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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Calling all players: Killer instinct required

A BUMPER crowd, the Kells end roar, and a handsome win over the old enemy...resurgent Whitehaven enjoyed a decent Sunday.

But, wait..... wasn’t there something missing?

John (“Spanky”) McFarlane hit the nail on the head: “Where was the killer instinct?” he asked. “When will we learn to learn to kill teams off?”

This true legend of past Haven and Town packs was right to draw attention to an on-going shortcoming. Despite Whitehaven’s rise from the ashes, the lack of a killer instinct has bedeviled the side for much of the season, much to David Seeds’ discomfort.

Coach Seeds warned of it, notably before Good Friday’s thrilling Derwent Park derby – to no apparent avail. His charges then allowed a comfortable lead to slip through their fingers.

Sunday’s return didn’t have quite the same thrill factor. Exciting but not a classic and certainly combative as Whitehaven finally broke their season’s local derby duck.

The result was never really in doubt besides a few late flutters when mistake-ridden Town saw a chance to hit back after frittering away so many gilt-edged chances. Which is why the Haven faithful left happy but slightly relieved.

“We got the right result but we need to put teams away a lot better,” said McFarlane. Spanky might have begun his sterling career with Town but coming from Kells there’s no doubt where Haven’s ex-captain puts his loyalty today!

He was brought up in a tough school alongside the likes of Frank Foster, Brian Edgar, the Martin brothers, Les Moore and Matty McLeod – tough unforgiving packmen who definitely had the killer instinct.

So despite their 10 wins in 13 games there is still a harsh lesson to be learned by Haven if they’re going all the way to win a Championship One Grand Final. And who’s to say they won’t?

Fast-making it Fortress Recre, I currently rate Haven the best side in the division, having beaten all their play-off rivals. They certainly look superior to their close neighbours.

Town have some good individual players but don’t seem to be able to click consistently as a team whereas Haven can play below par and keep winning. Butterfingers for Town on Sunday as try scoring chances were squandered.

Agony for Charlo. Ecstasy for David Seeds – those three derby points are crucial.

Proud of his players but not head over heels with the performance. Seedsy felt the side made it hard work for themselves but let’s give some credit to the visitors. Haven’s tenacious last-ditch defence contributed to Town’s shambolic finishing.

Seedsy was looking to a bumper crowd as his 18th man. His number came up in more ways than one – refereeing style. Charlo can feel aggrieved that lightning struck twice.

Sunday’s referee, by dint of getting full square in the way of a try scoring pass, arguably robbed Town of a vital six points – though counting the number of previous fumbles it shouldn’t be taken as read!

And of course in the Derwent Park encounter it was a “falling” man-in-the-middle who failed to spot the dubious looking pass that earned Haven the last-gasp draw.

But last weekend Town were left to drown in their sorrows of missed chances.

Haven’s big hope to leap-frog Town into second place failed. Losing bonus points tell a false tale.

Attacking wise Whitehaven showed flair.

Carl Rudd, slowly but surely getting back in the zone, and Lewis Palfrey are clicking at halfback. Their class put Craig Calvert over at the Railway end before jack-in-the-box Loz Hamzat pounced at the Kells end.

Club president Phil Kitchin – standing in his customary Kells end spot besides Spanky – would have been proud himself to have put in those subtle chip-kicks nicely gobbled up by Haven’s fast wing finishers. A good game, hopefully people will be back for more but of course there’s always controversy. Like the man-of-the-match.

Official choice (from the media bench) was rumbustious Lee Doran. But for me (and colleague Martin Morgan) Craig Benson was more brilliant. Back with a vengeance from his latest lay off, young Benson put in a big-hearted, lung-busting performance. It really put the curse on hapless Workington.

This young man has made the fullback spot his own. He has natural ability and looks a natural successor to the estimable Gary Broadbent.

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