Northern 17 Hartlepool Rovers 18
Darren Smith

Northern 17 Hartlepool Rovers 18

By R&O - October 2 2007
Hartlepool Rovers turned in a disappointing performance at Northern on Saturday, a one point victory being sufficient nonetheless to progress to the second round of the PowerGen Intermediate Cup.


The display against West Hartlepool only a week earlier seemed a distant memory as Rovers struggled to contain the quick running and handling Northern threequarters for whom John Shannon at stand off was the key man.


Michael Walton made his first start of the season and there was another chance for Ben Cushlow to impress on the wing, whilst Andrew Arnell took the other wing berth.


Rovers were under pressure from the whistle and Northern had an early chance from a 5 metre scrum but Rovers regained the ball, and cleared. Rob Thompson then saw his 25 metre penalty rebound into play from the left hand post.


The Friaragemen were finding it difficult to break out of defence but did so on 20 minutes with Walton kicking his side onto the offensive with a couple of rare penalties. Once inside the home 22, the Roversí eight put in a powerful drive to the Northern line where Jason White got the vital touchdown. Gareth Foreman couldnít convert but Rovers had a 5-0 lead, albeit against the run of play.


This was shortlived, however, as Northern scored on their next attack when poor tackling allowed Thompson a run to the line and he added the extra points for the hosts to lead 7-5.


The sight of Paul Kirton leaving the field on 38 minutes was a blow to Rovers but an attack in the last minute of the first half saw Simon Rutherfordís good work in the lineout bring Walton and then Darren Smith into play and the second row made it to the line for an unconverted try and a 10-7 lead.


The visitorsí defence leaked another soft try on 45 minutes when James Marwick was given too much room and he had an easy run in, Thompson didnít convert but Northern now had the lead 12-10.


There was more disruption for Rovers with Walton retiring and with only one back on the bench, Wallis went to centre, Ian Drummond to stand off and Jonny Cushlow came on and into the back row. This did not deter Rovers who regained the lead when Drummond showed great opportunism to get over the line from close range. Foreman was incredulous when both touch judges kept their flags down and Mr Routledge didnít over rule them.


The narrow 15-12 lead never seemed enough and so it proved when that man Marwick notched his second try but questions have to be asked about the Rovers defence in the build up to the try.


Without ever hitting top form, Rovers kept plugging away and were rewarded when, on 72 minutes, Foreman put a 25 metre penalty between the posts to regain the lead 18-17, one they kept until the final whistle.


Player Coach Steve Wallis expects the walking wounded to all recover from their knocks in time for the Friarage clash with Driffield this Saturday when there is also the chance of a return to action for Andrew Foreman. A dramatic improvement on the Sheffield and Northern displays will be needed against one of the favourites for promotion from North Two East.


Northern: Sutherland (Rigby 58), Thompson, Ward, Marwick, James, Shannon, Halliday (Hart 41), Stewart, Kaczmar, Rigby, Shippen, Turnbull (c), Douglas (Dovey 50 (sin bin)), Krzysiak, Wilke-Smith.


Rovers: P. Hall, A. Arnell, Drummond, Rutherford (sin bin), B. Cushlow, Walton (J. Cushlow 45), G. Foreman (c), Wise, Nichols, Todd (Graham 76), D. Smith, S. Smith (Power 41), S. Hall, Kirton (Wallis 38), White.


Referee: Dave Routledge (Northumberland Society)