HARTLEPOOL Rovers brought their home league season to a close on Saturday when they suffered a 39-29 defeat to Old Crossleyans.
For the second week running Rovers failed to take the opportunity against a relegation-threatened side to grab a win. They bid farewell, therefore, to North One East rugby for at least a season with only two home wins from thirteen league starts.
The Friarage – so often a fortress – has turned into something of an open house for visiting clubs and such wretched home form has been the difference between, most likely, mid-table safety and relegation.
As against Pontefract the previous Saturday, Rovers conceded an early try and a seventeen points blitz in only seven minutes after half time by Old Crossleyans killed what had been an even game until then. To their credit the Friaragemen hit back when there could have been a rout but the deficit was too great to claw back.
Again, as with the Pontefract loss, Rovers finished the game well on top but with insufficient time on the clock to snatch victory. A look at the season’s results shows that, until recently, Rovers couldn’t score enough points to even threaten getting a victory. The points are starting to rack up and four tries on Saturday brought a try-scoring bonus point – it is their defensive frailties that have ultimately relegated Rovers.
It is a lesson that has to be learned and fast because Durham Northumberland One is no respecter of reputation or history. Many a club has struggled to bounce back, especially at the first time of asking. Rovers managed it last time around but that was with a settled side. This time the team is one in transition. Its level for next season has been decided, it is now up to the players to front up and take the club back to North One East.
The harsh fact of life is that, despite the improved form of late, collectively the team has not been good, nor fit, enough.
Rovers: King, Coulson, Masshedar (A Arnell 56), Foreman, Lilley, Sainty (Bullock 64), S Barnfield, Wise (S Smith 41), Gregory, I Pinchen (c), A Pinchen, D Smith, Whitehead, S Hall, Grazier
Tries: A Pinchen 6; Masshedar 17; Lilley 72; I Pinchen 80. Cons: Sainty 6, 17; Grazier 72; Penalty: Sainty 12
Penalties awarded 7, kicked 1, missed 1; scrums won 7; lineouts won 12
Old Crossleyans: Seymour, Baker, J Hammond, Richardson, Thomas, Ott, Wainwright (c), Palmer (Davis 52), Wheale, Day, Wood (McGill 54), Normanton, Riaz (Baggley 63), Temm, R Hammond
Tries: Richardson 2; penalty try 38; Wheale 52; Riaz 56; Davis 66; conversions: Richardson 2, 38, 52, 56; penalties: Richardson 10, 49
Penalties awarded 10, kicked 2, missed 1; scrums won 14, 1 against the head; lineouts won 9
Referee: Stephen Rainey (Liverpool Society)
Sent off: none; sin bin: Whitehead 34, Riaz 44