Wednesday, 25 November 2015

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Whitehaven have no answer to magic of ex-Hull star Paul Cooke

Doncaster 48 Whitehaven 16: It was a case of too many Cookes spoiling the league opener, as far as Whitehaven were concerned yesterday.

Dave Houghton photo
Dave Houghton

The Cumbrians had no answer to ex-Hull and Hull KR playmaker Paul Cooke, whose personal tally of 24 points, from two tries and eight goals, told its own story.

If Haven do not show a dramatic improvement on this performance, it’s going to be a very long season.

Cooke was able to weave his magic only because his big pack got on top from the start, Haven’s cause not helped by the early loss to injury of Richard Varkulis.

Fellow prop Dave Houghton worked hard, centre Stephen Fox made the most of his limited opportunities and stand-off Carl Rudd did all he could to spark his team in to action, but it was an uphill task.

Haven’s young full-back Shane Ackerley was tested on the first set, taking cleanly a towering high ball. And it was not long before Cooke was in the thick of the action. His fine pass to Lee Waterman put the centre in to space and he looked certain to score until Fox dashed across to save the situation.

Cooke would not be denied moments later, breaking from deep and feeding prop Craig Robinson. He was then on hand to take the return and touch down between the sticks.

The visitors got back on level terms after 14 minutes, on the back of hooker Chris Smith’s break. Rudd’s lofted kick caused disarray in the home defence and Bradd Crellin got his hand to the ball to earn a try, Rudd goaling.

Crellin’s high tackle on Cooke as the stand-off looked to sparkle again, earned a penalty. And the maestro took full advantage, squeezing a pass out of a tackle for Waterman to cross.

If Cooke was not causing havoc on the left, it was half-back partner Kieran Hyde on the right. The youngster followed up his high kick and regained possession when Ackerley spilled at pace, to add to the lead.

Rudd forced the re-start dead and earned a repeat set when, off his kick, winger Tom Hudson was trapped behind his line by Max Wiper. But Haven could not turn the possession in to points.

Instead, Peter Bewsher was penalised for failing to stand square and after Cooke went close, Kyle Kesik popped over from dummy-half.

Ackerley was working overtime at the back, booting dead one dangerous kick before being tackled behind his line on the next set.

Haven finally regained possession from a Doncaster error, but prop Matthew Haggerty fumbled at a play-the-ball to give the hosts possession at a scrum 40 metres out. Cooke again caught the defence napping, hoofing the ball from the scrum base for Hudson to collect and score.

Haven could have no complaints at the 30-6 interval scoreline.

As has been the pattern often this term, they produced an improved second-half campaign. Doncaster failed to deal with a Ben Karalius bomb on 43 minutes and the scrum-half regathered, winger Andreas Bauer winning the race as the scrum-half dinked to the corner.

Haven had only themselves to blame for allowing the hosts to regain the initiative on 51 minutes, centre Liam Cunningham shrugging off a string of weak attempted tackles on his way to the try-line.

At least the visitors were now competing and were next to score. Wiper and Martyn Wilson worked a neat move down the right, and Varkulis, who had returned to the fray, was hit high in the shadow of the posts. As defenders waited for Rudd to pass as he ran across the line, he dummied through for a neat try. Haven were eyeing a bonus point, but another error put paid to their hopes.

Cooke was on hand to score when Ackerley spilled a scrum base pass 10 metres from his line. Two minutes from time, the Yorkshiremen applied the final nail to the coffin.

Waterman shrugged off some tired attempted tackles on an angled run off the sideline to cross. Cooke added his eighth goal from as many attempts to complete an outstanding afternoon for a class act who looked to be playing below his natural level.

As for Haven, they may welcome back injured three-quarters Scott McAvoy and Craig Calvert for the weekend visit of Rochdale.

And the suspended Lee Doran, their outstanding second-row, will surely be back to bolster a pack that needs to muscle up. Fast.

Whitehaven: Ackerley, Bauer, Wiper, Fox, Wilson, Rudd, Karalius, Houghton, Smith, Varkulis, Isakka, Beattie, Crellin. Subs: Sice, Bewsher, Cullnean, Haggerty.

Tries: Crellin, Bauer, Rudd; Goals: Rudd 2

Doncaster: Butterfield, Colton, Cunningham, Waterman, Hudson, Cooke, Hyde, Castle, Emmett, Robinson, O’Loughlin, Lawton, Edwards. Subs: Kesik, Bibb, Hughes, Welsh.

Tries: Cooke 2, Waterman 2, Hyde, Kesik, Hudson, Cunningham; Goals: Cooke 8

Attendance: 781

Referee: C Leatherbarrow

Star Man: Carl Rudd



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