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Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Barrow trouble below-par Haven

man of the match: Aaron Lester

By Martin Morgan

BRAVE Barrow came close to enjoying a rare win at the Recreation Ground against a below-par Haven.

Haven started last season in similar fashion before coming good when it mattered later in the season, but at no point in the early stages of last term did they come this close to losing.

Indeed, their only home defeat last year was when an injury-hit team lost to a strong Widnes outfit in April.

Haven had a chance of snatching the points four minutes from the end, when, with the teams locked at 22-all, they opted to go for goal after the Raiders were penalised for a high shot on Graeme Mattinson.

But Carl Rudd’s angled kick, from almost 40 metres out, struck an upright and bounced out.

Even then, the drama was not over, with an attempted drop-goal from Rudd failing to find its target. And with Haven pushing hard in the closing seconds, they had a Scott McAvoy try ruled out for a knock on by Derry Eilbeck, who had worked wonders to palm down a Barrow pass and find his centre.

It would have been unfair on the gallant Raiders, however, if they had left the Recre empty-handed.

They were tough, well-organised and keen. Their effort was even more impressive given that they lost scrum-half Lee Sanderson after just 13 minutes with a head injury.

Later in the second-half they had to do without sin-binned fellow playmaker Liam Finch for 10 minutes.

While he was still on the sidelines Haven scored down the flank the stand-off would have been defending.

Craig Calvert squeezed over in the corner, but from the stand, his left foot looked to brush the sideline just before he touched down.

Earlier, it appeared that Haven might enjoy a comfortable day at the office when Gary Broadbent made a half-break down the middle on eight minutes.

Rudd moved the ball to the right and McAvoy carried two defenders with him over the try-line, Rudd converting.

There was a delay when a groggy Sanderson was treated on the pitch, before he was helped off, but a couple of tackles later, veteran centre Phil Atkinson crossed out wide, adding his own conversion.

Ex-Haven back-rower Brett McDermott, playing at prop, showed that he was effective as ever when cutting open the home side down the middle in the shadow of the posts, but Haven held on.

At the other end, it took three defenders to hold out strong Haven sub Howard Hill, who went close off Aaron Smith’s pass.

Aaron Lester was organising effectively for Haven, and his high kick to the corner was well-taken by Calvert. But the speedster was quickly grabbed by Atkinson and Finch with the line beckoning Barrow’s defence had been strong in the opening half-hour, yet it melted away when Lester cut loose from a scrum base 10 metres from the visitors line and touched down without a defender laying a finger on him.

Rudd added the extras to put the NL1 outfit 12-6 ahead with half-time approaching.

But another ex-Recre man Jamie Marshall returned to haunt Haven in the closing seconds of the half.

The winger shot through from dummy-half 10 metres out to stun the home faithful.

Within three minutes of the re-start, the League Two team hit the front. New signing Martin Ostler broke clear from midfield and Liam Finch shot through for a try, Atkinson converting.

The visitors put themselves under unnecessary pressure when Paul Wilcock dropped the ball from the relatively straightforward re-start.

But they defended a set at the Kells End, the excellent Finch defusing Leroy Joe’s dangerous kick by running the ball dead.

An Atkinson penalty then struck an upright, Joe gratefully sweeping up the loose ball.

Finch was then sin-binned and Calvert took advantage with his try in the corner to level matters.

The game turned on 62 minutes with Haven on the attack. Lester and Mattinson both offloaded in the same move and McAvoy broke a couple of tackles, with the hosts looking to set up a dangerous attacking position.

But a loose pass saw Barrow's Liam Harrison break from deep, winger Jamie Nixon outpacing the cover and scoring under the sticks, Nicky Beach’s kick putting the Raiders six points up.

Haven’s attacking effort took on an added urgency, and Rudd had a try disallowed for a double movement.

They finally hit back 10 minutes from the close, Lester’s long pass creating space for Eilbeck who crashed over in the corner. Rudd held his nerve to slot the touchline conversion.

His late penalty attempt would be only inches away from handing Haven all three Northern Rail Cup points, but that would been an injustice to the visitors, who, on this form, could be a major force in NL2 this season.

Haven: Broadbent, Calvert, McAvoy, R Jackson, Eilbeck, Joe, Rudd, Trindall, A Smith, Teare, Miller, Fletcher, Lester. Subs: M Jackson, Mattinson, Wright, Hill.

Tries: McAvoy, Lester, Calvert, Eilbeck.

Goals: Rudd 3.

Raiders: Ganley, Beach, Atkinson, Harrison, Nixon, L Finch, Sanderson, Raftery, Ellis, McDermott, Ostler, Armitstead, Whitehead. Subs: Marshall, J Finch, Wilcock, Dutton.

Tries: Atkinson, Marshall, J Finch, Nixon.

Goals: Atkinson 2, Beach 1.

Attendance: 1,537.

Referee: Dave Merrick.

Star Man: Aaron Lester.

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