Hartlepool Rovers’ recent good form and winning run continued with a 5-0 derby win over Horden at the Friarage on Saturday.
It is now seven wins in a row for the Whites who take the local Durham Northumberland One bragging rights and who will hold them until next season.
Our front three laid the foundations for the win today.
The result closed the gap on the Collierymen who, in fifth place in the table, are one place and six points ahead of Rovers.
Rovers will be viewing the end of the season with mixed feelings. On the one hand, they will be ruing not having found this form earlier in the campaign but, on the other, they have their pursuit of the Durham Intermediate Cup to keep them focused.
For Horden, the defeat made it three on the bounce following on from losses to Durham City and Middlesbrough and whose season looks set to peter out, at First XV level anyway, although there are still the Pyman Cup and Shield to aim for.
Middlesbrough, who are next up for Rovers, and City met at Acklam Park on Saturday and City clinched the league title with a 32-6 win.
Rovers’ victorious coach Carl Robinson - who played for both clubs - was understandably pleased with the result.
“It’s now seven on the spin and I want us to target ten and if we achieve that then we will have finished the league strongly and also lift the cup.
“Our front three laid the foundations for the win today and the forwards as a unit competed well against a heavy pack.
“We don’t have the biggest pack around but they stood their ground and provided the backs with good ball as well as being impressive in attack and defence themselves.
“I can’t fault any of the lads or the display, we stuck at it well,” continued Robinson.
“The players need to continue to step up to the mark they’ve set themselves through to the end of the season, we don’t want to let this intensity slip now.”
The derby day was deserving of a bigger attendance and whilst the scoreline might not suggest it, this was a pulsating contest that enthralled the fans of both teams.
There was some early jockeying for position by the teams before Rovers put the first attack of note together on 13 minutes.
Dylan Langley broke for the hosts but a forward pass halted the move. A strike against the head by Kevin Maguire saw Daz Fawcett body-checked but the number ten put the 32-metre penalty wide.
Horden turned the home eight over after 22 minutes and two penalties saw them hit the Rovers’ 22.
A spell of advantage saw the ball go through the hands of Luke Watson and Jack McCallum to Craig Jones who had cropped up on the opposite flank. The wingman should have out the unmarked Cameron Stables in but went for the line himself and Alex Rochester halted him with a tremendous try-saving tackle.
A lineout steal by Liam Wood saw Rovers race upfield through Rochester and Adam Smith who was only just back on the pitch after a ten-minute assessment following a heavy tackle.
Smith then put in another break inside the away 22 after a chip by Matty Stephenson and after close inter-passing with Lee Maddison and Wood, Stephenson received to cross in the Railway Corner on 33 minutes.
A flare-up three minutes later involving three separate bouts saw Adam Smith and Paul James yellow-carded.
Horden then put Rovers under pressure inside their 22 and Kieran Forbes picked up from the base of an attacking scrum but his 15-metre burst for the line was halted by another good tackle by Rochester.
A turnover by Maddison on his own line, three minutes after the break, saw the flanker slip the ball to Stephen Flounders who set off, kicked ahead and recovered the ball, but he was chased down and bundled into touch.
Scrum-half Neil Hartley put in a sniping run to within eight metres of the home line, he offloaded to Stables but who was well tackled by Stephen Flounders.
With Maddison the latest to enter the sin bin on 47 minutes Horden fancied their chances and elected for a scrum from the penalty award. The Friaragemen’s pack put up a great show, however, forcing Horden to run the ball and a double tackle by Liam Austwicke and Jack Gunn stopped Forbes.
McCallum was then almost home from a tap penalty move but he was well tackled by Austwicke and Rovers breathed a sigh of relief.
Rovers countered through Adam Smith with Fawcett then kicking cross-field for Stephen Flounders to chase. The winger is a convert from football and he used his round-ball skills to slide in and keep the ball in play with Stephenson forcing a five metre scrum.
Wood and Andrew Flounders couldn’t make it over the line and Horden cleared.
The visitors then didn’t help their cause by missing touch three times in a row, allowing the White Shirts to run the ball straight at them.
Maddison was just short when he dived for the line as Rovers camped on the Horden line after 64 minutes and Adam Smith was then forced into touch at the left corner flag by James.
Further kicks failed to hit touch and Horden needed to defend strongly.
Horden had a late chance when Paul Malcolm broke from a penalty and Jones got close to the line but a knock-on brought the final whistle.
Rovers: Rochester, S Flounders, Austwicke, Gunn, A Smith, Fawcett, M Stephenson, A Flounders, Maguire, Pinchen, Langley, Ryan, Wood, Maddison, Dring (c). Subs used: Wise, Pelser, D Smith
Try: Stephenson 33
Penalties awarded 13, kicked 0, missed 1; scrums won 10, 1 against the head; lineouts won 7
Horden: Raine, Jones, McCallum, Watson, Stables, Turner, Hartley, Key, Thompson, James (c), Malcolm, Brown, Heckles, Turton, Forbes. Subs used: White, Ellis, Turnbull
Penalties awarded 15, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 13; lineouts won 12
Sent off: none; sin bin: A Smith 36; James 36 ; Maddison 47; Thompson 64
Other results: Medicals 21 Consett 24; Middlesbrough 6 Durham City 32; Novocastrians 76 Acklam 24; Ponteland 32 Darlington 26; Ryton 26 Gateshead 20; Stockton P Gosforth P