Hartlepool Rovers put together a fight-back performance of the highest order at Consett on Saturday - but still went down heavily 52-26.
The spirit to battle on was impressive, the problem was that they had to do it from the perilous position of trailing 40-0!
Although the Whites ‘won’ the second half of the clash at Belle Vue 21-12, the damage had been done in a disastrous first period when the hosts had their try-scoring bonus point after only 22 minutes.
Player-coach Steve Smith had warned against giving teams a start and his words came back to haunt him as his side imploded in double-quick time.
Rovers were too weak in defence and pushed around up front by a Consett side who played a basic game of rugby which was too good for Rovers.
Well-drilled and quick-thinking, Consett played a couple of phases and then either kicked for position hoping to pick off the Rovers’ lineout or looked for their backs to cut the away defence to shreds.
Whilst Rovers had their moments late on in the first half, they had left themselves too much to do but, after the break, they had almost complete dominance.
The visitors got completely on the wrong side of Mr Davison in the first quarter. As the match progressed, however, and Rovers fronted up, Consett conceded time and again to easily win the penalty count 19-9.
“We showed true grit in the second half,” said Smith afterwards. “And no shortage of skill and effort.
“Our fitness also told, especially in the last 10 minutes when we doubled our try-count and got the bonus point.
“The set-pieces have to be better though and we’ll be working on them ahead of our next game.
“I thought Chris Sainty was easily our man of the match. His kicking game and organisation stood out and, as well as getting us going forward, he was strong in defence.”
Consett opted for a scrum instead of a penalty after only five minutes and number eight Jack Clark controlled the ball well as the home eight went over the tryline, Alex Paulus converting.
The lead increased to 12-0 on 12 minutes when Consett’s skipper Mark Sadler went over after a Graison Dale dart from a scrum on the 22.
A frantic passage of play then saw Rovers lose an attacking line out deep in the Consett 22; Taz Pelser to the sin bin and another five metre scrum where Clark could have repeated his first try but he let the ball go for Haydn Petch to cross, Paulus again adding the extra points.
Rovers’ woeful start continued with the try bonus coming after only 22 minutes when Paulus finished off a break by Clark and he added the conversion for a 26-0 lead.
It was then two tries in three minutes when Cameron Day went in the right hand corner after a backs move, Paulus slotting the touchline conversion and the lead had become 33-0.
Five minutes of solid pressure from the Friaragemen brought no reward and all of that work was undone when Haydn Petch raced away from half way and put Nick Cook in for Consett’s sixth try after 38 minutes, Paulus was again on target and the lead had been extended to 40-0.
Rovers hit back in added time when, after several tap penalties, Ian Pinchen eventually went over after approach play by Chrissy Harrison and Andrew Dring for a half-time score of 40-5.
The second half saw Rovers continue to show improved spirit and the pressure finally told on 52 minutes when Pelser made 20 metres and Sainty put out a great pass to Patrick O’Callaghan to dive over in the left hand corner with the stand-off then kicking the touchline conversion to cut the deficit to 40-12.
Rovers were again undone by Paulus who broke at speed and in a quick-fire move he, Cook and then Haydn Petch went the length of the pitch, the centre running behind the posts for an easy Paulus conversion and a home lead, 47-12.
Consett were defending up to and over the bounds of the laws as shown in the penalty count and, after Clark scored his second try after 67 minutes, Rovers put in a purple patch that had Consett rocking.
Pelser finished off a prolonged period of pressure that saw Dring, Danny Cookland, Dylan Langley and Callum Whitehead stopped inside the five metre line and Dring crossed two minutes into stoppage time to secure the try bonus point.
Sainty converted both scores for the final scoreline of 52-26.
Consett: Cook, Day, Smith, H Petch, Patchcott, Paulus, Trott, Sadler (c), Dale, McQueen, Tetley, Gray, C Wood, Grazier, Clark. Subs used: C Petch, Henderson, Gordon
Tries: Clark 5, 67; H Petch 18, 62; Sadler 12; Paulus 18; Day 25; Cook 38; conversions: Paulus 5, 18, 22, 25, 38, 62
Penalties awarded 9, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 8, 2 against the head; lineouts won 12, 7 stolen
Rovers: Harrison, S Railton, Mulvihill, Montgomery, Grand, Sainty, Pelser, Pinchen, Cookland, Lloyd, Langley, Whitehead (c), Church, L Wood, Dring. Subs used: R Clayton, Little, O’Callaghan
Tries: Pinchen 40+2; O’Callaghan 52; Pelser 73; Dring 80+2; conversions: Sainty 52, 73, 80+2
Penalties awarded 19, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 4; lineouts won 7, 1 stolen
sin bin: Pelser 18; Dale 29; Langley 42; H Petch 77
Other results: Gateshead 41 Novos 19; Horden and Peterlee 17 Barnard Castle 29; Medicals 24 Guisborough 45; Ponteland 21 Gosforth 28; Redcar 15 South Shields Westoe 15; Stockton 10 Durham City 54