West Hartlepool were emphatic 66-0 winners in the Boxing Day derby on Saturday, their ten-try thrashing of Rovers setting a new scoring record for clashes between the clubs.
The men from Brinkburn put in a clinical display in what were terrible conditions at the King George V playing field, the match having been switched from the Friarage due to waterlogging.
It wasn’t that Rovers played badly.
Whether anyone, other than one or two die-hard fans of the two sides who braved the weather to man the touchlines, knew they were watching history in the making is unlikely; it wasn’t that sort of game.
It wasn’t that Rovers played badly – although that was certainly the case in their 63-3 mauling at Brinkburn in December 2006 – they worked tirelessly in the face of a West onslaught.
But it was a day when the one division gap in league status seemed like a yawning chasm.
Rovers’ woes this season have been well-documented and the Friaragemen are fourth bottom for a reason whilst West are third top for a reason.
The gap between Durham Northumberland One and North One East is arguably worth 30 or 40 points’ start and West built on that ‘start’ in devastating style.
For the third time this season, Rovers failed to put any points on the scoreboard and, in all honesty, despite their hard work that was probably a fair reflection on their lack of a cutting edge in attack.
The hosts didn’t help themselves by too regularly missing touch with penalties and aimlessly kicking the ball away thus inviting West to run it straight back at them.
Despite being almost constantly under the cosh, the Whites’ discipline was good; West, on the other hand, were heavily penalised at the breakdown and ‘won’ the yellow card-count two to one.
West probably just shaded the battle up front. But it was the three-quarters where they held sway.
In the Painter brothers – Gavin and Ryan – they had halfbacks that were able to dictate play and in the centre Eldon Myers was a constant threat.
Rovers could be forgiven for looking back and thinking that, in getting the game on, they suffered a triple whammy: no gate receipts; decimated bar-takings and a good hiding.
Might they have been better looking to agree a re-scheduling to Bank Holiday Monday or the free weekend of January 2nd?
Rovers’ dismal 2015 has come to end and the malaise that has blighted their season also has to end – and now.
January offers an, on-paper at least, easier run of games but – and it’s a big but – they still have to be won.
West’s workout will help them to keep ticking over whilst their league rivals are inactive and should help them to hit the ground running and keep the pressure on Doncaster Phoenix and Morley when the league programme resumes on January 9.
The visitors got off to a perfect start and led 7-0 after only 36 seconds when Myers burst through the centre channel to cross, Gavin Painter converting.
The lead was doubled on 10 minutes when West were quickest to react to a loose ball to go on the offensive with their other centre Peter Youll this time storming home and Painter, again, adding the extra points.
West weren’t allowing Rovers to settle and a missed touch by Rovers saw them pushed straight back from one 22 into the other.
Adam Smith took a good high catch to deny Scott Butcher from a Gavin Painter cross-kick but play was brought back for a West penalty.
A catch-and-drive took play to the Rovers’ line where Butcher received to go under the posts, Painter’s conversion making the score 21-0.
West were being frequently penalised by referee Carl Hall and this led to a spell of pressure on the West line where Rovers were denied a score by some great defensive work.
Stu Waites then kicked to the Rovers’ 22 where pressure of their own saw Liam Bailey touchdown in the left hand corner.
Waites this time was the converter and the lead had been stretched to 28-0.
West’s superior pace, power and handling were the difference between the teams but were also being helped by some poor tactical kicking by Rovers.
Nothing was going to stop the away eight when they put together superb examples of driving play to and over the line and Owen Bennett scored a quick-fire double on 35 and 39 minutes for a 38-0 half time lead.
Lee Maddison, who with skipper Andrew Dring, had pressurised West just before the break, should have backed himself when he broke from his own 10 metre line as the second half got under way.
A swift counter-attack up the left wing flank brought a second try for Butcher who ran round behind the posts for an easy conversion for Painter and with 45 minutes on the clock West were 45-0 in the lead.
Rovers were turned over on half way and West were then guilty of attempting a bit of show-boating which Rovers held out against.
Bailey was on hand after 58 minutes to take advantage of Rovers failing to protect the ball and it was spread to the left flank where sub Zac Southern scored in the corner, Painter kicking a good conversion.
West were using their greater physical strength, fitness and technical ability to push Rovers back and their support play was such that they seemed at times to have more than 15 men on the pitch.
West were also making light of the conditions and played the phases well to create an opening for Joe Rafferty to cross on 68 minutes and another Painter conversion made it 59-0.
Rovers had a chance to clear their lines but missed touch and paid the price when Greg Edwards and Dan Boatman combined to put Michael Hogan in by the left hand corner flag, Waites’ touchline conversion giving a final score of 66-0.
Rovers: Grand, S Flounders, Coulson, P Miller, A Smith, Fawcett, Stephenson, I Flounders, Dakers, Cookland, Langley, Ryan, J Little, Maddison, Dring (c). Subs used: Austwicke, Tucker, O’Callaghan, Maguire, Rochester, Lane, Wood
Penalties awarded 15, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 8, 1 against the head; lineouts won 5
West: Waites, Butcher. E Myers, Youll, Willis, G Painter, R Painter, R Wood, C Wood, Angus, Atkins, Bennett, Bailey, Boatman (c), S Miller. Subs used: Crowe, Edwards, Southern, Hogan, Rafferty, Corbett, Ward, Bunter
Tries: Butcher 16, 45; Bennett 35, 39; Myers 1; Youll 10; Bailey 28; Southern 58; Rafferty 68; Hogan 75; conversions: G Painter 1, 10, 16, 45, 58, 68; Waites 28, 75
Penalties awarded 7, kicked 0 missed 0; scrums won 6, 1 against the head; lineouts won 17. Sent off: none; sin bin: Bailey 12, G Painter 22, Dakers 39
Referee: Carl Hall (Durham)