Oxford 12 Whitehaven 48

Whitehaven played their best first 15 minutes of the season to get the best possible start in a potential tricky away trip against Oxford, which was enough to give them a win.

Oxford had come into the games on the back of good wins against Hunslet and South Wales, and with Whitehaven only travelling with 16 men, they looked to be in good shape for a third victory on the trot.

But it wasn’t to be as Haven put in a workmanlike performance and ran over for 10 tries.

They were denied what looked to be a legitimate score in the first minute.

Marc Shackley broke 60 metres and, while he was stopped centimetres from the line, it looked like he had, with no double movement, stretched out to score, but the referee awarded a turnover.

However, Scott McAvoy gave Haven the lead as soon as they regained the ball and Paul Crook converted.

From kick-off, McAvoy got their second. He was given too much space on the left side and easily placed the ball over the line. Crook couldn’t convert for a second time. It was 10-0 on seven minutes.

Again, Oxford only touched the ball to kick off and no-one could stop Chris Taylor from scoring Haven’s third try. Crook converted for 16-0 on 10 minutes.

Oxford were forced to concede a goal-line drop-out from Haven’s next attack and that gave the visitors their fourth try, player-coach Carl Forster stretching over and Crook converting – 22-0 on 14 minutes.

The Blues woke up a bit and started to put Haven under a bit of pressure. They won a second set via a GLDO but a dropped ball put an end to that short spell of pressure inside Haven’s 20.

Oxford’s defending also tightened up, forcing Haven into dropped balls and keeping them away from the line when they tried to get a fifth try.

The home side finally scored on 36 minutes. It all started from when Jordan Siddons picked up a loose ball on the half-way line and, from the resulting set, Harvey Burnett caught Haven off guard to score, easily converting his own try.

From an absolutely dreadful start for Oxford, the score at half-time was pretty respectable at 22-6.

It took just five second-half minutes for Haven to extend their lead, Chris Taylor scoring in the corner, Crook’s conversion hitting the post.

Any hope of an Oxford fightback was quashed on 52 minutes when Jordan Siddons was given a straight red card for high tackle. Whitehaven made them pay straight from the penalty and Jordan Burns scored in the corner, Crook again unable to convert.

Elliot Miller then had a try chalked off for a forward pass but Haven weren’t to be denied for long. On the hour mark, Burns got another winger’s try out wide, Crook’s kick sailing past the posts.

A fine passing move midway inside Oxford’s half resulted in Craig Calvert running 25 metres unmarked to score Haven’s eighth try. Crook’s disastrous afternoon with the boot continued, his fifth miss of the day, and the score went up to “just” 38-6.

There was a chance for another try. Jesse Joe Parker’s slow line break gave Burns the opportunity to set up Taylor, but the centre mishandled with the line at his mercy.

The 12-man Oxford refused to give up and against the odds they got another try back. Scott Fleming made a 40-metre clean break and scored under the sticks. Burnett converted.

Whitehaven soon addressed the balance. Forster led from the top and found a gap to score under the black dot. Crook couldn’t miss from there and the score went up to 44-12.

And from another of Parker’s sluggish line-breaks, Calvert finished things off by scoring in the corner. Steven Roper couldn’t bring up the 50 from the conversion attempt but it mattered not in the shape of the win.

Oxford: Riley, Brough, Brooker, Cooke, Gill, Windley, Scott Fleming, Nicholson, Canterbury, Payne, Siddons, Burnett, Joynt

Subs (all used): Moules, Biscomb, Cox, McRae

Tries: Burnett (36), Fleming (71)

Goals: Burnett 2/2

Sent-off: Siddons (52, high tackle)

Whitehaven: Miller, Burns, Taylor, Parker, Calvert, Pattinson, Roper, Crook, Shackley, Tilley, Riley, Aiye, McAvoy, Carl Forster

Subs (all used): Newton, Holliday, Holland

Tries: McAvoy (4, 6), Taylor (9, 45), Forster (13, 75), Burns (53, 59), Calvert (66, 77)

Goals: Crook 4/9, Roper 0/1

Referee: Andrew Sweet

Half-time: 6-22

Attendance: 130

Penalty Count: 4-8

Star Man: Carl Forster