides immediately above basement team Ryton.
Rovers’ destiny is in the club’s own hands – continue to win games (more than the sides around them) and they will stay up.
When Rovers went 22-0 up after 48 minutes it seemed impossible that there would be no further scores but full-time came with no addition to the three tries already under their belts.
Sadly for the Friaragemen, just when there would appear to have been a long-overdue kick-start to their season, a league-free weekend looms this Saturday to halt momentum.
After a bright start by Rovers, Lewis Humble slotted a 21-metre penalty on four minutes to put Rovers 3-0 up.
A great break after seven minutes saw Rovers run from inside their own 22 through Humble, Taz Pelser and Patrick O’Callaghan to hit the home 22 where James Evens took over.
The centre should have put the overlapping Chrissy Harrison in at the corner but went for the line himself and was tackled just short.
Play became a little pedestrianised by both sides and, after declining a shot at goal from a similar position to his first penalty, Humble was short with a three-pointer from the home ten metre line that smacked of desperation by Rovers.
The visitors turned down an easy penalty after 36 minutes only for Andrew Dring and Billy Lloyd to be held from a tap and go.
There was a further chance from another award and this time Steven Barnfield showed composure to put Evens in by the left hand corner flag.
Humble slotted the touchline conversion and the lead going into half-time was 10-0.
A superb break by Evens two minutes after the break saw his mazy run take him from his own 10-metre line to within ten metres of the Ryton line where he kicked through for the supporting Pelser to pick up and cross. Humble added the extra points and the lead was 17-0.
Rovers’ confidence was renewed and they extended their lead to 22-0 on 48 minutes.
Pelser stole the ball from the base of a Ryton scrum and, after inter-passing by Dylan Langley, Danny Charters and Humble, Steven Barnfield popped up to put Adam Smith in from close range.
Rovers then slipped into a flat patch where they were guilty of over-elaboration and wasteful kicking away of good ball.
There was one further chance when O’Callaghan tried to reach for the line after a break by Humble and Steven Barnfield but was tap-tackled four metres out and spilled the ball.
“The players have had a depressing run lately,” said Benson afterwards. “And the lads really needed this win.
“I thought we dominated the first half and Ryton only made our 22 twice and that was due to a couple of missed tackles.
“We could have run the ball a little more but that will come if we can get some consistency in selection.
“We’ll look to improve on this performance.”
Ryton: Colbeck, S Smith, R Smith, McCarten, Brooks, Oxley, Maitland, Aucott, Simpson, P Smith, Hardy, Stewart, Edwards, Crozier, Oxley (c). Subs used: Ward, Armstrong, McGarry
Penalties awarded 14, kicked 0, missed 1; scrums won 17, 1 against the head; lineouts won 7
Rovers: S Barnfield, Harrison, Humble, Evens, A Smith, M Barnfield, Pelser, Pinchen (c), Maguire, Lloyd, Langley, Ryan, Charters, O’Callaghan, Dring. Subs used: Lidster, Lane, Stephenson
Tries: Evens 36; Pelser 42; A Smith 48; conversions: Humble 36, 42; penalty: Humble 4
Penalties awarded 8, kicked 1, missed 1; scrums won 6; lineouts won 7
Referee: Steve Green (Durham)
Other results: Barnard Castle 19 Medicals 12; Gateshead 10 Consett 19; Gosforth 31 Hartlepool 0; Novocastrians 24 Horden and Peterlee 12; South Shields Westoe 31 Northern 36; Stockton 19 Middlesbrough 19