Whitehaven 28 London Skolars 18

It wasn’t pretty, not a great advert for League One, but again, Whitehaven got the job done.

Carl Forster’s injury-hit squad had once more ran out of options from the bench but they were able to see it through.

Two points were all that mattered, to keep Whitehaven in the play-off mix with eight games remaining.

London Skolars are not the easiest team to play against, and there was a spell in the second half when they closed to within four points that the hosts looked vulnerable.

But somehow, and we’ve seen it time and time again from this Haven side, they found a bit extra when it was needed to come through and take the spoils.

Scott McAvoy had come out of retirement to help the team again and he was needed by the end as injuries to Lewis Brown, Dan Abram, Jordan Burns and the coach Forster had created fresh problems.

Skolars' indiscipline in the first half did not help their cause and, by half-time, the penalty count was 11-2 against them.

They had also been issued with a team warning and as a consequence Matt Ross spent ten minutes in the bin either side of the break.

By then, Haven had established a 16-0 lead which was probably a fair reflection on their domination.

Forster had one closest, dragged down just short of the line under the posts before the breakthrough was made.

It was a lovely kick to the corner on 17 minutes from Stuart Howarth which saw Jordan Burns racing through to collect and score.

There was a virtual repeat on 27 minutes. This time, Howarth’s precise kick hung in the air for longer and Burns had to produce a well-timed leap to get up and collect ahead of Skolars winger Vinny Finigan. Dan Abram converted.

The third try of the half came five minutes before the break when the lively Josh Eaves wormed his way over from a play-the-ball near the line. Abram converted.

With Ross being shown a yellow card, Whitehaven had the opportunity to make the handicap tell, but their rhythm was broken by the interval.

In fact the second half was rather different – still scrappy – but with Skolars not as bad on the penalty count, only 7-5 in Haven’s favour this time.

But the on-field injuries were starting to find out the home side and, on 50 minutes, Skolars reduced the arrears with a scrambled try from centre Lameck Juma which Neil Thorman converted.

Player coach Jy-Mel Coleman had joined the action by this time and he gave his side real hope on 56 minutes when he also dived in close to the line and stretched out to get the touchdown. Thorman’s conversion cut the gap to four points.

The alarm bells were ringing now for Haven and there was some desperate defensive work to hang on to their lead.

But they managed and, when they finally spent time in the Skolars half, they were able to score a vital fourth try.

The ball was spun out and it was Connor Holliday who flung himself over the line with Skolars defenders desperately trying to pull him back.

Abram, who had just beforehand missed a straightforward penalty, hit the post with the conversion attempt.

But there was more breathing space for Haven on 71 minutes when a lovely long pass from Callum Phillips was taken by Chris Taylor, who stepped inside the last two defenders to score.

This time Burns landed the conversion and, although Juma claimed a third Skolars try from their best handling move of the game, Haven had the last word with a penalty from Burns.

Stuart Howarth won the sponsors man-of-the-match award for his subtle prompting but the hard yards and powerful commitment from skipper Marc Shackley were vital ingredients on a day like this for Whitehaven.

Match Facts

Whitehaven: Abram, Burns, Mossop, Taylor, Green, Howarth, Phillips, Shackley, Tilley, Brown, Holliday, Thompson, Forster. Subs: Cooper, Coward, Eaves, McAvoy.

Tries: Burns (2), Eaves, Holliday, Taylor.

Goals: Abram (2/5), Burns (2/2).

London Skolars: Bishay, Finigan, Fleming, Juma, Brown, Meadows, Thorman, Martin, Driver, Pelo, Bryan, Mbaraga, Chester. Subs Coleman, Butler, Williams, Ross.

Tries: Juma (2), Coleman.

Goals: Thorman (3/3)

Half time: 16-0

Penalties: 18-7

Referee: Brandon Robinson

Crowd: 661

Star Man: Marc Shackley