RUGBY PREVIEW: Hartlepool Rovers v Sunderland

FORWARD DRIVE:  Hartlepool Rovers hooker Kevin Maguire. Picture by TOM COLLINS
FORWARD DRIVE: Hartlepool Rovers hooker Kevin Maguire. Picture by TOM COLLINS

GRAHAM Puckrin is looking to see Hartlepool Rovers “bounce back” from their disappointing derby defeat by beating Durham Northumberland One whipping boys Sunderland tomorrow.

Rovers squandered a glorious chance to stay right in the promotion mix when they let slip a 14-0 lead to lose 23-14 at Stockton last Saturday.

But they have the perfect opportunity to respond tomorrow at the Friarage against a side who have lost all seven matches, scoring only 77 points (kick-off 3pm).

“Sunderland have struggled a little bit this year back in Division One,” said Puckrin.

“I expect a home win and a decent performance.

“The lads were frustrated at Stockton, they allowed themselves to be bullied up front by a good Stockton pack.

“Some people whinged about the ref but it wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t ideal at the rucks but Stockton took advantage and had a field day.

“Sometimes I think we’re too quiet a bunch of lads – last Saturday we needed someone on the field to rally the troops and say ‘come on lads, let’s get stuck in’.

“It’s not that the lads are not trying, I think we just need a couple of leaders out there.

“But I’m looking to see the lads bounce back tomorrow and I think they will.”

Complacency could be the biggest enemy tomorrow.

Sunderland are having a wretched time – aside from a 28-22 thriller at Blyth they have lost by landslides, most notably last Saturday at home to Guisborough who won 75-7 at Ashbrooke.

If the pack control the forward play tomorrow and the players perform as a team then Rovers should produce a handsome victory.

“We had a decent session last night,” said Puckrin. “The lads looked pretty sharp and it was a good run through.

“We can’t take anything for granted but if we take onto the field what we know can do then hopefully we can have a good game.”

Rovers miss hooker Jon Cushlow tomorrow but they are boosted by the return of Kevin Maguire, who was the star turn in his last appearance against Ryton. Also in the front row, Michael Tucker is unavailable so Glen Wise is recalled to the starting formation.

Andrew Pinchen comes back into the side after recovering from a knee injury with Dylan Langley stepping down to the Second XV who have a big CaNDY League game at Corbridge tomorrow.

Rovers: L Austwicke, D Grand, J Gunn, I Coulson (capt), A Smith, M Barnfield, S Barnfield, A Flounders, K Maguire, G Wise, D Baxter, A Pinchen, T Church, L Maddison, M Foster. Subs: D Fawcett, C Whitehead, I Flounders