Sandal 22 Hartlepool Rovers 33
Jonny Cushlow

Sandal 22 Hartlepool Rovers 33

By R&O - May 18 2006
Hartlepool Rovers managed to turn certain defeat into an eleven points win at Sandal with a tremendous fightback in the second half, this after going 22-6 behind with 45 minutes played.

This match had everything: good attacking play and poor defence from both sides;  excitement and despair for both sets of players and supporters and three sin bins and a sending off.


Rovers were without the ill Steve Wallis with Simon Hall replacing him. Jason White returned at no. 8 after missing the Stockton win and Stuart Ryder was back in the squad for the first time since the opening day loss to Sheffield.


The Friaragemen ought to have scored after only a few minutes but a massive 12 man trademark drive from an attacking lineout failed to get a try and when the ball was spread, Dan Cavanagh was ruled to have dropped the ball over the line as he tried to touch down.


Gareth Foreman (8 and 15 minutes) and Tom Smith (9 minutes) traded penalties before Sandal went ahead with a good move bringing a try for Jack Smith on 23 minutes. Foreman then had another penalty award from 35 metres on 33 minutes but his kick curled left of the posts.


Cavanagh ought to have got his first league try for Rovers a minute later but, with the line beckoning, a moment’s indecision gave his marker time to tackle him and the chance was lost.


In first half stoppage time, Michael Walton and Foreman missed with drop goal and penalty chances and the Friarage following and players were then incensed when the Sandal touch judge blew Foreman for a foot in touch just as the scrum half had beaten the last man to go over the try line.


Whether the Whites were still thinking about this when the second half started, only they know, but they were to concede two tries in five minutes to go 22-6 down. A mere minute after the break, Ben Brindley scorched upfield and sent centre partner Richard Thompson under the posts and 4 minutes later, Thompson finished off a neat break by Max Whittingham. Tom Smith added the extra points to both tries.


Having worked their way upfield, Rovers pulled seven points back on 55 minutes when White went over after a maul to the line, this starting from a strike against the head by Jonny Cushlow. Chris Sainty took over the kicking duties to easily convert.


With only a further 4 minutes played, Rovers were within a score when Simon Rutherford put in a typical forcing run to touch down in the left hand corner and the lead was regained on 65 minutes when more great forward play saw the scrum advance some 15 metres with the ball at White’s feet and it was then released for Sainty to dive over in the corner and then add a superb right touchline conversion for a 25-22 scoreline.


Cushlow was having a great day in the scrum and his third strike against the head brought a penalty when Simon Hall picked up at the base to reach the line, Sainty kicking the three points.


After Rutherford and Rob Norbury had seen the sin bin earlier in the game, Mr Davis clamped down on a punch up with added time looming when he yellow carded Michael Walton and sent off sub Dave Longmore.


There was still time for Cushlow to get a reward for his fine kicking when he finished off another pack drive to the line.


It is maybe a bit harsh to criticise the players after such a superlative comeback, however, had it not been for some very poor defence and below par kicking from hand and to touch, they ought to have been looking to run in this scoreline and more against a keen but severely under pressure opposition.


Next league match up is Penrith at home in a fortnight but Rovers hope to be in friendly action this coming Saturday on a league free weekend.


Sandal: Thorn, Ell (Mitchell 75) Thompson, Brindley (c), Frewin, T. Smith, Whittingham, Waterhouse (Sewell 70), Tee, Norbury (sin bin), Stewart, Kaimau (Longmore; sent off), J. Smith, Cox, Wild.


Rovers: P. Hall, Sainty, Cavanagh, Rutherford (sin bin), Lilley, Walton (sin bin), Foreman, Stevens, J. Cushlow, Wise, Power (c), D. Smith (I. Pinchen), Kirton, S. Hall, White (Ryder). Sub not used: Campbell.


Referee: Tom Davis (London Society)