Rovers Heughers extended their winning run to 4 victories in a row in the Bill Bowden cup in a full blooded encounter over a very strong West Stags side. The game went ahead after some hard work by the West lads in clearing snow from the lines and the pitch was in good nick to enable some rugby to be played by 40-50 chaps and witnessed by a decent crowd.
The Heughers got off to a flying start when we kicked off and the catch was fumbled which led to Scott Buttery going over in the first minute. Alex Rochester put the conversion over with his beloved pink kicking tee. West then engineered an unconverted try by powerful centre Rob Thorn to bring the score to 5-7. However we went ahead further when we eschewed a kickable penalty to go for a lineout in the corner. The moans of team management turned to cheers when Matty Lidster forced his way over for another try converted by Alex so it was. 5-14.
Kev Stevo then felt he was clipped by a West player and having recently failed the practical for the Diplomatic Service there was only one course of action in his mind. Unfortunately the referee only saw the retaliation and invited Kev to leave the field. Despite being a man down we went further ahead with a glorious solo effort from Patrick O'Callaghan. West run a line out ploy where they do a dummy jump and then throw the ball in after everyone has landed. Unfortunately for them POC had read the playbook and he latched onto the West captain's knock down to streak away from his own 22 along the touchline with his pace too much for the despairing defence. Smashing try.
HT - West Stags 5 - 19 Rovers Heughers
In the second half West had the wind and the man advantage and it was like the Alamo with Rovers repelling attack after attack by the Stags. We also had our attacking moments though and when West were forced to concede a penalty in their 22 after pressure from the pack Scott Buttery sensibly knocked it over to put us further ahead at 5-22. We then suffered injuries to key men with Scott and Alex Rochester having to go off which led to Connor Fewster having to return to the field despite being knackered after his first game for a year. The noble Kirto also took to the paddock even though he had siezed up with the cold while watching. West, inevitably, scored but their 2 tries were both out wide and neither were converted so the score was 15-22 going into the last few minutes. These last minutes were nail biting but we held out and indeed kept possession and drove West back to their 22 where we were relieved to hear the final whistle.
FT West Stags 15 - 22 Rovers Heughers
Cracking game and thanks to West for working hard both before the game and during it. For us it was a really great team performance. One of the best I have seen from the Heughers for a while. Despite being a man down for the best part of an hour and being disrupted with injuries everyone worked for each other, tackled their socks off and never, ever gave up. It was an unusual game in that we had 3 hookers, 3 stand offs yet both props played the 80 minutes. Apologies to the lads who either didn't get on at all but supported throughout and also to those who got less time than expected. Particularly due to 'Orrible Kev's misdemeanor.
M Railton, Hodgson (Bowden) (Page), S Railton, Coutts, K Stephenson, Rochester (Kirton) , Fewster, Cotson, Lidster (Squid) (Harrington), R Clayton, Hogg, S Smith (Stoddart), POC, Buttery (c), Charters
Subs not used but much appreciated - L Saunders, J Healey, A Cooper
The picture is of Bill Bowden"s grandson Kieran who played for us and his daughters Moira and Fiona together with 2 more grandsons. I would like to think Bill would be as proud as punch looking down. If you are on Facebook look in the Hartlepool Rovers group for many more excellent pics courtesy of Jock.
We fielded 4 new players for the Heughers which, brings the number used so far to 85. Remarkable. We have played 15 games, winning 12 and losing 3 and are top of the Candy League. So the 2017 bit of the 2017/18 season has been OK. Let's work hard to make the 2018 part one to remember. If you are a player please get behind coaches Ste Smith and Dringy, train as much as you can and bring yet more players in.
Happy New Year to all
Report - Ian Smith