Action pictures can be purchased from photographer Mike McKenzie
WHITEHAVEN swept aside Rochdale Hornets in an impressive display of strength to get their promotion campaign off to a terrific start. Rochdale had travelled up to Cumbria the day before the game, so determined were they that they wouldn't be on the end of a heavy defeat and they certainly looked fresher for spending a night in the Lakes, rather then heading up the M6 and straight onto the field. It was the Hornets who made the brighter start, Simon Svabic kicking through after just two minutes and trying to force a repeat set. Gary Broadbent, in a clear indication of what was to come, gathered the kick on the bounce and then somehow managed to out-muscle Balu Fagbourn and Lee Patterson to get back into the field of play by the smallest of margins. But the visitors kept the pressure on and should have scored the games first try on seven minutes after great work by Fagbourn on the left wing. He gave the ball back inside to Andy Bailey who somehow managed to spill the pass with the line at his mercy. It was a mistake the Hornets would live to regret and it seemed to spark Haven into life. The impressive Derry Eilbeck made a break and then linked well with Steve Maden. As Maden was grounded he looked for the off-load and passed the ball straight into the waiting hands of Fagbourn to end the attack. But Whitehaven were coming out of themselves and finally got the games first points of 15 minutes. A few good forward drives, most notably by Steve Trindall, had the home team up near the Hornets line when, on the last, a defender charged out of the line to put pressure on John Duffy's kick. Duffy saw him coming, dummied, and then ran into the whole the defender had left. As others scrambled to cover Duffy slipped the ball to Eilbeck who showed good strength to get over the whitewash under pressure from Fagbourn for a try which Carl Rudd converted.
Eilbeck and Maden linked up superbly well on Haven's right again three minutes later, this time the impressive Eilbeck slipping a one handed pass to Maden as the winger cut inside and made good ground before finally being hauled to the deck. From that field position Trindall turned the screw, making a powerful drive up the middle and a gap for Rudd to go through.
Rudd was stopped and the danger looked gone until he shifted the ball out of the tackle to Broadbent, who dived over the line close to the sticks to leave Rudd with a simple conversion. After disallowed tries at either end for forward passes the Hornets did get a try on the board in the 33rd minute -- and there was no surprise where it came from. Fagbourn, a pacey winger with a wicked step, showed that he had strength to when given the ball by Dave McConnell. He ran straight at Maden and while the Haven man was able to ground him he couldn't stop him stretching out an arm to ground the ball. Kevin King's touchline conversion attempt dragged agonisingly wide.
With the game poised at 12-4 both sides knew that a try before the interval could prove decisive. It was Haven in possession and the Hornets clinging on as the clock ticked down, and when Eric Andrews knocked a Graeme Mattinson grubber out of the clutches of Craig Calvert and away to safety it looked like Haven's chance had gone. The visitors took their time over the drop out, eating up more precious seconds, but when they finally got on with it a moment of genius from Aaron Lester gave Haven their third try.
It was the Kiwi's perfectly executed kick through on the second tackle that bounced perfectly for Maden to give him a simple touchdown as the hooter sounded. Rudd's touchline conversion made the half-time score 18-4.
If Rochdale were to have any chance of coming back from that they needed to start well, and when Richard Fletcher made a break from his own half in mid-field the writing was on the wall. Fletcher found Howard Hill on his left shoulder and Hill charged on towards the line before he was eventually grounded by Patterson. Whitehaven wanted to get on with it as the Hornets struggled to get back but Patterson slowed it down for a second or two too long and was, justifiably, sent to the sin-bin. The home side opted to run the penalty, which looked like an error after a loose pass forced them back 20 metres and the tackles went by. But then from nowhere Duffy made a gap and found Fletcher on his right who went over unopposed for what has become his customary score, with six in the last three games. Rudd converted and the game was won with just 44 minutes on the clock.
Ironically the Hornets then had their best spell of the game as they tried desperately to get back into it. But Haven defended superbly and try as they did the visitors just could not find a way through.
On 63 minutes a bad error by the frustrated Fagbourn presented Haven another score. The home side kicked long down field to try and clear their lines and a good chance left the Hornets having to play their way back up the pitch. On only the second tackle Fagbourn charged into a Haven defender off the ball, giving the home side a penalty 20 metres out and a great platform from which to attack. Two phases later Broadbent stepped a tackler and scored his second close to the posts to leave Rudd a simple conversion.
Three minutes later Carl Sice took advantage of a fumble to score another converted try after excellent work by Calvert on the wing and Sice wrapped up the scoring two minutes from time with his second of the afternoon, again converted by Rudd.Teams
Tries; Eilbeck (15) Broadbent (18, 63) Maden (40) Fletcher (44) Sice (63, 78).
Goals Rudd 7/7
Try; Fagbourn (33)
Goals, King 0/1
Sin Bin, Patterson (43) holding down.
Ref C Halloran.
Gary Broadbent gets the nod with his two tries and a faultless defensive display. Maden, Eilbeck and Calvert also had their best games of the season and a case could have been made for any of them, or Aaron Lester. Gamebreaker;
Haven's tries either side of half time put this beyond the visitors.