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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Dismal Haven’s season goes from bad to worse at Batley

WHITEHAVEN’S hoped-for positive reaction to their two new players failed to materialise as the Bulldogs ran riot.

Debutants Moto Tony and Paul Johnson could not be blamed for the shambles, the ex-Hull star while starved of decent possession, displayed a few decent touches and young prop Johnson, on dual registration from St Helens, was their most influential player.

Not that there was much competition for the accolade. Hookers Graeme Mattinson and Chris Smith worked hard, full-back Josh Veivers likewise, under a heavy bombardment, and skipper Leroy Joe tried to stem the tide with a terrific tackling stint.

But Haven were again out-muscled up front, prop Sean Hesketh the pick of the Batley pack that laid the platform for tricky half-backs Gareth Moore and Paul Handforth and pacey full-back Johnny Campbell to impress.

There was nothing tricky about Haven, whose plodding style failed to achieve a single try for 75 minutes after taking an early lead. And they were vulnerable to the slightest touch of class from the Batley playmakers.

Joe created Haven’s sole try, intercepting and sprinting 30 metres, later in the set throwing a great pass for Mattinson to score as he fell in a tackle. Carl Rudd converted and Haven looked confident, creating a few half-chances before the hosts hit back on 12 minutes.

As with many of Batley’s tries, it was a long-range effort, centre Danny Maun stepping through the cover to cross.

Three minutes later, the Bulldogs took the lead after regaining possession from a chargedown. Haven were then penalised for holding down and Campbell went outside Craig Benson to score.

Big Howard Hill should have been a fearsome sight charging down the Mount Pleasant hill at Moore, but the scrum-half pinched the ball to set up another attack.

When Kyle Amor was penalised later in the set for ball-stealing in front of his sticks, the hosts opted to run the ball.

Their decision paid off, Maun escaping Danny Barker’s clutches to score out wide, Moore adding the first of his seven conversions.

The Bulldogs had Haven chasing shadows on 28 minutes, with the Cumbrians paying the penalty for failing to kill the ball in the tackle, Chris Buttery touching down.

The one-way traffic continued, Handforth scoring under the posts, and the alert Campbell again being rewarded for his support play with another score on the next set to put the game beyond Haven at 30-6.

Haven’s first decent attack for an age came in the closing seconds, only for Tony’s flat pass on the Bulldogs’ line to be intercepted.

The visitors started the second-half as they had the first, with their share of possession and a few nice touches.

But when Handforth broke through and found prop Byron Smith in support, Batley were again on the scoresheet.

The try prompted Haven’s best spell of the match, Rudd’s lob leading to a goal-line drop-out, with Smith then held up over the line and great work from Veivers leading to another drop-out.

They could still find no way over the line, however, Campbell then showing them how it was done, bringing up his hat-trick before Maun did the same, stepping through two lightweight tackles on his way to the line.

Batley best try of the game was their last, Campbell bursting on to a pass and sprinting 60 metres down the middle.

With in-form Leigh visiting the Recre next weekend, Haven need an injection of confidence from somewhere or the scoreline could be messy.

A string of first-choice players were unavailable on Sunday. But most worryingly, those who took the field showed just a fraction of their potential.

They must perk up, and quickly, because many more performances like this and their relegation fight will turn in to a lost cause.

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