Hartlepool Rovers paid the price for another mixed display on Saturday in going down to a 36-15 home defeat at the hands of Consett.
Saturday’s match was a case of deja-vu for Rovers, who had leaked a 41-0 start to Consett in the reverse fixture at Belle Vue before fighting back to lose 52-26.
This time around, Rovers trailed 31-0 at half-time before ‘winning’ the second half 15-5.
Comebacks are all well and good but count for nothing if, ultimately, a side doesn’t win and Rovers are becoming the experts in giving opponents a match-winning lead – Consett had five first half chances that all produced tries.
As well as finding a cure for their poor starts to matches, and which Rovers thought they’d done after building an 18-0 lead at Gateshead, something also needs to be done about the team’s discipline.
It’s hard to believe that a team awarded 14 penalties to eight conceded could triumph in the yellow and red card count, but this happened on Saturday.
Four of those penalties saw Michael Railton, Liam Wood and Callum Whitehead sin-binned in a four-minute period in the first half and Danny Cookland sent off after 67 minutes.
By the laws, all four decisions by exchange referee Tom Boyle were correct but Consett could consider themselves very fortunate not to have suffered more than one yellow card.
Cookland’s dismissal could yet have serious consequences for Rovers who are under a RFU disciplinary warning and might suffer a fine and possibly a points deduction.
Consett took a 7-0 lead after only eight minutes when a kick to the Steetley Corner by Nick Cook was chased down by Henry Race and Dan Patchett with the wingman getting to the ball first, Cook adding the touchline conversion.
A turnover on half way saw Ryan Foreman kick upfield and, after several surges, Jack Gunn was hauled down two metres out and penalised for not releasing.
Another penalty quickly followed putting Consett into the home 22 where Graison Dale broke away from a maul to cross, Cook’s extra points doubling the lead to 14-0 on 20 minutes.
Foreman went for goal from 34 metres four minutes later but was wide of the mark.
A frantic passage of play had Rovers nearly in at the clubhouse end before Consett broke away to the home line and a stolen lineout saw Jonathan Hames score to make the lead 17-0.
If Rovers felt hard done by to be behind, they were rocked when Railton, Wood and Whitehead were shown the yellow card on 33, 34 and 37 minutes respectively.
Being reduced to 12 men had to tell and Consett scored two tries in three minutes - the first a pick up by number eight Jack Clark from the next scrum and centre Haydn Petch then opened up the home defence for Dale to get his second try.
Cook added both conversions and what might have been a manageable 17-0 deficit had grown to a nightmare 31-0.
The Friaragemen cleverly ran the clock down with Foreman’s three-pointer on 42 minutes, not only putting points on the board but also allowing Michael Railton to return to the fray for the restart.
The home defence was sucked in after 48 minutes allowing Consett to create a two-man overlap, Race crossing in the left hand clubhouse corner for a 36-3 lead.
Rovers deserved more points and they came on 53 minutes when Alex Rochester and Kevin Maguire set off after a kick ahead and they had Wood in support to touchdown in the Steetley Corner.
Foreman banged over the conversion from the touchline and the deficit had been cut to 36-10.
Things were looking better for Rovers but they blew two close range chances in five minutes before they suffered a hammer-blow with Cookland’s dismissal after 67 minutes.
The White Shirts kept plugging away and Steven Railton went over in the Railway Corner in added time after over 12 minutes of constant pressure.
The costly defeat and potential loss of points were clearly playing on player-coach Steve Smith’s mind afterwards.
“I’ve just said to the lads that I now need them to go through to the end of the season unbeaten,” he said.
“We were forced into a late change with Taz Pelser having work commitments and that upset our game plan but it can’t be blamed for the defeat.
“We need to turn up and play from the start right up until the final whistle, we showed we can do this at Gateshead and now need to do it in every match.”
Rovers: M Railton, Rochester, S Railton, Gunn, Coutts, Foreman, M Stephenson, S Smith, Maguire,Lloyd, Langley, Little, Wood, Church, Whitehead (c). Subs used: Cookland, Burnside, Mulvihill
Tries: Wood 53; S Railton 80+2; conversion: Foreman 53; penalty: Foreman 42
Penalties awarded 14, kicked 1, missed 1; scrums won 2; lineouts won 10, 1 stolen
Consett: Race, Patchcott, Herdman, H Petch, Patchcott, Cook, Trott, Sadler (c), C Petch, Dale, Gray, Hames, Tetley, Sotheran, Clark. Subs used: McQueen, Jackson, Lonsdale
Tries: Dale 20, 40+1;Patchcott 8; Haymes 28; Clark 39; Race 48; conversions: Cook 8, 39, 40+1
Referee: Tom Boyle (Yorkshire)
Sent off: Cookland 67; sin bin: M Railton 33; Wood 34; Whitehead 37; Dale 71
Other results: Barnard Castle 19 Horden and Peterlee 15; Durham City 22 Stockton 8; Gosforth 20, Ponteland 23; Guisborough 31 Medicals 26; Novocastrians P Gateshead P; South Shields Westoe 52 Redcar 0