HARTLEPOOL Rovers put in another tremendous performance to run in six tries against highly-rated Consett at the Friarage.
Rovers, a couple of hiccups aside, were absolutely superb in dismantling Consett who had done the league double over them last season as well as defeating the Whites in the Durham Intermediate Cup Final. What made the win all the more deserving and worthy was the fact that it was achieved after the team that had won at Darlington had been decimated through injury and unavailability.
Already shorn of five players from the victory at Blackwell Meadows, the hosts lost three more on Saturday morning, including skipper Ian Coulson, to leave coaches Graham Puckrin and Carl Robinson having to rejig their side a second time.
Any team could justifiably feel sorry for itself and fearful of taking on a Consett side that had racked up some big wins of late until being beaten at home by Guisborough 39-15 last time out.
Self-pity was not on the agenda, however, for Rovers with the players making light of the upheaval to come from behind three times to get their try-scoring bonus point win. With the points secured they then dug deep to keep Consett from getting any bonus points.
Rovers have now come from behind to win in some style at Gateshead 27-25 and Darlington 32-10 and now – and arguably most impressively – 37-25 against Consett. The one that got away was the 26-22 home defeat to Durham City where the Friaragemen were guilty of not closing that match out.
There were once again some sublime tries for the Friarage Faithful to applaud and now is certainly a good time to be a Rovers fan. Their team is up to third and right on the tails of leaders Morpeth and Guisborough and are the division’s top bonus point scorers with 11 – not normally a strength for Rovers.
There was a brace of tries for Jack Gunn, and touchdowns for leading try-scorer Adam Smith, captain Glen Wise, James Fleet and Lee Maddison. Chris Sainty kicked a penalty before retiring hurt and Daz Fawcett nailed touchline conversions to the last two tries.
The danger for Rovers is they now lift their foot off the gas as they hit the road to Blyth and Gosforth before the festive break but Puckrin and Robinson are sure to be warning against any complacency.
There was an early yellow card for Adam Pearson and Sainty put the three-pointer over but within two minutes Rovers trailed 5-3 when Mark Lee picked off a Fawcett kick and then sent Steven Hodgson away. The winger chipped ahead and the supporting Jack Clark collected to score.
Rovers regained the lead after 15 minutes when Maddison sacked Haydn Petch and after Fleet was hauled down two metres out Wise crossed in the Steetley corner.
A turnover on their own 22 led to Rovers’ second try on 24 minutes and Sainty released Smith on halfway who had three men to beat and did so with a brilliant example of wing play on his way to scoring in the railway corner.
Fleet and Smith nearly added tries as Rovers pressurised Consett but it was the visitors who scored right on half time. A free kick saw livewire centre Luke Draper cut through to touchdown under the posts and Nick Cook’s conversion cut the deficit to 13-12.
Cook put over a 39 metre penalty two minutes after the break to give Consett the lead back 15-13 but they then lost Lee to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock on.
A feature of recent games has been the tactical box kicking of Steven Barnfield and he conjured up a try for Fleet on 56 minutes. The right wing had nearly picked off a kick in the first half but he had time and space to take the bouncing ball for Rovers to retake the lead 18-15.
Consett hit back and went 25-18 ahead when a left wing move ended with Draper stealing in from 30 metres, Cook adding the extra points and then kicking a 34-metre penalty.
The Whites then hit a purple patch with three tries in nine minutes.
Tyrone Church sent sub Liam Wood away and the flanker raced 40 metres upfield with the ball then being spread and James Evens shipped the scoring pass to Gunn who ran 20 metres diagonally to the line.
It was two tries in two minutes with Rovers taking a 30-25 lead when Ian Flounders showed great speed for a prop as he broke from halfway. He looked able to go all the way but brought the supporting Smith into play and when he was tackled two metres out Maddison was there to touchdown, Fawcett was bang on target from the left touchline with the conversion.
After 78 minutes Wood showed a clean pair of heels again and after Maddison had taken play on he passed on the Gunn to cross and for Fawcett to slot another excellent conversion.
“I’m so proud of all 18 players,” said Robinson. “Not many clubs could do what we’ve done after that number of changes.
“That was possibly our best all-round team display for several years and the introduction of our subs had a tremendous impact and lifted the other lads. I would use one word to describe that performance –‘awesome’.”
“A great win, I’m over the moon with the display and the result,” added Puckrin.
“The big thing for me was the lads that came in were those who have been training hard week-in, week-out and waiting for a chance. They got that chance and reward and have put pressure on the players who were missing.
“Before the start we said there was no pressure on us because of all of the changes but we’ve played very well and showed great character.
“We’ve been making some great breaks, eyeing up the line and scoring some brilliant tries.”
Rovers: Sainty, Fleet, Gunn, Evens, Smith, Fawcett, S Barnfield, A Flounders, Maguire, Wise (c), Wilson, Langley, Church, Maddison, Foster. Subs used: Harrison, Wood, I Flounders
Tries: Gunn 69, 78; Wise 15; Smith 24; Fleet 56; Maddison 71; conversions: Fawcett 71, 78; penalty: Sainty 6
Penalties awarded 7, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 6; lineouts won 12
Consett: Lee, Hodgson, Petch, Draper, Wilkinson, Cook, Trott, Sadler, Armitt, McQueen, Murphy, Gray, Sotheran, Clark, Williams (c). Subs used: Loughran, Urwin, Stuart
Tries: Draper 39, 62; Clark 8; Cons: Cook 39, 62. Pens: Cook 42, 64
Penalties awarded 13, kicked 2, missed 1; scrums won 9; lineouts won 6
Referee: Carl Hall (Durham)
Sent off: none; sin bin: Armitt 5; Lee 45
Other results: Guisborough 89 Blyth 0; Medicals 37 Consett 25; Morpeth 19 Durham City 12; Novocastrians 24 Gateshead 29; Ryton 33 Sunderland 3; Stockton 25 Gosforth 29