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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Barker saves the day as Haven finally scent victory

A LATE Danny Barker drop goal put an end to Haven’s record lower league losing streak on Sunday as the Cumbrians turned the formbook on its head.

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vital one-pointer: Haven’s Danny Barker

With four league wins and a draw from their 18 matches going in to this one, the Cougars have been a better side than Haven for most of the season.

Yet Ged Stokes’ side utterly dominated the first-half and led 28-4 at the break, Aussie playmaker Dylan Skee producing his best half of the campaign.

Even when the hosts mounted a ferocious second-half fight-back, finally drawing level on 67 minutes and looking likely to hand Haven their 14th consecutive defeat, the plucky visitors would not be denied.

It looked to be business as usual for the Cumbrians when Cougars hooker James Feather was held up over their line in the opening moments.

But fantastic defence denied Gavin Duffy in the corner, and young full-back Shane Ackerley, on debut, then defused a towering bomb comfortably.

And it was another Haven teenager Loz Hamzat, who made an impression at the other end of the pitch, completing a five-man move to cross out wide on eight minutes.

Skee converted and followed up with a try on the next set, hooker Graeme Mattinson, again so assured, breaking from midfield and feeding the supporting stand-off who went under the sticks, giving himself a simple conversion.

The hosts were under pressure again six minutes later, Dexter Miller hitting Skee’s pass at full pace on an unstoppable run to the line.

Keighley were in disarray and four minutes later failed to deal with a Skee bomb, Ackerley snapping up the loose ball to notch his first senior try. Skee’s conversion made it 22-0 with just 18 minutes on the clock.

The Yorkshire outfit finally got on the scoresheet five minutes later, Feather putting Baines in to a gap for a try. And they looked to add another as Danny Jones lofted a dangerous high kick to the corner.

But Hamzat took the ball comfortably in heavy traffic to snuff out the threat, the one-way traffic continuing after Keighley were penalised for a high shot on Spencer Miller in the shadow of the posts.

The second-row then ran a great angle off Skee to go between the sticks untouched, Skee nudging the score out to 28-4.

Keighley looked determined as they took the field for the second-half, and it took them just three minutes to reduce the deficit.

Will Cartledge dived over from close range, Jones adding the first of his four conversions. Haven had a chance to check their momentum when Leroy Joe produced a fantastic pass out of a tackle for Kurt Wilton in midfield.

The back-rower held off the cover but lost the ball as he tried to round the full-back. Instead, Keighley edged closer, Duffy leaping above the defence to take Jones’ bomb and touch down out wide.

That was the cue for Mattinson’s return to the fray, and it did not take long for the hooker to make his presence felt.

He broke from deep down the left and fed Scott McAvoy who slipped out of a couple of tackles before his return pass, which could well have led to a score, was spilled.

The Cougars stepped up their intensity levels another notch, Ackerley, who had a fantastic game in defence, taking a tricky Eaton bomb with apparent ease.

But two tries in four minutes dragged the hosts back on to level terms. Baines forced his way over a second time before Keighley capitalised on a rare piece of poor play from Haven.

Eaton shaped up for a long kick on the last tackle then chipped the defence in midfield. Defenders stood and watched as James Hutchinson burst through to score.

The momentum was with the Cougars, but Haven sho-wed terrific heart. Barker’s one-pointer had more the look of a hopeful punt than a rehearsed move. But they all count and it was good thinking from the back-rower.

Keighley still fancied their chances, Wilton, another to excel in defence, stopping Feather as he burst through.

Later in the set Ackerley shackled James Haythornthwaite as he headed for the corner.

Skipper Joe missed the chance to seal the deal for Haven with three minutes left as he was held up over the Keighley line.

The tension was almost unbearable as the hosts mounted one last attack, ex-Workington Town prop Ryan Benjafield bursting through the line.

With Haven struggling to regroup, Jones fired out a long pass to his wing. If Hutchinson had taken it he would certainly have scored as there was not a Haven defender in sight.

But to Haven’s massive relief, it sailed in to touch. It was to be their day. After 13 straight losses they could finally celebrate a well-deserved win.

Haven: Ackerley, Rossi, D Miller, McAvoy, Hamzat, Skee, Dalton, Thornley, Mattinson, Shackley, Barker, S Miller, Joe. Subs: C Smith, S Fox, Hill, Wilton.

Tries: Hamzat, Skee, D Miller, Ackerley, S Miller.

Goals: Skee 4. Drop-goal: Barker 1.

Keighley: Sheldrake, Duffy, Baines, Burton, Hutchinson, Eaton, Jones, Shickell, Feather, Law, Cartledge, Pursglove, Nicholson. Subs: Wray, Haythornthwaite, Benjafield, Rawlins.

Tries: Baines 2, Cartledge, Duffy, Hutchinson.

Goals: Jones 4.

Attendance: 739.

Referee: C Halloran.

Star Man: Shane Ackerley.

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