Hartlepool Rovers slump to depressing 37-22 defeat at lowly Acklam

Horden and Peterlee (mauve and blue) v Stockton (red) rugby action. Picture by Tom Banks.
Horden and Peterlee (mauve and blue) v Stockton (red) rugby action. Picture by Tom Banks.

Hartlepool Rovers slumped to a depressing 37-22 defeat at lowly Acklam on Saturday.

The result means that Acklam have recorded the league double over the Whites following on from another big win for the Teessiders (43-17) at the New Friarage last October.

This result, whilst not quite as bad, should have been unexpected given Acklam had only won four games all season and now have five, two of which have been against Rovers.

The omens weren’t good for Rovers with a 15-man unavailability list facing player-coach Steve Smith, who had faced a similar problem two games ago for the trip to Whitby.

Smith introduced himself to the fray and led a fightback that cut the deficit to 25-22 and another score then might have had the hosts rattled.

Instead, two more tries gave Acklam a comfortable winning margin and, for that, they were indebted to four tries from scrum half Dan Ashton.

Steven Railton led the way for his side with a brace, but poor handling, too much kicking and falling off tackles all limited the number of chances for Rovers.

Steve Smith said: “We had Barney (Steven Barnfield) binned for a high tackle only for one on Steven (Railton) to go unpunished.

“We’ve had an Acklam knock-on immediately followed by one by us and they score and it stands and we have an advantage in front of our posts at the end and they get a penalty.

“It was all very baffling and referring decisions like that have had a direct effect on the result.

“That said, we didn’t play anywhere near well enough and the result has put a dent in our attempt to finish higher in the table but we’ll keep plugging away.

“I thought Tyrone (Church) and Danny (Charters), who had a perfectly good try disallowed, had excellent games, especially in the first half, but as a unit we failed.”

Marcus Sudron missed with a 20 metre penalty after only nine minutes, but Acklam took the lead on 15 minutes when Rovers failed to make it over the home line and an interception saw the action quickly switch to the away 22 and Barnfield’s yellow card.

The home eight drove on from an attacking lineout, Ashton getting the scoring credit.

James Evens pulled three points back after 23 minutes with a 27 metre penalty, but Acklam hit back four minutes later when Theo Labonette and Jacob Robinson combined to set up Sudron who stole in through a gap and the lead was 10-3.

There was a pivotal moment when Evens broke a tackle and ran 50 metres to the line where he was held, but Charters took over to dive over the line only for the referee to rule there had been a double movement.

Sudron started the second half with a 43rd minute 18 metre three-pointer to extend the lead to 13-3.

Rovers then failed to deal with a loose ball on 52 minutes and were mortified when, assuming they had advantage, Chris Walker picked it up and dropped over the line and Sudron’s conversion made it 20-3.

The visitors pulled seven points back, three minutes later when Railton ran a good line to score, Barnfield converting for a 20-10 scoreline.

Acklam’s running game was paying off and it did again on the hour mark when Paul Owens, Ben Pearson and Labonette put Ashton in by the left hand corner flag for a 25-10 lead.

Back came Rovers after 63 minutes and Liam Wood’s break was carried on by Steve Smith and, when half stopped on the line, Tom Stead kept up his recent scoring form to cross, Barnfield’s conversion making the score 25-17.

It was vital that the next score went the way of the Friaragemen and it did when a slow move up the right wing burst into life when Railton stormed to the line from 30 metres out, and the deficit had been cut to 25-22.

The White Shirts appeared to have a free ball in front of their posts after 73 minutes only for the referee to award Acklam a penalty.

The hosts strangely declined the kick and their bravado paid off when Ashton went over and his conversion made the score 32-22 and took away Rovers’ losing bonus point.

In added time, a long clearance kick put Acklam back on the attack and Ashton chipped over the cover and won the race to the ball to make the final score 37-22.

Acklam: Gator, Abraham, Walker, Dunn, Robinson, Sudron, Ashton, Owens, Pearson (c), Bowtell-Potter, Moss, O’Brien, Bottomley, Labonette, Thompson. Subs used: Guignard, Marks, Faint

Tries: Ashton 15, 60, 73, 80+2; Sudron 27; Walker 52; conversions: Sudron 52; Ashton 73; penalty: Sudron 43

Penalties awarded 9, kicked 1, missed 1; scrums won 15; lineouts won 4, 1 stolen

Rovers: S Railton, O’Callaghan, S Barnfield (c), Montgomery, A Smith, Evens, Stephenson, N Stead, T Stead, Lloyd, Langley, Rayner, Church, Wood, Charters. Subs used: S Smith, Bird, M Saunders

Tries: Railton 55, 67; T Stead 63; conversions: Barnfield 55, 63; penalty: Evens 23

Penalties awarded 10, kicked 1, missed 0; scrums won 10, 1 against the head; lineouts won 8, 3 stolen

Referee: Andy Hodgson (Yorkshire Society)

Sent off: none; sin bin: Barnfield 13

Other results: Barnard Castle 10 Northern 24; Durham City 36 South Shields Westoe 28; Gateshead 21 Novocastrians 27; Horden and Peterlee 14 Stockton 46; Ponteland 26 West Hartlepool 34; Whitby 21 Medicals 14.