Hartlepool Rovers produced their best performance of the season to take a 28-17 win at Gosforth on Saturday.
This was only their second away win of the season – a 25-20 victory at basement club Darlington was the other – and, on this display, it should not be the last.
If their improved confidence had been knocked by two defeats it didn’t show.
With their Broadway West pitch unfit, Gosforth switched the game to their former Druid Park base to give them a psychological edge if nothing else.
The Whites, having been beaten 41-29 by Ponteland on the artificial surface on the edge of Newcastle Airport last month, were understandably unhappy at the change.
It wasn’t that Rovers hadn’t had their moments there over the years and Saturday’s Durham Northumberland One fixture saw a repeat.
Gosforth are no mugs and, already boasting a 17-14 win at the Friarage last October, were the favourites to add to Rovers’ woes by completing the double.
Rovers had played really well in beating Novocastrians 30-21 and could have won their last two games that ended in added time defeats to Ryton 14-12 and Stockton 22-21.
If their improved confidence had been knocked by those two defeats it didn’t show as Rovers took the game to their hosts and led 28-7 before the hour mark was up.
There was then a regulation daft ten minutes’ spell followed by conceding two tries in the last ten minutes.
Overall, however, there was only one team in it and that was Rovers.
The return of Liam Austwicke improved the cutting edge of the backline and the first appearance of Taz Pelser following his move from Billingham saw the diminutive scrum-half link up well with Ryan Foreman at ten.
The pack put in a tremendous shift with Liam Wood, who has had limited pitch time of late, standing out in the back row.
The match was notable for featuring Rovers’ second hat-trick at Druid Park this season.
Injured skipper Andrew Dring had done this in the Ponteland loss and this time it was the turn of stand-in captain Ian Pinchen to cross the whitewash three times.
Rovers have conceded early scores too often this season but on Saturday it was their turn to start well and a turnover in midfield after nine minutes saw Andrew Flounders storm 20 metres to the line where Pinchen was on his shoulder to cross, Foreman converting.
Home kicker Mark Anderson went wide with a 41 metre penalty on 13 minutes with Foreman being on target with a 20 metre three-pointer five minutes later for a 10-0 lead.
An Austwicke hack ahead for Adam Smith was knocked into touch by Adam Bell and Gosforth used that let-off to put some points on the board.
Ryan Gillespie had been halted twice by try-saving tackles by Foreman but he wasn’t going to be denied after 23 minutes as he galloped his way to the line. slipping two tackles to run round behind the posts for Anderson to add the extra points.
Some superb play by the away eight after 26 minutes saw Wood, Ian Coulson, Flounders and Dylan Langley all stopped short before Wood peeled off a breakdown to dive over the line. Foreman’s conversion went wide but the lead was now 15-7.
Rovers had to hold out against a catch-and-drive move before breaking free to win three penalties before half time.
Foreman went wide from the same 51 metre mark on 26 minutes and five minutes into stoppage time but in-between was successful with an easier 12 metre effort three minutes into added time.
The Friaragemen had a healthy 18-7 lead and extended this to 23-7 on 48 minutes.
Sub Callum Whitehead was straight into the game punching holes in the Gosforth defence and, from one break, Wood, Lee Maddison and Flounders took play on to within ten metres out where Pinchen powered over from a tap penalty.
Rovers were now well on top and the lead became 28-7 five minutes later Pinchen completing his hat-trick after he and Whitehead and Glen Wise had been stopped from a five-metre attacking line-out.
Foreman couldn’t add either conversion and he also went wide with a 31-metre penalty after 57 minutes.
Rovers then went off the boil and the sin-binning of try-scoring hero Pinchen didn’t help although the immediate attacking thrust by the hosts was repelled.
A further spell of pressure brought a try for Matthew Black after a pile-up on the try line on 72 minutes and Ryan Gillespie went over after 77 minutes when Gosforth with three penalties inside a minute went from one try-line to the other.
“Attitude won that for us today,” said coach Carl Robinson afterwards.
“We wanted it and a good start out us on our way and all of the players from one to eighteen performed. We were good at half back and Wisey (Glen Wise) showed all of his experience today.
“We scored two good tries in each half and I’m really chuffed for the lads.
“There’s no reason why we can’t play this way every week. With displays like this we would be in the top five and challenging at the top.”
Gosforth: A Rogers, R Gillespie, P Gillespie, P Rogers, Hawthorn, Anderson, Ashman, Black, Robinson, Morris, Farquhar, Campbeljohn, Hall (c), Bell, Locke. Subs used: Vening, Graham, Struthers
Tries: R Gillespie 23, 77; Black 72; conversion: Anderson 23
Penalties awarded 8, kicked 0, missed 1; scums won 9, 1 against the head; lineouts won 8
Rovers: Gunn, Coulson, Austwicke, Grand, A Smith, Foreman, Pelser, Pinchen (c), A Flounders, Wise, Langley, Ryan, Wood, Maddison, Church. Subs used: Whitehead, Baxter, M Stephenson
Tries: Pinchen 9, 48, 53; Wood 26; conversion: Foreman 9; penalties: Foreman 18, 40+3 Penalties awarded 11, kicked 2, missed 2; scrums won 14; lineouts won 6
Referee: Frazer McDermott (Northumberland)
Sent off: none; sin bin: Pinchen 63
Other results: Acklam 30 Horden 15; Darlington 3 Consett 54; Durham City 50 Novocastrians 12; Gateshead 16 Middlesbrough 22; Ryton 23 Ponteland 24; Stockton 33 Medicals 19