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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Patched-up Whitehaven romp to stunning Featherstone win

Featherstone 26 Whitehaven 52: Whitehaven set the benchmark for their season with this fabulous performance against one of the Championship’s most improved sides.

In addition to their four sidelined props, patched-up Haven were also without back-rower Andy Gorski and flyer Craig Calvert.

They had only one fully-fledged experienced prop in the 17, Karl Edmondson – though Kyle Amor is on the way to establishing his name – and loose-forward Leroy Joe started in the front-row.

Remarkably, evergreen skipper Joe was one of Haven’s top performers, on a day when the entire team hit their straps.

Aussie Jamie Theoharous built on last week’s superb display against Gateshead with another top draw effort, while Gregg McNally went one better than last week’s hat-trick.

Yesterday, he hit Rovers for four, his last coming off an interception, the youngster showing deceptive pace in holding off the cover on a 90-metre sprint to the line.

Add eight goals to his tally and he equalled Mick Nanyn’s club record of 32 points in a match.

What they lacked in senior players, Haven more than made up for in passion, and after 22 minutes they were 32-0 up.

But just as impressive was their second-half defence. Trailing 32-16, Rovers launched a fierce onslaught down the hill for a spell after the break yet did not breach Haven’s line until the 72nd minute.

Joe opened the scoring on three minutes, taking Theoharous’s pass out of the tackle to touch down next to the sticks. Scott McAvoy carved up the hosts two minutes later, galloping 35 metres before being taken to ground from behind by scrum-half Andy Kain.

Defenders lingered too long on the back-rower and McNally slotted the resulting penalty.

The scrum-half was then on hand when hard-working Spencer Miller tried to release him in a tackle.

The ball went to ground and McNally was quickest to react, dancing around a defender to score.

Haven were on fire, and a fantastic set, in which Theoharous and Graeme Mattinson were heavily involved, saw the dangerous Rob Jackson put McAvoy in for a try.

Rovers boss Daryl Powell’s response was to bring on all four subs at once, but the move failed to check Haven’s momentum.

Theoharous attracted a penalty for a high shot and then off-loaded in the tackle to set up another attack, from which Carl Rudd chipped perfectly for McNally to collect behind the Rovers line.

Haven were 26-0 up and the hosts had not mounted a single attack. When their chance finally came, Matty Dale’s effort was ruled out for a bounced ball.

On Haven’s next set, Miller was held down in front of the sticks and McNally hoofed another goal.

Leroy Joe was proving hard to contain in the middle, and he set up the next try, freeing Derry Eilbeck down the middle.

The winger, who has made a great start to the season, drew the full back and fed Chris Smith on his inside. The young hooker just had the pace to hold off the cover on the race to the line. With 22 minutes on the clock, Haven were 32-0 ahead.

The fightback had to come at some stage, and Featherstone finally started to find their feet, scoring three tries before the break, all on Haven’s right side, which for a 10-minute spell suddenly looked vulnerable.

Ian Hardman, the ex-St Helens and Widnes man, rolled over the line sideways for the first. Andy Kain, Rovers’ best player on the day, put John Fallon in for their second, and Hardman then galloped in for a third after a well-worked move that left a big hole in the defence.

Haven should have extended their lead after the break when Ade Adebisi broke from defence on an electric 50 metre run. But the winger delayed his pass to Jackson a fraction too long and it was ruled forward, with the try-line open.

The pacy Kain looked to hit back, going down the middle as Haven stood off, waiting for a kick that never came. McNally got to him and dislodged the ball in to the bargain.

The teenager then claimed his hat-trick, again following good work from Miller. The second-row dislodged the ball in a heavy tackle and McNally was quickest to react, sprinting 30 metres to the corner.

Mattinson’s superb short-side dummy-half kick then put Hardman in trouble on his goal-line, with the full-back forced in to touch.

From the scrum-base, Jackson out-paced the cover on an arcing run to the line. Then came McNally’s long-range fourth try before Kain and Dale tries looked to add a little respectability to the scoreline.

But Haven brought up the half-century two minutes from time, Rudd’s cut-out pass putting John Patrick in out wide.

Unaware of its significance at the time, McNally missed the conversion attempt that would have set a new points scoring record. It was the only disappointment on a stunning day for Haven.

Haven: Benson, Adebisi, R Jackson, Patrick, Eilbeck, Rudd, McNally, Edmondson, Mattinson, Joe, S Miller, McAvoy, Theoharous. Subs: D Miller, Long, Amor, C Smith

Tries: Joe, McNally 4, McAvoy, C Smith, R Jackson, Patrick; Goals: McNally 8

Rovers: Hardman, Price, Hirst, Saxton, Smeaton, Harris, Kain, Tonks, McLocklan, Dickens, Dale, Spears, Haughey. Subs: Fallon, Lee, Hesketh, Blakely

Tries: Hardman 2, Fallon, Kain, Dale; Goals: Harris 3

Referee: Craig Halloran

Star Man: Gregg McNally

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