Hartlepool Rovers suffer agony at Ryton

Hartlepool Rovers suffered an agonising stoppage-time defeat at Ryton on Saturday, an 83rd minute try and last-kick-of–the-game conversion giving the hosts a 14-12 victory.

Rovers looked to have secured the points, and so built on last week’s 30-14 home win over Novocastrians, when they halted a home attack with three minutes remaining and drove upfield.

A lost line-out and two penalties later and Ryton were in the away 22 and sustained pressure brought the winning score.

A penalty inside the Ryton 22 with 90 seconds on the clock gave the Whites four options.

Three – a scrum, tap and go, and a kick at goal would almost certainly have run the clock down – especially the set-piece with referee Matt Dunn taking an age to set each scrum.

Instead, Rovers went for option four, the line-out, fraught with danger on a perfect day and a big ask in the face of a gale force wind blowing against them.

A lost line-out and two penalties later and Ryton were in the away 22 and sustained pressure brought the winning score.

The result was harsh on Rovers who, arguably, could have played the elements better in the first half but otherwise did little wrong.

The strong wind, so often a feature at Barmoor was, naturally, used better by Ryton and it was a lesson hopefully learnt by Rovers.

Ryton’s pack had dominated the first period and starved the visitors of the ball to keep Rovers penned inside their 22 despite having the advantage of the breeze.

Their first real pressure at the end of the first half brought Rovers a penalty try converted by James Evens and a 7-0 half time lead.

Ryton scored their two tries at the same wind-assisted end of the pitch and which made for easier conversions and that, ultimately, was the difference between the sides at full-time.

Rovers remain in 10th place in the Durham Northumberland One table, one point ahead of Ryton who have two games in hand and two ahead of Medicals who have one in hand.

Crucially in so far as the relegation places are concerned, already potentially doomed Darlington were hammered 96-0 at Acklam whilst Durham City did Rovers a favour by beating Ponteland 83-12.

For Rovers, Jack Gunn and Tyrone Church carried on their good displays against Novos while James Evens also stood out in the backs and Kevin Maguire and Oliver Dakers took strikes against the head.

The away eight suffered a more difficult second half after the loss of Ian Pinchen.

The Friaragemen had to absorb some early pressure but some tremendous defence kept Ryton out, often forcing the hosts to knock on in the tackle.

Seventeen-year-old full back Alex Rochester should have released Adam Smith on eight minutes but his delayed offload prevented Smith from having a breakaway run down the left wing.

Rovers were being heavily penalised by Mr Dunn and which was keeping them deep inside their own half as Ryton opted for scrums and forward drives from the penalties.

It took a full half an hour for Rovers to put Ryton under any real pressure.

Liam Austwicke, with a neat chip and collect, saw Rovers swarm forward through Pinchen, Danny Baxter and Kevin Maguire but Pinchen couldn’t ground the ball from close range.

Several five -metre tries failed to produce a try and Ian Flounders put a foot in touch as he tried to squeeze in at the tight hand corner.

The pressure eventually told and after an Evens break and Pinchen was halted on the line, Mr Dunn’s patience at Ryton’s tactics ran out and he awarded a penalty try, converted by Evens.

Rovers had a let-off at the start of the second half when Lewis Barr knocked on five metres out with Evens and Andrew Dring then pulling off some strong defence.

The concerted home pressure brought a try for Colin Coulson from a five metre scrum, Barr adding the extra points to level the match at 7-7.

Gunn was having a fine game on the wing and two runs in quick succession took Rovers into the Ryton half with play being taken on by Danny Baxter who made it to the line where Dring touched down.

Evens had no chance with the conversion into the gale but Rovers had a 12-7 lead.

Rovers looked to have held out as the seconds ticked away when Lee Maddison robbed Coulson of the ball and he and Gunn broke upfield and brought that fateful penalty award.

A yellow card for Maddison as Ryton had one last throw of the dice saw the extra man eventually count and Ryton get the decisive try through Sean Brown, Barr converting.

“I can’t fault the lads’ effort out there today,” said coach Carl Robinson afterwards. “It was heart-breaking for them at the end when their hard work came to nothing.

“I thought Jack Gun and Tyrone Church had excellent games and had we been able to get the ball out wide we might have put a winning lead together.

“Certainly, without that strong wind I think we would have come out on top.”

Ryton: A Oxley, Brooms, Brown, McGarry, Colbeck, Barr, R Smith, Aucott, Simpson, Hardy, M Oxley (c), Davison, Rodenby, H Smith, Coulson. Subs used: Purvis, Armstrong, Toole Tries: Coulson 51, S Brown 80+3; conversions: Barr 51, 80+3

Penalties awarded 14, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 13, 1 against the head; lineouts won 12

Rovers: Rochester, Gunn, Grand, Evens, A Smith, Austwicke, M Stelphenson, I Flounders, Maguire, Pinchen, Baxter, Ryan, Church, Wood, Dring (c). Subs used: Maddison, Dakers. Sub (not used) S Flounders

Tries: Penalty try 40+3; Dring 67; conversion: Evens 40+3

Penalties awarded 14, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 13, 4 against the head; lineouts won 10

Referee: Matt Dunn (Durham)

Sent off: none; sin bin: Dring 13; Coulson 23; Maddison 80

Other results: Acklam 96 Darlington 0; Ponteland 12 Durham City 83; Gateshead 12 Consett 22; Gosforth 27 Horden 38; Novocastrians 17 Medicals 35; Stockton 9 Middlesbrough 22