Local bragging rights continue to elude Hartlepool Rovers after home defeat at the hands of Horden & Peterlee.
Saturday’s clash at the Friarage was the chance for Rovers to get revenge for a stoppage time 20-17 defeat at Eden Lane back in September.
Instead, the Collierymen completed the league double to claim the upper hand and leave the Whites with only the return fixture with Hartlepool next March to salvage anything from four derbies.
The result sees Horden consolidate their fourth place in the Durham Northumberland One table and stay on the tails of the top three of South Shields Westoe, Northern and Barnard Castle.
For Rovers, it means they drop a place to 11th following Gateshead’s losing bonus point from their home loss to Westoe.
In what has been a tight division so far this season, fourth might be the limit for Horden unless the leading trio slip up-witness Northern’s 36-11 defeat at Middlesbrough.
Whilst Rovers won’t want to hear the “R” word, getting sucked into the relegation scrap can’t be discounted.
Injury-ravaged Ryton appear doomed and Novocastrians, after three straight wins, have sunk even more rapidly than Rovers, who dare not contemplate losing when Novos come to call on January 14.
Medicals are a place below Rovers but, to put that into perspective, it is only due to a 10-point deduction.
What will hurt Rovers is that the match-day squad - with its returning seven players - was arguably the strongest for several weeks and yet it woefully under-performed in comparison to recent scratch line-ups.
This was a point not lost on coach Carl Robinson after the final whistle.
“Everything we trained and prepared for during the week completely went missing.
“We didn’t do anything that we’d planned and just weren’t at the races, full stop.
“Not many players can take anything from the match; but look at Patrick O’Callaghan who was head and shoulders above anyone out there.”
Robinson’s observation is astute and whilst it reflects well on a young man in his first full season of senior rugby it is telling that he is one of a hard-core of players carrying the team.
As has been Rovers’ habit lately, they started well but their handling, possibly because of the cold, was below par and the first scoring chance fell to away marksman Craig Jones.
The hero of the reverse fixture went wide, however, with a 36-metre penalty after six minutes.
A grubber kick by Alex Rochester forced Luke Watson to concede a five metre lineout and Callum Whitehead’s take saw the home eight maul to the line, Liam Wood the scorer on 22 minutes.
Rovers’ cause wasn’t being helped by conceding penalties which not only slowed the game down but also gave the visitors plentiful possession.
Horden opted for four scrums in a row from penalty awards with Rochester pulling off a try-saving tackle on David Heckles and Richie Walsh being hauled down just short of the line.
With Wood paying the price for the next infringement, Rovers had to heroically defend when Horden tried their luck again with three more scrums in lieu of penalties on half time.
Having missed out just before the break, Horden made a great start to the second half, levelling on 43 minutes.
David Heckles, Ritchie Thirkell, Jona Hudson and Watson were all tackled close to the line before the power of the away pack saw Liam Ellis crash over.
Horden took the lead after 51 minutes when Conor Jones opened play up from a static maul in the right hand clubhouse corner and a neat kick was fielded by David Mason to touchdown in the opposite corner. Craig Jones put over an excellent touchline conversion and it was 12-5 to Horden.
The Friaragemen continued to fall foul of Mr Mackings whose whistle was not allowing the game to flow and Craig Jones kicked a 25 metre three-pointer on 58 minutes from Horden’ next visit to the home 22 to make the lead 15-5.
Jack McCallum and Michael Railton then put in good runs for their sides but without support were crowded out.
Craig Jones slotted an 18-metre penalty after 66 minutes to take full advantage of Kevin Maguire’s yellow card and put his side two converted tries clear.
It was effectively game-over three minutes later when good field position was secured by a, by now, dominant away pack and a long pass put Stephen Hunt in by the left corner flag and the lead had been extended to 23-5.
The White Shirts, who had had no penalties awarded whatsoever in the second half then had two in two minutes at the end of the match as Horden desperately defended their 22 but neither led to anything.
Horden assistant coach Craig Gilmour was, understandably, happy with the result afterwards, saying: “We ground out a good win built on a better second half performance.
“It’s always a tough game against Rovers and credit to them they worked really hard. At half-time we said we needed to take the game to Rovers more and we pulled this off.
“It wasn’t a pretty game to watch, and the penalties had a hand in that, but we had worked hard in training during the week on the breakdown area and I think this showed.
“It wasn’t all about the up-front battle, we’re trying to evolve as a team and I think this showed from a couple of the tries.”
Rovers: M Railton, S Flounders, Harrison, Coulson, Rochester, Evens, Pelser, A Flounders, Maguire, Pinchen (c), Whitehead, Ryan, O’Callaghan, Wood, Dring. Subs used: Ross, Stephenson, Little. Try: Wood 22
Penalties awarded 7, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 5; lineouts won 11
Horden: D Heckles, Mason, McCallum, Watson, Craig Jones, Conor Jones, Hunt, Groves, Thirkell (c), Hudson, Walsh, Ellis, S Heckles, Brown, King. Subs used: Thompson, Hartley, C Heckles
Tries: Ellis 43; Mason 51; Hunt 69; conversion: Craig Jones 51; penalties: Craig Jones 58, 66
Penalties awarded 13, kicked 2, missed 1; scrums won 15, 1 against the head; lineouts won 10
Referee: Paul Mackings (Durham)
Sent off: none: sin bin: Wood 36; Maguire 65
Other results: Consett 29 Ryton 6; Gateshead 7 South Shields Westoe 13; Gosforth 13 Barnard Castle 20; Hartlepool 0 Stockton 7; Medicals 27 Novocastrians 22; Middlesbrough 36 Northern 11