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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Whitehaven dig deep to fight back against Swinton

Whitehaven 22 Swinton Lions 22: Whitehaven staged a terrific fight-back to share the spoils yesterday after looking out of the contest on the hour-mark.

Carl Rudd photo
Carl Rudd

Ian Mort’s converted try appeared to have put the Championship One pacesettters in the clear at 22-12.

But Haven dug deep to reply with a couple of well-taken tries as the Lions’ opening run of seven league wins came to a dramatic end.

Haven’s effort was all the more impressive given that they were without hooker Chris Smith, scorer of eight tries in his last six games, and outstanding full-back Craig Benson, both injured.

But those who filled their roles certainly did not let the side down. Centre Derry Eilbeck, apart from one slip under a high ball, was solid at the back, and Carl Sice proved outstanding at nine.

Lewis Palfrey was immense at stand-off and Lee Doran once again stood out in the second-row, which was no mean feat as Haven’s entire pack was fantastic.

Swinton showed their intent from the start, regaining possession from the kick-off as Haven were penalised, with prop Lee Wingfield held up over the try-line.

It was not all one-way traffic, Doran’s flick pass to Max Wiper seeing the centre go close, after Palfrey shackled Mort behind his line, forcing a drop-out.

Eilbeck then produced a phenomenal tackle to deny Warren Thompson as he dived for the line.

An end-to-end opening quarter concluded with Haven seizing the initiative. The ball was shifted to the right flank for Loz Hamzat to break clear, 60 metres out.

As Mort closed in, the youngster fired a great pass for Palfrey on his inside to open the scoring, the playmaker then converting for good measure.

The lead lasted just six minutes, defenders and attackers alike missing Ian Watson’s attacking kick behind Haven’s line, before the ball landed invitingly at the feet of winger Rob Foxen, who touched down unimpeded.

Hooker Karl Ashall proved outstanding off the bench for Swinton, and his break led to their second try.

He was eventually collared by Palfrey, literally, but with Haven struggling to regroup, stand-off Martin Ainscough stepped inside a couple of defenders to score.

Ashall was at it again on the next set, his quickfire break ending with Dana Wilson putting Mort in for another try, the full-back slotting his second conversion.

With the clock ticking down to the break, a push in the tackle saw Haven awarded a penalty. Rather than take a tap, they opted to go for goal, Palfrey obliging to reduce the deficit to 16-8.

The hosts started the second half strongly, Andrew Beattie surging through on an angled run to score. Doran then looked to level matters with another strong burst up the middle. But the break fizzled out due to a lack of support.

Haven continued to press, Palfrey landing a 40-20 kick. But they lost Kurt Wilton, who was left prone, ref George Stokes placing the incident on report.

The game looked to be slipping away from the Cumbrians on the hour after Gavin Dodd’s speculative kick was spilled by Eilbeck, Swinton’s trickery from the resulting scrum leading to Mort’s second try, the full-back again goaling.

Palfrey’s trickery on 66 minutes helped put Haven back in the frame, his chip collected by Wiper who put Hamzat in to space.

The winger shot down the touchline to finish well, Palfrey landing the conversion from the tightest of angles.

Swinton’s big winger Rob Foxen possibly regretted venturing in to midfield after he ran in to Doran and lost the ball.

Haven made the most of the possession, Scott McAvoy putting Craig Calvert in to a gap and the classy winger doing the rest.

This time, Palfrey’s kick was wide of the mark, leaving the scores level with seven minutes left.

Sice excelled in the closing exchanges as he pushed for the winning try. He had the defence stretched when he collected his own chip kick and hacked ahead again, a defender rushing across to save the Lions.

The hooker then raced through once more and again kicked on, this time running in to a defender, the home crowd screaming in vain for a penalty in front of the sticks.

In an unbelievably tense finale, Calvert raced 50 metres out of defence before Swinton kicked ahead as the hooter sounded.

The hosts regained possession and McAvoy threatened to go on one of his rampaging runs before trying to dab through, a relieved Swinton defusing the danger.

There could be little complaint from either side at the final scoreline. What a contest.

Whitehaven: Eilbeck, Hamzat, Wiper, McAvoy, Calvert, Palfrey, Rudd, Hill, Sice, Isakka, S Miller, Doran, Beattie. Subs: Dalton, Cullnean, Ford, Wilton

Tries: Palfrey, Beattie, Hamzat, Calvert; Goals: Palfrey 3

Swinton Lions: Mort, Foxen, Dodd, D Thompson, Flooks, Watson, Ainscough, Morrison, Smith, Wingfield, Hawkyard, Cunliffe, Joseph. Subs: W Thompson, Ashall, Wilson, Holland

Tries: Foxen, Ainscough, Mort 2; Goals: Mort 3

Half-time: 8-16

Attendance: 917

Referee: George Stokes

Star Man: Lee Doran

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