Hartlepool Rovers racked up their highest score of the season with a six-try win over Gateshead on Saturday.
Rovers took full advantage of a second successive week on home turf to make the Friarage factor count and the try-scoring bonus point 44-24 victory saw them climb above their visitors who had started the day immediately above them.
The Whites have slowly started to work their way up the Durham Northumberland One table and are now eighth.
They will still be ruing, however, the recent narrow 14-12 and 22-21 defeats to Ryton and Stockton respectively where wins would have seen them sixth.
Rovers were full value for their victory and which laid to rest one of their most disappointing displays of the first half of the season when they failed, in cricketing parlance, to trouble the scorers in going down 22-0 at Eastwood Gardens.
If one wanted to be hyper-critical, the conceding of three very soft and almost identical tries – all converted by Scott Cartner – took a bit of the gloss off the victory and made for a narrower winning margin than was deserved.
Rovers had several stand-out performers in an overall very good team display.
Liam Austwicke broke from full-back and entered the backline to good effect to make it strange that only two tries were scored by the three-quarters.
As against Medicals last time out, the home eight dominated their opponents. Liam Wood continued his recent excellent form and which brought out the best from fellow flanker Lee Maddison.
Sub Callum Whitehead came off the bench as an impact player and did that big-style with a tremendous exhibition of powerful and menacing running that brought him two tries.
They took him to six tries with top try-scorer James Evens also touching down for the ninth time this season.
Early pressure from Rovers brought no reward and they fell 3-0 behind after nine minutes when Cartner kicked a 30 metre front-on penalty.
A strike against the head by Andrew Flounders on 12 minutes sent Jack Gunn clear. He was bundled into touch eight metres out but a lineout steal saw the pack drive to the line where Maddison had a simple touchdown, Ryan Foreman converting.
Gateshead then had two good chances but Cartner was beaten to his kick ahead by Foreman and Ryan Clarke then spilled the ball.
After a calm period, Rovers doubled their lead to 14-3 on 36 minutes, a turnover seeing Whitehead receive from Taz Pelser to take two tacklers over the try-line, Foreman adding the extra points.
Wood was having a great game and a bustling run brought a penalty after some dissent from Gateshead and Foreman kicked the three-pointer after 38 minutes with a 37 metre effort.
There was a bizarre end to the first half with Foreman kicking the ball out of play thinking time was up. It wasn’t and a tap penalty saw the ball spread for Matty Banning to cross in the right hand clubhouse corner, Cartner kicking the touchline conversion.
Foreman was short and wide with a 38 metre penalty after 43 minutes before Rovers increased their lead to 24-10 on 59 minutes when Flounders went over after Glen Wise,
Whitehead and Ian Pinchen were halted just short, Foreman again converting.
The Friaragemen got their try bonus point after 69 minutes with some superb play. Foreman put in a neat break with play taken on by Wise and Flounders before Whitehead powered over and Foreman’s conversion made it 31-10.
It was then two tries in two minutes with Foreman again breaking and Gunn received to slip his marker to go in at the left hand corner flag.
Foreman couldn’t slot the touchline conversion but he put over a 28 metre penalty on 75 minutes to stretch the lead to 39-10.
Rovers switched off and allowed Gateshead what seemed a consolation try four minutes later when Martyn Heelbeck finished off a long-distance handling move, Cartner converting.
Two minutes into added time, however, pressure on the away 22 saw Evens run home after a quick show and go to make it 44-17.
The White Shirts still hadn’t learned their lesson defensively and there was still time for veteran centre David Tate to go over after breaks by Cartner and Conner Anderson, Cartner putting the touchline conversion over for a 44-24 scoreline.
“We had a slow start and for a while it was then a case of fits and starts for a while,” said coach Carl Robinson after the final whistle. “But you have to be happy with six tries and five points.
“It was disappointing to concede the tries that we did and, if I’m honest, we gave them 21 points. Yes, they took their chances but they weren’t made to work for them.
“We have a free week now that, given how we’re playing, I’m not too keen on but it’s something we’ll have to deal with.
“I thought Dylan (Langley) did well again and continues to mature and Callum (Whitehead) made a great impact when he came on whilst Liam Wood continues to put in some great displays as does Liam Austwicke.”
Rovers: Austwicke, Coulson, Grand, Evens, Gunn, Foreman, Pelser, Wise, A Flounders, Pinchen (c), Langley, Ryan, Wood, Maddison, Church. Subs used: Whitehead, Lidster, Baxter
Tries: Whitehead 36, 69; Maddison 13; Flounders 59; Gunn 71; Evens 80+2; conversions: Foreman 13, 36, 59, 69; penalties: Foreman 38, 75
Penalties awarded 12, kicked 2, missed 1; scrums won 9, 1 against the head; lineouts won 7
Gateshead: Cartner, Anderson, Tate, Foster, Banning, Clarke, Archbold, Collins, Ewart, Thandi, Shand, Ingham, Surrey, Heelbeck (c), Pluskal. Subs used: Kelley, Radford, Bains
Tries: Banning 40+1; Heelbeck 79; Tate 80+4; conversions: Cartner 40+1, 79, 80+4; penalty: Cartner 9
Penalties awarded 7, kicked 1, missed 0; scrums won 10; lineouts won 7
Referee: Ray Sutherland (Durham)
Sent off: nine; sin bin: Pluskal 59
Other results: Consett 3 Durham City 54; Horden 53 Darlington 8; Medicals 36 Gosforth 5; Middlesbrough 41 Acklam 3; Novocastrians 8 Ryton 8; Ponteland 5 Stockton 14