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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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New Whitehaven players shine as Gateshead Thunder beaten

Whitehaven 18 Gateshead Thunder 0: Whitehaven scraped away a layer of rust against their plucky Championship One opponents and have a few more to work on before the action gets serious next month.

Whitehaven rugby photo
Lee Doran looks to get a pass away to Stephen Fox

But it was a case of ‘job done’ in their opening pre-season test. The hosts were given a stronger examination than some suspected they might be, and Thunder probably shaded the second-half in terms of possession and position.

By then however, Jamie Rooney and Lee Doran, two of Haven’s top performers last year, had departed the scene, leaving others to stake their claims for selection ahead of the league opener against York on February 3.

Prop Paul Jackson has played his entire career in Super League, so it was no surprise to see him impress on debut, while new back-rowers Lee Paterson and Rhys Clarke did their prospects no harm either.

Neil Thorman also shone at full-back, Haven’s problem position last term. It’s too early to say they have found the answer in the well-travelled Geordie, but it was a fine first effort.

He was quickly in to the action, tapping dead Chris Parker’s dangerous kick, before snaring a high bomb in heavy traffic.

Thunder looked strong, tackling Thorman behind his line after a scrappy Haven scrum, winger Chris Fleming then doing well to take another kick behind the whitewash, forcing his way back in to play.

Doran was playing his usual influential role, and looked to have opened his account on 24 minutes off Cain Southernwood’s bullet pass.

The try was ruled out for a forward pass, though Doran had only two minutes to wait for another opportunity. This time the pass came from Rooney, Doran racing 20 metres to touch down under the sticks.

Southernwood converted and then had a hand in his side’s second try just ahead of the half-time hooter.

Stephen Fox sparked the move with a great break down the right, eventually finding Southernwood on his inside.

The scrum-half kept his cool and put the supporting Chris Smith in for a try. It was the sort of try Smith was scoring for fun in 2011, before injury put paid to him last term. And if he can return to his best, the hooker should be a huge asset this year.

Rooney converted in his final action of the match. He and Doran sat out the second-half, much of which was played at a slower pace in the heavy conditions.

Defences were on top for much of the half, ensuring Shane Ackerley, now at full-back for Haven, was kept busy, Thorman switching to the halves.

A fracas just short of the hour-mark finally gave fans something to shout about. A couple of punches were exchanged, and with plenty of pushing and shoving, the matter was placed on report.

Sice’s return to the fray late in the match gave Haven a lift, not least with a 40-20 kick.

Moments later, the elusive hooker broke the line, only to have the ball stripped by a defender as he looked for a support player.

The hosts forced a drop-out in any case, and at the end of the next set they earned another, thanks to Sice’s dab.

Haven continued to apply pressure, and on the next set, after Fleming went close down the right flank, the ball was moved infield.

Paterson found Cullnean in support and the prop proved unstoppable from close range. Sice, who was joint captain for the day, in recognition of his testimonial year, added the extras to bring down the curtain on an encouraging opener for his team.

Whitehaven: Thorman, Calvert, Fox, McAvoy, Fleming, Rooney, Southernwood, Houghton, Sice, Jackson, Doran, Clarke, Paterson. Subs: Smith, Crellin, Cullnean, Ackerley, Palmer, Wilson, Barker, Cameron.

Tries: Doran, Smith, Cullnean

Goals: Southernwood, Rooney, Sice

Gateshead Thunder: Capper, Johnson, Neilson, Brown, Blades, Beasley, Parker, Smith, Hodgson, Welton, Payne, Cockburn, Pullen. Subs: Condron, Colquhoun, Borthwick, Sheldon, Stoker, Stearman, Pocklington.

Referee: D Sharpe

Attendance: 382

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