Tom Stead is the very first winner of the Heughers' man of the match award sponsored by Vue Cinema Hartlepool and receives free admission. Voucher to be collected from Darren Smith. Rumour has it Tom can't choose between Escape from Alcatraz, The Shawshank Redemption or Con Air.
The preparation for our first game of the season could have been better with several no shows and late cry offs - some with more convincing excuses than others. We did benefit though from Tom Stead's unexpected availability and also a visiting Ste Groom was pressed into playing, Which he must have enjoyed as he declared after the game that he is returning to Rovers.
We borrowed two players from a sporting Bishop side to get kicked off before Tazz and Freeman Lane turned up just after the start. By then we were 3-0 up courtesy of our goal kicking prop Billy Lloyd. Tazz then took a quick tap penalty and passed onto a supporting Tom Stead for Tom to score a try. Billy hit the post with the conversion. However on their first visit to our 22 Bishop's stand off ghosted through a gap in our back line for a converted try that brought the score to 8-7. A lead that was extended with another good try by Tom and then one on the stroke of half time by stand in stand off Mick Railton. Billy Lloyd converting the former.
HT - Hartlepool Rovers Heughers 20 - 7 Bishop Auckland 2nds
With no replacements there was no tinkering with the team and we started as we had finished by getting on the score sheet quickly. This time it was Freeman who picked up at number 8 following a 5 metre scrum and drove over the line. Billy once again adding the extras to put us 27-7 ahead and looking comfortable. But this changed when first wing Orrible Kev Stevo had to go off following a typical barn storming run with what looked like a fractured wallet. Then Bishop pulled two converted tries back to narrow the gap to 27-21. The first try resulted from their own good efforts but the second was after a comedy of errors. With a penalty on the opposition 22 Mick Railton's touch kick managed to go behind him (no mean feat with a following wind) and we lost the lineout and missed several tackles to allow Bishop to score. Finally Tom Stead was yellow carded for a high tackle though there had been several instances of higher ones earlier. However despite being reduced to 13 men we knuckled down and Mick Railton got two more tries for his hat trick. The first was to be on the end of a 75 metre flowing move and the second was after Pip went into the second row of the scrum to lock it out admirably (the beast) and create a platform for good ball to be given to the backs. Our final score came when Tazz and a now returned Tom fashioned the most popular try of the day for Glyn Hewitt. Which was further improved by Glyn himself slotting the touchline conversion into the teeth of a howling gale with the posts swaying again. Just kidding Bambi!
FT - Hartlepool Rovers Heughers 46 - 21 Bishop Auckland 2nds
In the end we had a good run out against a decent and sporting Bishop side and those who hadn't done much pre-season will have had a chance to get some rustiness out of the system. And we picked up another valuable recruit in Ste Groom.
We had a well balanced team with everyone playing their part. The back 3 of Sean, Kev and Glyn worked well together and were potent going forward and stern in defence. Similarly Grandy and Nathan Olley complemented each other with Grandy able to put straight running Nathan into space. At half back Mick Railton got his hands on the ball more than usual and revelled in it while Tazz pulled the strings for the team all afternoon with a masterly, unselfish performance. Up front we had dominance in the scrum and open play. Our front row of Tom, Elliot Mongahan and Billy offered so much with ball in hand. Ste Groom and Josh Healey locked out the scrum while our back row were all over. Freeman always made ground with the ball while Pip and James Coxon were terrific in securing possession. This is a real compliment to James in particular as it was his first game in the pack.
Swallow, K Stephenson, Olley, Grand (c), Hewitt, M Railton, Pelser, T Stead, Monaghan, Lloyd, Healey, Groom, Coxon, Addison, Lane
Check out Jock's pictures on the Hartlepool Rovers Facebook group
Next week we are away to Old Boys 2nds (who had an interesting 12-12 draw with West Stags). Several more players have already declared their availability and it is believed that following a surgical operation to remove the sofa from his back Mick Ryan has run out of excuses not to play. We shall see.