It was the old saying “a game of two halves” as Jonty Gorley’s injury-ravaged Whitehaven fell to a defeat against Halifax Panthers, conceding 36 unanswered second half points.

It led to Gorley saying: “The effort was there but we need to be smarter… I truly believe we can compete with anyone in this league if we play like I know we can and the first half showed that.”

Whitehaven could only name 16 bodies after previously only naming an 18-man squad rather than the usual 21, with illnesses seeing the squad reduce on Saturday morning.

But despite the setbacks it was Haven who started the game better and it was Ryan King who touched down for the game’s first try in just the sixth minute, following a line break from Haven captain Karl Dixon who then found the offload to King to score. Connor Holliday converted.

The home side soon hit back with two tries in quick succession as Joe Keyes and Joe Arundel found space and were able to break down the left hand side to initially level and take the lead but Keyes could only convert the first of the two tries.

However Haven battled back into the game and levelled the scores in the 21st minute as Nikau Williams seemed to touch down from an impossible position as the Kiwi half-back got his arm free and grounded the ball. Connor Holliday conceded to give the visitors the lead and one they didn’t surrender before the half-time break.

That was due to back-to-back breakaway tries as Dave Eccleston and Nikau Williams were the benefactors of nothing but green grass in front of them. Eccleston’s try came as the centre was trying to defend an overlap and the ball fell in his hands and went 80 metres to score.

Williams’ effort came with a helping hand from his former team-mate Lachlan Walmsley. Walmsley tapped the ball back from a high kick but as the ball hit the floor Connor Holliday was the main waiting as he collected and ran in open field. Panthers had two defenders back but Holliday offloaded to the waiting Williams who went 60 metres to score.

Holliday converted both tries to give the Cumbrians as 14-point advantage at the break.

However this was a good as it got for Haven as they conceded six tries without reply in the second half as a mixture of injuries, tiredness and inability to keep hold of the ball took its toll, with Jonty Gorley’s side having roughly 30% possession in the second half and only completing at 50%. A tough task made harder by the inability to complete their sets.

Despite this it took until just before the hour mark before the home side got their first points of the second half as Ben Kavanagh eventually powered over following some heroic Haven defending five consecutive sets with Keyes converting

That saw the floodgates open as the home scored more than a point a minute in the final 20 minutes as the game got away from Haven.

Joe Keyes and Titus Gwaze scored meaning three back-to-back tries which seen them 14 points behind to leading by four points in just six minutes as Keyes converted both tries again.

The three final scores of the game came again in six minutes. First of those came from Ed Barber as Haven were penalised for an incorrect play the ball which perplexed the Haven players. Final scores from former Haven favourite Lachlan Walmsley and Brandon Moore, who grew up in West Cumbria, put a slant on the scoreline which Haven probably didn’t deserve as Jonty Gorley says the task of bringing up in more players stars on the bus home.


1 James Woodburn-Hall, 2 Lachlan Walmsley, 4 Joe Arundel, 19 Zack McComb, 5 James Saltonstall, 6 Cory Aston, 7 Joe Keyes, 31 Kevin Larroyer, 9 Brandon Moore, 10 Dan Murray, 11 Ben Kavanagh, 29 Sam Hewitt, 8 Adam Tangaga. Subs: 13 Jacob Fairbank, 14 Kyle Wood, 17 Ed Barber. 21 Titus Gwaze.

Tries: Keyes 2 (13,61), Arundel (16), Kavanagh (58), Gwaze (64), Barber (69), Walmsley (73), Moore (75).

Goals: Keyes 7/8.


1 Geronimo Doyle, 22 Josh Martin, 4 Will Evans, 2 Dave Eccleston, 5 Andrew Bulman, 6 Karl Dixon, 7 Nikau Williams, 8 Liam McAvoy, - George Roby, 20 Jake Bradley, 11 Ryan King, 15 Connor Holliday, 13 Dion Aiye. Subs: 9 Callum Phillips, 17 Andrew Dawson, 21 Kieran Hudson.

Tries: King (6), Williams 2 (21,33), Eccleston (29).

Goals: Holliday 4/4

Half-time: 10-24

Referee: Nick Bennett

Attendance: 1,413.