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Friday, 24 October 2014

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Haven’s unbeaten run ends at the hands of Oldham

ALL good things come to an end – like Whitehaven’s eight-match unbeaten run at Oldham on Sunday.

Out-of-sorts Haven copped a good, old-fashioned walloping in a major setback to their ambitions of a top-two finish in Co-operative Championship One.

While bitterly disappointed at the loss of three league points, however, straight-talking coach David Seeds was more concerned about the poor performance than the result.

Results invariably take care of themselves if the level of performance is up to expectations, but Seeds made it clear in his post-match interview that what Haven served up at Whitebank in this heavy defeat was just not good enough for him, the club or the fans.

“Oldham took us to the cleaners,” he said.“It wasn’t a case of there being just one or two things wrong. Nearly everything was wrong.

“Our attitude, poor one-on-one tackling, poor decision-making and a general lack of urgency all contributed to a poor performance.

“We lost a lot of composure in attack, and we had bad decision-making right across the park.

“Oldham did the basics well. They beat us with good, basic rugby backed up by boundless enthusiasm and energy.”

Seeds went into battle with a very similar side to that which beat Workington last time out, although Dexter Miller made his first senior appearance since Easter off the bench when Lee Doran limped off with a dead leg midway through the first half.

Doran was back on the field in the second half with his thigh heavily strapped but other than that Haven emerged pretty well unsca-thed although Matthew Haggerty will be booked in to see the dentist after breaking a tooth.

Compare that to unlucky Oldham’s misfortune in losing in-form front-row man Dave Ellison for the rest of the season with a severely dislocated elbow and it und-erlines how much harder the resilient Roughyeds had to battle to overcome adversity.

Ellison, used as an impact sub, had only been on the field for two minutes when, midway through the first half, he charged on to a crash ball close to Haven’s line and hit a solid wall of defenders.

He went down in agony. The severity of the injury was immediately obvious as Haven’s players, reacting instinctively to the plight of a fellow pro, waved frantically to the dug-outs on the other side of the field.

It took 14 minutes for physios and Oldham’s club doctor to stabilise the injury, administer pain-killing injections and carry the stricken Ellison off on a stretcher to await the arrival of an ambulance.

Before the stoppage, winger Mark Brocklehurst had put Oldham in front with a 10-minute try in the corner and Andrew Beattie had squared things up five minutes later, crossing on Doran’s pass after Carl Rudd’s towering kick into the sun had caused havoc in Oldham’s rearguard.

After the stoppage, Haven pushed ahead when Rudd’s cut-out pass to the left found Scott McAvoy with enough time and space to smash through two tackles and go over for Haven’s second try.

Had anyone suggested at that juncture that Oldham would go on to score 28 unanswered points in the next 25 minutes it would have been dismissed as totally outrageous.

But it DID happen, and Haven’s players and coaching staff will no doubt be looking long and hard at the match DVD this week in a bid to determine exactly what went wrong with the side’s defence.

It wasn’t good when Oldham’s pocket-battleship winger Shaun Robinson found a way through to score his side’s second try, but it was at its mystifying worst when full-back Ben Heaton scored the first of his brace just before half-time.

He had nowhere to go when receiving a Carl Forber pass out wide on Haven’s left side, but the defence inexplicably opened up for him to leave a delighted Heaton crossing the line while Craig Calvert, Spencer Miller, Paul Culnean and McAvoy looked at each other in utter disbelief.

Having had first use of breeze and slope, Haven should have been looking at a healthy interval lead but they trailed 14-8 and had it all to do in the second half despite Oldham’s injury woes.

In the event things went from bad to worse.

Oldham stretched their lead in the 46th minute when Callum Casey’s high cross-kick was collected by teenage centre Matthew Fogarty, Forber’s conversion taking the home side out to 20-8.

There then followed a period of sustained Haven pressure, but Roughyeds handed out a few harsh lessons in committed defending before breaking out to register a fifth try by hooker John Clough.

McAvoy went close for Haven, held up over the line, and just to prove it wasn’t to be the visitors’ day Chris Smith went clear only to be whistled back for a forward pass from Dexter Miller.

To rub salt into Haven wounds, prop Luke Stenchion scored again for rampant Oldham before both teams, tiring in the hot sun, took turns to add more points in a tit-for-tat final fling.

Clearly deciding that if he couldn’t go through Oldham’s solid defence he would try going over it, Rudd’s clever use of the short kick, allied to the sharp support play of Lewis Palfrey, provided centre Max Wiper with two late tries.

Heaton strolled over to register his second try for Oldham, who brought scoring to an end with a last-minute Forber penalty to put Haven out of their misery.

Match facts

Oldham: Heaton; Brockle-hurst, Fogarty, McCully, Robinson; N Roden, Forber; Boults, M Roden, Stenchion, Noone, Bravo, Bentley. Subs: Casey, Clough, Sutton, Ellison.

Tries: Brocklehurst (10 mins), Robinson (36), Heaton (38, 75), Fogarty (46), Clough (52), Stenchion (61).

Goals: Forber 6 out of 8

Whitehaven: Benson; Hamzat, Wiper, McAvoy, Calvert; Palfrey, Rudd; Haggerty, Smith, Hill, S Miller, Doran, Beattie. Subs: Sice, Isakka, Culnean, D Miller.

Tries: Beattie (15), McAvoy (25), Wiper (70, 78).

Goals: Palfrey 2 out of 4.

HT: 14-8

Cards: None

Referee: George Stokes (St Helens)

Attendance: 537

Star Man: Andrew Beattie.

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