Hartlepool Rovers 13 Morpeth 12

Hartlepool Rovers 13 Morpeth 12

By R&O - May 18 2006
Hartlepool Rovers scored a crucial North Two East win at the Friarage to help consolidate their mid table position yet keep the Friaragemen in touch with the teams above them.

Conditions were tricky underfoot and the rain that fell at times during the game made the ball slippery to handle yet both sides tried to run the ball whenever possible. Whilst this result was very welcome, the sight of Jared Stevens and Darren Smith retiring with knocks and Jon Nichols taken to hospital with a shoulder injury is a worry ahead of a crucial run of fixtures.

Despite the changes needed to the pack as a result, the home eight did well and had the upperhand in the loose whilst digging into their reserves when needed in the tight. The backs were sure in defence with Simon Rutherford, in particular, showing how it should be done. Full marks to for referee Ray Sutherland who handled the game well.

Morpeth could have taken a 2nd minute lead but Matthew Jinks missed a 30 metre penalty. The visitors stayed on the offensive and their opting for a scrum from a penalty award brought a try for Paul Jackson after some great mauling from his pack, Jinks adding a good conversion from wide out.

The White Shirts started to come into the game and some pressure from the forwards near the Morpeth line caused Jackson to lose the ball and Jason White was on hand to score. Gareth Foremanís conversion was good and the scoreline after 20 minutes was 7-7.

Both sides had several attacks that seemed to threaten a try but a spilled pass or good tackling always prevented any change to the score.

Into stoppage time, Morpeth had a great chance to regain the lead but Stuart Hills, having forced his way to the line, tried to offload in the tackle and Jinks couldnít take his pass.

The Friaragemen attacked well from the second half kick off and a couple of penalties saw them try twelve and all fifteen men mauls but they couldnít get the ball down. From a scrum, however, White broke for the line and a penalty award saw Foreman put the 18 metre kick over for Rovers to take a 10-7 lead. The stand off was then unlucky to see another penalty, this time from 23 metres, hit the right post and rebound into play.

A move on 62 minutes took the Northumbrians from inside their 22 to the Rovers line where some good close play brought a second try for Jackson.

Steve Wallis was putting in some great runs, as always, and he set up Foreman nicely and when he was late tackled after kicking ahead, he picked himself up to put the simple 10 metre penalty over and regain the lead 13-12.

Morpeth declined a routine penalty on 70 minutes and paid the price when, from the tap, Peter Cole dropped a try scoring pass with a clear overlap beckoning. The visitors then tried their hand with a 50 metre penalty 7 minutes later but Jinksís ambitious kick went well wide.

A 46 minutes first half was followed by an 87 minutes second period such had been the interruptions to play and when James Thornton was held on the line, a sequence of scrums seemed set to bring a winning score for Morpeth. The Roversí scrum held out and a steal by Paul Kirton saw him hand onto Wallis and Rovers reach the safety of halfway.

The patched up front row competed well in the second half and the side fully deserved this narrow victory, the two points helping to push their points haul towards the level needed for relegation safety. The loss of Nichols could be keenly felt as the crunch games come thick and fast.

Rovers: Nicholson, B. Cushlow, Kirton, Rutherford, Lilley, G. Foreman, A. Arnell, Wise, Stevens (Nichols, Sainty), Todd, Power (c), D. Smith (J. Cushlow), S. Hall, Wallis, White.

Morpeth: Rogers, Cole, Jinks, Hills, Manley, Harper, Jackson, Ramsey, Thornton, Dickinson (c), Forsythe (Leiper), Burns, A. Hall, J. Younger, Ludford (Walton). Sub not used: Nardini.

Referee: Ray Sutherland (Durham Society)