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Monday, 20 October 2014

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There may be some good yet from Bad Friday’s derby result

WORKINGTON Town may inadvertently have done Haven a favour on Good Friday – by highlighting their deficiencies before it’s too late.

I’ve heard a few excuses from bruised Haven fans for the scale of the defeat, such as the heavy conditions, the number of penalties conceded in crucial areas and team selection.

But the painful truth for supporters is that the current Town team have a big edge at present.

There’s not much difference in the quality of their respective back lines, with Scott McAvoy, Craig Calvert and now Jessie Joe Parker among the best in the division.

It’s up front that Haven are desperately short of firepower, and against a side with a big, mobile pack such as Town’s, that is enthusiastic and tackles in numbers, they will always struggle.

There was little between the sides last term, but Town’s canny recruitment policy has since seen them forge clear.

And I can see no way of redressing the balance in the short term other than to bring in to the Recre a couple of big, experienced bruisers – and then hope for the best.

There is also more than a little skill in the Town pack, and quality players such as Graeme Mattinson, Jarrad Stack and Jamie Thackray are only going to get better on hard, summer pitches.

Town outscored Haven by only four tries to two but that bare statistic does not begin to tell the story - the visitors dominated every facet of the match.

I wrote several weeks ago that Haven lacked at least one quality prop and probably two, and nothing I’ve seen since has changed my mind.

Promotion is a must this season, before four development teams enter the competition in 2013, and if Town are the benchmark, Haven are well off the pace.

Town stand-off Marc Bainbridge’s tactical kicking game was a constant threat on Friday and full-back Brett Carter was hard to hold when he chimed in to the line.

Carl Rudd did his best for Haven, though Parker, playing behind a beaten pack, had no chances to impress in attack.

Andrew Beattie put in a decent tackling stint and prop Dave Houghton tried hard, though the hosts were second-best across the park.

Rudd and Carl Forber swapped early penalties before Carter broke from his own half on 10 minutes.

He did not panic as he closed in on the Haven line and found Jason Mossop in support, the centre going between the sticks and Forber adding the second of his six goals.

Rudd probed for Haven, chipping the defence only to find Carter mopping up at the back, and then kicking through for Calvert, who was unable to take the ball at pace.

Prop Matthew Haggerty’s fumble at the play-the-ball 30 metres from his line presented Town with a chance, Marc Shackley’s try off a Bainbridge kick ruled out for offside.

Two quick penalties kept Town on the offensive, and when Thackray was stripped in the tackle, Forber slotted the resulting penalty.

Thackray continued to look dangerous, a superb tackle from Beattie stopping another threatening raid by the ex-Super League prop.

The scoreboard did not really reflect Town’s domination, though Haven could have no complaints when Workington scored in the last action of the half.

The ball was still in the Town half when the hooter sounded, and when it was hoofed ahead, Elliott Miller held off Calvert and Parker in the race to the line. Forber’s conversion made it 16-2 at the break.

Workington increased their advantage in the 50th minute, dummy-half Mattinson choosing the short side and Stack powering over from close range.

Carter spilled the re-start to give Haven a strong attacking position, but the defence held firm, Lee Doran, their strongest go-forward packman, driven back over 10 metres in one phenomenal gang tackle.

Haven finally replied on the hour mark, Calvert latching on to Rudd’s dab over the top to score, Rudd adding the extras.

Haven had something to build on, but on their next set, a Luke Isakka pass sailed in to touch. Doran was then penalised for interference, and after they were caught ripping the ball, Town made them pay.

Phillips, who has a great future in the game, steamed on to Bainbridge’s flat pass to score.

Martyn Wilson crossed out wide on 72 minutes to give Haven the chance of a bonus point, though Rudd was unable to slot the goal from an acute angle.

Doran looked to break from deep on the next set only to be brought back for crossing after a mix-up with Jonny Youds, Forber pushing out the score to 28-12.

Shackley looked set to finally get on the scoresheet against his old club when Thackray pushed a pass out of a tackle and the forward showed great pace to sprint over 30 metres to the line.

But his effort was again chalked off, this time for a forward pass. Town rounded off their day with another penalty, this time from the unlikely figure of prop Ryan MacDonald. It was symbolic of the day. Everything Town touched turned to gold.

Haven: Youds, Calvert, Wilson, McAvoy, Wiper, Rudd, Karalius, Houghton, Smith, Hill, Isakka, Doran, Beattie. Subs: Parker, Varkulis, Cullnean, Haggerty.

Tries: Calvert , Wilson

Goals: Rudd 2

Town: Carter, Miller, Mossop, Rooney, S Dawes, Bainbridge, Forber, MacDonald, Mattinson, Coward, Phillips, Shackley, Olstrum. Subs: Stack, Whitehead, Thackray, Robinson.

Tries: Mossop, Miller, Stack, Phillips

Goals: Forber 6, MacDonald 1

Attendance: 1,529

Referee: Matt Thomason

Town Star Man: Brett Carter

Haven Star Man: Andrew Beattie

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