Hartlepool Rovers ran riot on Saturday, scoring 11 tries in a 78-5 demolition of Darlington at the Friarage.
This was Rovers’ second double of the season and came on the back of a free Saturday last weekend and by a line-up badly affected by unavailability and injury.
Former skipper Jonny Cushlow came in at hooker and both he and number 8 Darren Smith made their first starts of the season and, with Ian Coulson and Glen Wise, provided the collective experience to help what was a very young team.
There was a hat-trick for Lee Maddison and braces for Ryan Foreman, Stephen Flounders and Alex Rochester whilst Foreman kicked ten of eleven conversions including two from the touchline.
A glance at the scorers shows the names of Liam Austwicke and Adam Smith surprisingly missing. The Whites’ two best finishers both drew a blank but it wasn’t for the want of trying and they provided the groundwork for several of their side’s tries.
If one wanted to be critical – and it is churlish to do so - the team left a number of points on the pitch.
Despite dominating, it took 11 minutes to open the scoring and there was a quiet spell in the third quarter that only yielded seven points otherwise the hosts could have been looking at new scoring and winning-margin records to supersede the 89-0 home win over Wallsend in season 2008/09.
A ton-plus defeat would have been harsh, however, on the visitors whose pack plugged away to the bitter end.
The first points came on 11 minutes from a close range tap penalty with, after Coulson was held, the ball spread through Austwicke and Stephen Flounders for Foreman to skip round Jack Tully. This was the only conversion attempt to draw a blank.
The lead was 12-0 three minutes later when Rochester broke and he released Austwicke who was half-caught but was able to offload to the supporting Maddison.
Foreman sent his line away after 22 minutes with Adam Smith pelting up his wing before cutting inside off his left foot. He was caught by full-back Andy Robinson but Maddison was again in support like a good openside flanker should be and he had a simple run home.
Rovers were looking threatening every time they ran the ball and a strike against the head by Cushlow on 28 minutes saw the ball hit Jack Gunn who made good ground before putting Stephen Flounders in the right hand clubhouse corner to produce a superb touchline conversion by Foreman.
Darlington scored from their first attack with a trademark catch and drive to the line, Dom McAlorum the try-scorer.
Captain Andrew Flounders turned the screw a little more with a 36 metre penalty by Foreman after 38 minutes with a try from the restart giving the Friaragemen a 36-5 half-time lead.
Coulson, Darren Smith and Tyrone Church combined well up the middle before Stephen Flounders took over to go outside and inside the cover tacklers for a fine finish.
Darlington kicked the ball away on 43 minutes with Austwicke putting in the initial break before Foreman ran all the way from the away ten metre line to extend the lead to 43-5.
Rovers were then denied scores when Austwicke was brought back for what was a harsh forward-pass call and then for offside.
A quiet spell for Rovers ended just after the hour mark when Taz Pelser stole away from a ruck and Darren Smith had acres of space and only Anderson to beat on his way to touchdown and a 50-5 scoreline.
Foreman surprisingly tried a snap 30 metre drop goal after 67 minutes but which indirectly led to the next home score a minute later.
Austwicke, again denied by a tackler, had Maddison and Mick Ryan in support and he chose the inside man for the second row to cross and the lead was now 57-5.
A strike against the head on 70 minutes by James Llewellyn saw Pelser pressurize his opposite number Richard Brown and he stole the ball to cut across the pitch and pass on to Rochester to race to the line from 30 metres out, Foreman kicking another touchline conversion for a 64-5 lead.
It was three tries inside four minutes with Foreman’s speedy conversion giving him the chance to break from the restart and he looked able to go all the way but unselfishly put Maddison in for his hat-trick.
The last play of the match gave Rochester his double when Pelser was, again, provider and he had the legs to outrun the tiring cover for a final score of 78-5.
“The lads have really put down a marker for themselves for the rest of the season with this display and result,” said coach Carl Robinson afterwards.
“We have three tough league games left and then the cup to go for and so we can’t relax.
“The support play, that we have been working on in training, was very good today and this helped us to score some excellent tries.”
Rovers: Austwicke, S Flounders, Gunn, Coulson, A Smith, Foreman, Rochester, A Flounders (c), Cushlow, Wise, Langley, Ryan, Church, Maddison, D Smith. Subs used: Pelser, I Flounders, Dring
Tries: Maddison 14, 22, 72; Foreman 11, 43; S Flounders 28, 40; Rochester 70, 80; D Smith 62; Ryan 68; conversions: Foreman 14, 22, 28, 40, 43 ,62, 68, 70, 72, 80; penalty: Foreman 38
Penalties awarded 10, kicked 1, missed 0; scrums won 7, 1 against the head; lineouts won 12
Darlington: Robinson, Welch, Metcalfe, Archer, Tully, Carter, Brown, Hargreaves, Llewellyn, Shepherd (c), Anderson, Adams, Webster, Dent, McAlorum. Subs used: Tebbs, Scullion. Sub (not used) Miller. Try: McAlorum 34
Penalties awarded 10, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 8, 1 against the head; lineouts won 5
Referee: Paul Candlish (Durham)
Sent off: none; sin bin: none
Other results: Horden 13 Durham City 37; Medicals 39 Acklam 33; Middlesbrough 28 Consett 16; Novocastrians 38 Gosforth 21; Ponteland 23 Gateshead 22; Ryton 24 Stockton 3