Hartlepool Rovers suffered another heavy defeat on Saturday when they lost 48-14 at Durham City.
After the previous week’s 43-17 home thrashing at the hands of Acklam, a trip to Durham Northumberland One’s second-placed club was not quite what Rovers would have wanted.
From a distance, Saturday’s result looks like yet another humiliating loss but the result and scoreline don’t reflect the game.
The Whites had to play all bar eight minutes of the match without their captain after Callum Whitehead’s red card and had to come back from trailing 12-0 at the break after the hosts had scored tries from their only two attacks of the first half.
Having fought back to lead 14-12 after 49 minutes, it looked as if Rovers might be heading for an against-the-odds victory but the next score went to City and was the cue for a tiring Rovers to concede six tries in just 21 minutes to give the impression that they had suffered a good hiding.
City are too good a side to look a gift horse in the mouth and they took advantage of the ailing Rovers, their stretched defence, and some weak tackling, to run at them to ruthlessly hammer home their numerical and fitness superiority.
The visitors, having lost Ryan Foreman to injury, had to rejig their back line that didn’t help their cause and some poor kick-offs and ball retention too often gave City the chance to run again and again at a beleaguered Rovers.
The defeat will, hopefully, not cause the players’ heads to drop but will show that they can compete with the teams at the top end of the division.
The result might, with hindsight, have been clinched with the sending off of Whitehead.
There seemed nothing amiss as the number eight broke from a maul but referee Fergus Hollins ruled Whitehead had led with his arm and head and sent him off.
Foreman had already missed with a penalty a minute earlier and he went wide again on 13 minutes and then struck the left upright on the half hour; all three kicks he would usually have slotted.
In between numbers two and three, Rovers went 5-0 down when Chris Metcalfe stormed to the line after some slick handling.
Rovers then butchered three chances to score themselves by knock-ons from passing and in contact.
This was put into sharp focus when Rovers’ perennial nemesis Metcalfe finished off a lineout on the away 22 with Josh White’s conversion giving Durham a 12-0 half time lead.
The Friaragemen started the second period once more on the attack and two penalties helped take them into the City 22. Some rampaging forward play after 47 minutes saw the pack settle on the tryline where tighthead Billy Lloyd barged over, Ryan Hodgson kicking a good conversion.
It was then two tries in two minutes when Jack Gunn and Dylan Langley combined to take Rovers back into the home 22 where several thrusts to the line saw Lloyd just manage to ground the ball.
Stand-in kicker Hodgson coolly converted and Rovers led 14-12.
City opted for a scrum on the 22 instead of what would have been an easy front-on penalty and Rovers’ tackling for the first time was a little suspect and City’s decision was vindicated when Craig Dominick received to score, White’s conversion seeing the lead back with City 17-14 on 58 minutes.
Rovers’ defence was opened up from the restart and Charlie Scott cut through to touchdown under the posts, White again converting for a 24-14 lead after 61 minutes.
The White Shirts declined what was a simple penalty in favour of a tap and go but were forced back and went further behind on 71 minutes when, with a man down injured, a stretched defence couldn’t prevent White from crossing albeit from what looked like a forward pass for a 29-14 lead.
Already looking hard done-to, the visitors went 36-14 down after 74 minutes when Tom Elliott weaved his way to the line with Rovers’ appealing for obstruction, White again adding the extra points.
A poor restart followed and, like Rovers earlier in the game, it was two in two when a fatigued Rovers failed to tackle and Dominick raced over for his brace, White’s conversion making it 43-14.
Rovers launched an attack from the kick off but a turnover gave the ball back to City and Elliott got his second try and City’s eighth with the winger streaking 60 metres to the line.