Alnwick 28 Hartlepool Rovers 10
Consolation try

Alnwick 28 Hartlepool Rovers 10

By R&O - May 18 2006
Hartlepool Rovers continue to find Greensfield a difficult venue, their poor form at the home of Alnwick carries on with this defeat.

This display was uncannily like the last two trips to the Northumberland venue in that Rovers were undone by a hard working side that refused to let the Friaragemen make an impression on the game.


The hosts were clearly up for the match, they are running out of games as they seek to claw their way to North Two East safety, yet Rovers ought to have been too. The Penrith match, as stated in the press this week, reinforced the standard of play the team is capable of and yet it all went horribly wrong come kick off.


The Friarage Faithful could scarcely believe this was the same group of players that had tackled the league leaders head on and who could easily have ran out winners a mere seven days earlier. The passion, commitment and team play evident against Alnwick was simply not present to a degree required to make Rovers competitive against a decent side but one the White Shirts ought to be beating.


Falling behind to an early penalty by stand off Charles Rayner, coupled with some tremendous Alnwick pressure, put Rovers immediately on the back foot and visits to the Alnwick half were few and far between for much of the first half hour.


The first real attack saw Simon Rutherford and Jared Stevens combine well but the final pass to Ben Cushlow was a difficult one and the winger could not accept it. Alnwick’s pack got to the line on several occasions only to be denied by superb defence but Matty Milburn managed to force his way over from close range after 16 minutes for the game’s first try. Rayner added the extra points from the touchline and Alnwick led 10-0.


Rovers were continually forced back into their 22 to defend and Rayner tried a drop goal after 28 minutes but Dan Cavanagh got a hand to the ball to block what seemed an on target kick. Chris Sainty, in at stand off for the injured Michael Walton, was entrusted with the kicking duties for Rovers and he put over a simple 15 metre penalty on 32 minutes.


Rayner narrowly missed with another drop goal attempt on 36 minutes but two minutes later, Alan Moses ran for 10 metres or so to the Rovers 10 metre line and then surprisingly stopped and dropped a monster goal to make it 13-3.


Rovers then enjoyed a few minutes of play but Alnwick held out to half time.


The Whites were left with a mountain to climb when Alnwick penned them in their own 22 from the start of the second half and they were forced to absorb heavy pressure from forward drives and penalties. The constant bombardment eventually brought a try for Andrew Shell which Rayner converted for a 20-3 lead.


Life became even harder for Rovers when Mr. Lythgoe sin binned Stevens after 53 minutes and while Rovers were a man down, the Northumbrians increased their lead to 25-3. There seemed no danger as Rayner kicked upfield and all Andrew Lilley had to do was touch down for a 22. Shell bore down on his opposite number, however, and the ball went loose for Rayner to latch onto it. He couldn’t convert but with a 22 point lead for Alnwick, there seemed no way back for Rovers.


The visitors tried to get back into the game and Jason White was only inches short and although the referee’s initial signal suggested a try, it turned out to be a penalty. Running the ball from the chosen scrum, the Whites tried to find a way through but the Alnwick defence was solid.


Frequent whistles for Alnwick infringements brought Rovers penalties but made their play disjointed. After Rayner had kicked an 18 metre penalty on 75 minutes, Gareth Foreman did sneak over from a close range tap penalty that Sainty superbly converted from the touchline but time was rapidly running out and there was no further score.


This Rovers’ squad is simply too good for them to turn in performances like this. The platform was there with the Penrith display and the build up to the match but, as with some other bad outings against Northern, Pontefract, Durham City and West, it just didn’t happen on the day.


The form Rovers showed against Penrith suggested that they could embark pretty confidently on a run of games where it would take a very good team to beat them. On this display, the forthcoming matches against Horden (Durham Senior Cup) and Driffield and West in the league, suddenly look even more difficult.


The mood after the game was not helped when word of the expected West victory at Sandal came through, meaning that the Friaragemen’s deadly rivals had succeeded in, at first closing the gap, and then, overtaking Rovers. March 11 at the Friarage has suddenly become even more of a ‘four pointer’ but first, Rovers have a cup tie derby with an in form Horden and a tricky trip into Yorkshire to face fellow mid table side Driffield.


Alnwick: Moses, Snaith, Herdman, Kirkup, Shell, Rayner, Grahamslaw, Johnson (Armstrong), Hodgson, Milburn, Fernback, D. Gray, David Smith (c), Strother, S. Gray (Lamb). Sub not used Wilson.


Rovers: P. Hall, Lilley, Cavanagh, Rutherford, B. Cushlow, Sainty, Foreman, Stevens (sin bin), J. Cushlow, Wise, Power (c), Darren Smith, Kirton (Grazier), Wallis, White (Campbell). Sub not used A. Arnell.


Referee: Dean Lythgoe (Cumbria Society)