Hartlepool Rovers left it late to record this 25-17 win over Whitby on Saturday, a stoppage time try sealing the result.
The Whites had to twice come from behind to win against a Whitby side that had started the game in bottom spot in the Durham Northumberland One table and still smarting from a 97-0 drubbing at South Shields Westoe last time out.
With home advantage, however, on a big and sloping pitch with a difficult surface, and knowing Rovers were fielding a scratch side, the Seasiders fancied their
The hosts used the same running game that had impressed in the reverse fixture and it was good enough to give them a 12-0 lead after the same number of minutes.
Rovers, however, overcame that poor start and a team ultimately put together at short notice to take the win that lifts them into seventh and above Barnard Castle, who are next up at the New Friarage after this Saturday’s free week.
With a number of players working and so unable to make the 2.15pm kick off, the line up was much changed from that which scored 11 tries in hammering Ponteland on home turf last weekend with overnight illness ruling out James Evens.
Dan Bird, a sub at Medicals, Matty Saunders and Josh Healey all came in for their debuts with Liam Austwicke making his first appearance since last September’s win at Ponteland.
Austwicke came off the bench to show what Rovers have been missing and stand-in skipper Steven Barnfield also showed some good form.
Up front, Rovers were indebted to man of the match Tom Stead who scored one try and made the added time score with Liam Armstrong prominent in defence and attack and Aaron Jeffery pulling off a typically high tackle count.
Given Rovers’ difficult run-up to the match, it was no surprise that they leaked an early try with play quickly switching from the home 22 to the away 22 where Anthoney Craig stormed in from close range, Stuart Gregson converting.
Rovers were conceding too many penalties and missing tackles and these transpired to lead to Whitby taking a 12-0 lead after 12 minutes when George Reeves took lineout bal lat the tail and barged his way over.
After the Stead brothers, Tom and Neil, had both been halted a metre out on 25 minutes, Rovers looked to have missed out but Barnfield showed great skill to keep the ball alive and set up Patrick O’Callaghan for a try to the left of the posts. Daz Fawcett judged his conversion kick perfectly and the home lead had been cut to 12-7.
Despite further pressure, another opening wouldn’t come up to half time.
After a couple of near misses at the start of the second half, the Friaragemen levelled after 51 minutes. Having swept upfield thanks to Tom Stead and O’Callaghan combining up the left wing, Neil Stead was unlucky not to see his ‘try’ awarded despite Mr Tovey being on the spot but the ball was played out to Tom to squeeze in at the left hand corner flag.
Rovers then failed to finish off some promising moves but began to benefit from increasingly poor discipline by Whitby and two penalties in quick succession and great breaks by Armstrong and then Austwicke brought another penalty and Fawcett coolly kicked the 65 th minute three-pointer to give Rovers the lead for the first time 15-12.
The lead switched back to Whitby on 72 minutes when pressure inside the away 22 told and Sam Porter broke down his wing to touchdown in the left hand corner and the hosts led 17-15.
Rovers refused to panic with the hill and wind against them, forcing another penalty after 78 minutes and Fawcett handled the tricky wind perfectly to slot the 28 metre penalty and take the lead back Rovers’ way 18-17.
The White Shirts ended the game with a great try. A steal by Armstrong sent Tom Stead away and the hooker stormed some 40 metres upfield before being half-stopped and Armstrong took over to run behind the posts leaving Fawcett’s extras to clinch a 25-17 win.
Director of Rugby Tony Church was pleased to see the hastily thrust together team win.
“This was a potential banana-skin and Whitby were clearly up for it, but we’ve come through,” he said.
“The win takes us above Barnard Castle and we have a chance to consolidate that when we play them next.
“I thought Liam Armstrong was fantastic with his turnovers and ball in hand and Tom (Stead) deserved his try and set up the last one with a great run.
“Liam Austwicke showed his class and was troubled more by the pitch conditions than the defenders.
“Special mention should be made of Josh (Healey) and Matty (Saunders) who stepped up and showed great spirit.”
Whitby: Roberts, J Reeves, Clements, Bland (c), Porter, Gregson, Bland, Reed, Hare, Kaz, Marsay, Wallace, Craig, G Reeves, Braithwaite. Subs used: Gildroy, Telfer, Swalwell. Tries: Craig 2; G Reeves 12; Porter 72; conversion: Gregson 2
Penalties awarded 11, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 8, kicked 0, missed 0; lineouts won 7, 4 stolen
Rovers: Pelser, M Railton, S Barnfield (c), Montgomery, O’Callaghan, Fawcett, Bird, Healey, T Stead, N Stead, Rayner, M Saunders, I Flounders, Jeffery, D Smith. Subs used: Stephenson, Austwicke, Armstrong
Tries: O’Callaghan 25; T Stead 51; Armstrong 80+1; conversions: Fawcett 25; 80+1; penalties: Fawcett 65, 78
Penalties awarded 16, kicked 2, missed 0; scrums won 9; lineouts won 9, 2 stolen
Referee: Colin Tovey (Yorkshire Society)
Sent off: none; sin bin: Flounders 43; G Reeves 43; Bland 78
Other results: Acklam 34 Novocastrians 40; Barnard Castle 12 South Shields Westoe 69; Durham City 74 Gateshead 26; Horden and Peterlee 19 West Hartlepool 40; Ponteland 12 Northern 63; Stockton 47 Medicals 7.