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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Whitehaven dig deep to halt Rochdale comeback

Whitehaven 30 Rochdale 22: Whitehaven had to withstand a strong second-half fight-back to get their Championship One campaign off to a winning start.

Lewis Palfrey photo
Lewis Palfrey

The hosts were outstanding in the first-half, scoring four tries and snuffing out any potential danger from Rochdale.

But it was a different story after the break, the Hornets hitting back hard, and at 24-16 down with 10 minutes still on the clock, they were still in with a chance.

A late Haven try was enough to ensure a successful launch to the league season, though a last-minute converted touch down ensured Rochdale returned home with the bonus point their second-half effort deserved.

Props Paul Cullnean and Luke Isakka started the game in great form for Haven, while playmaker Carl Rudd, making his seasonal debut, did not take long to get in to his stride, either.

His short dummy-half kick forced a drop-out and on the next set, Scott McAvoy shrugged off his marker to cross out wide.

With just five minutes on the clock, Haven were in charge, and on the next set, Isakka broke through and off-loaded to Rudd, who was tackled high.

From the resulting penalty, Isakka again cut loose and found Chris Smith in support with a neat inside pass, the hooker doubling the lead and Lewis Palfrey then adding the extras.

Rudd looked to be enjoying his rugby, and on 16 minutes he kicked through for his old Wath Brow amateur team-mate Craig Calvert to show his electric acceleration to score.

Rochdale did not mount a serious attack on the Haven line until the 32nd minute, and even then, McAvoy was able to easily defuse the tame end-of-set kick.

Four minutes later, the hosts crossed for a fourth time, with Rudd and Calvert again combining.

Rudd’s clever mid-length kick out of defence for his winger caught the visitors off-guard, and Calvert almost had time to pick up the bobbling ball. Instead, he wisely hoofed ahead and reached the ball before it rolled dead.

Hornets started the second-half in much more positive fashion and within five minutes posted a try courtesy of winger Andy Saywell.

They were made to pay for a weak attacking kick on 50 minutes, however, which lead to a cracking counter attack.

Carl Sice fielded the ball virtually on his own line, and seeing plenty of space ahead set off for the Rochdale whitewash.

He went around 20 metres before Palfrey loomed up on his shoulder, the pacey stand-off covering the final 70 metres in double-quick time to complete a fine effort.

The try checked Rochdale’s momentum slightly but they remained in the ascendancy. Haven had completely lost their spark, though loose-forward Andrew Beattie, who has made an encouraging start to his Haven career, continued to work phenomenally hard in the heavy conditions.

Young winger Jay Rossi showed great hands to take a tricky cross-field kick, though was less fortunate with another moments later, Saywell touching down and McGovern converting.

The visitors almost got within touching distance when Haven were deceived by a chip over the top, and Rochdale attackers streamed through, Mark Hobson touching down. McGovern’s goal made the score 24-16 to Haven.

Haven lifted their game to ensure Rochdale got no closer, Rudd and Palfrey both putting in low, attacking kicks to the corner for Calvert that had the visitors fully-stretched.

And when then pinned behind their own line, Haven gathered their short re-start kick and Howard Hill charged through a big gap off Rudd’s long pass, Palfrey’s conversion putting the issue beyond doubt.

Poor Haven handling led to Saywell completing his hat-trick, McGovern again adding the extras.

Haven certainly have something to build on, though they must be much better than this against stronger teams than Rochdale if they hope to make a significant impact this term.

Haven: Benson, Rossi, Eilbeck, McAvoy, Calvert, Palfrey, Rudd, Cullnean, C Smith, Isakka, S Miller, Doran, Beattie. Subs: Sice, Ford, Hill, D Miller

Tries: McAvoy, C Smith, Calvert 2, Palfrey, Hill; Goals: Palfrey 3

Hornets: English, Johnston, Bloomfield, Gorton, Saywell, McGovern, Roper, Cookson, Cook, Clough, Strong, Ashall, Donoghue. Subs: Hough, Hobson, Pyke, McDermott

Tries: Saywell 3, Hobson; Goals: McGovern 3

Attendance: 704

Half-time: 18-0

Referee: Dave Merrick

Star Man: Andrew Beattie

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