After a break of about a month the Heughers were a bit ring rusty but still did enough to pip City's second string in a close match at the Friarage. Since we last played West Stags between Xmas and New Year Sean Swallow and Elliott Monaghan have joined the club and both ex Horden lads made their debuts. City had gamely travelled even though short handed and as BBOB's game was off ex-Rovers Andrew Arnell, Rob Hilton and Jack Fletcher sportingly turned out for them.
After a spell of City pressure Arnie went over out wide for the opening score with an unconverted try. Grandy (captaining the side from scrum half) levelled the scores with a drive for the line and Phil Gorman's conversion put us ahead. A lead we extended when Tom Doneghan spilt open the Saracens' defence for a fine try. Our 12-5 lead didn't last long though as inattention at the lineout then poor tackling allowed City to score 3 tries and convert one which put them 22-12 up. Andrew Arnell then took a nasty knock when he and Kev Stephenson both went for a high ball. To quote Andrew himself when he came round he had on Rovers socks, BBOB shorts and a City top. No wonder he was confused! We narrowed the gap when Grandy fielded a kick and slalomed through and away from a number of City players before handing onto Kev Stephenson who powered past the rest of the Saracens defence. The conversion meant we were back to within 3 points
HT: Rovers Heughers 19 - 22 Durham City Saracens
The second half was a much closer affair with both sides having spells of pressure but defences being on top. We eventually turned one of our periods in attack into a score when Ste Cotson was just too strong to be kept out as he drove for the line for an unconverted try to put us back in the lead 24-22. City had a chance to go back ahead with a penalty in front of the posts but, luckily for us, they missed. This miss must have preyed on their minds as when given a second kick in front of the posts they elected for a scrum; which came to naught. Rovers missed a penalty of their own but some good did come from it. Jack Fletcher was in front of the ensuing 22 kick and to much amusement was yellow carded for this innocuous infringement. According to the ref it was for a succession of penalties. Yes well. Darren Smith soon joined Jack on the naughty step but this time for the more believable reason of hands in the ruck. A tense finish followed but we just did enough to hold out.
FT: Rovers Heughers 24 - 22 Durham City Saracens
First of all well done to both City for travelling short handed and for the Brigade lads for filling in and making this a more meaningful game. City's performance was much better than you would have expected from a team at the bottom of the league. Ours was poorer than a team at the top should be. We were just too inconsistent with spells of outstanding defence being let down by lapses in concentration. Still we were undoubtedly rusty and a wins a win as they say.
Well done to Elliott and Sean on their debuts. Elliot is a hooker and so Johnny Cushlow found himself first in the back row (which he liked) and then second row (which he didn't). Pip Addison took a break from his studies (11 plus I believe) and was very effective in the lineout. Orrible Kev put in a good shift and fully deserved his try. Man of the match for me, and not for the first time this season, was Ste Cotson who again put in an all action performance and it was fitting that he got what turned out to be the winning try. Finally Andrew Arnell seems to have made a full recovery and we are very relieved to hear that.
The picture of Kev Stephenson going over for his try is one of many excellent ones courtesy of Jock Johnston. If you have access to Facebook check them out in the Hartlepool Rovers group.
Harrison, K Stephenson (Wright), Doneghan, Swallow, Hetherington, Gorman, Grand (c), Cotson, Monaghan, I Scott, L Clayton (Healey), Stoddart (D Smith), Cushlow, Addison, Maguire
Next week we are away at Barnard Castle. Which is still in County Durham and not the end of the earth.