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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Whitehaven get new Championship campaign off to winning start

Whitehaven 32 York 22: It seemed Whitehaven had never been away from the Championship as they enjoyed a win on their return that was a little more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.

Rhys Clarke photo
Rhys Clarke

The hosts were made to battle hard throughout against the dogged visitors, though holding at 20 points ahead with just four minutes left, they really should have denied the City Knights a bonus point.

Hopefully they will not rue that point at the end of the season. But they would surely have taken a 10-point win ahead of kick-off, so all-in-all, it was a respectable start for the Cumbrians – especially after losing skipper Lee Doran with an injury in the opening moments.

The back-rower was hurt in a tackle after just four minutes, and though he initially stayed on the field, he was clearly struggling and had to be replaced.

There was plenty to like about Haven’s performance without their fine captain, notably in the front-row, where Dave Houghton and Paul Jackson were outstanding.

Hooker James Newton also enjoyed a pleasing debut, and Neil Thorman was assured at full-back.

Winger Chris Fleming showed his determination with a strong burst off his line in the opening moments, Newton then grubbering for Craig Calvert to go close.

The hosts made their territorial advantage pay off on 18 minutes when Jackson went in for a try, Jamie Rooney adding the first of his six goals from as many attempts.

That was the cue for York to step up their game, and on 30 minutes hooker Jack Lee wriggled free and found James Ford, the club’s top try scorer of last season touching down between the sticks, Simon Brown converting.

Carl Sice appeared to have broken the deadlock five minutes later when he looked to latch on to Cain Southernwood’s crafty kick. But ref Warren Turley apparently ruled a defender got the first touch.

York continued to press in the closing minutes of the half, though Jessie Joe Parker and Calvert were fantastic in defence on the left flank.

Haven had the final say of the half, Rooney making York pay for a late tackle on the stand-off, his penalty giving the hosts a half-time edge.

The Cumbrians made a disastrous start to the second-half, York running a penalty following a Seb Martins high shot, and Lee nipping over from dummy-half, Brown’s goal making it 12-8.

Sice retrieved a sticky situation with a great shot that dislodged the ball after a rare Thorman error.

And Haven were in front again within minutes. Houghton made ground ploughing down the middle before the ball was moved left for Calvert to score a winger’s try, squeezing in at the corner under heavy pressure.

A couple of Haven errors kept York on the front foot, Scott McAvoy knocking dead one dangerous kick before diving to take another with the defence bearing down, on the next set.

Calvert was also busy in defence, caught behind his line after grabbing another dangerous kick. York second-row Dean Hadley then threw a ball in to touch when a more measured approach would have seen Haven severely stretched.

The hosts had refused to yield and it was now their turn to attack, with a cutting edge York had lacked.

Rooney’s decision to tap a penalty within kicking distance paid off on 65 minutes after Newton was held up over the line.

Parker stepped inside the cover moments later and was held fractionally short, attracting another penalty. The ball pin-balled off legs as Sice jabbed through and Fleming was first to it for his opening try of the campaign.

Newton cut loose on the next set and found Rooney, whose kick rolled dead just before the Haven cavalry arrived.

Haven retained the initiative, Thorman breaking 40 metres downfield from broken play. York then paid the price of letting Sice run unchecked along the line.

He fed Jackson and the ex-Super League star found Parker who sold a dummy to score.

Haven were firmly in command now, and four minutes later, Paul Cullnean got down low and used his power to cross next to the posts at the Kells End.

The win was assured but credit to the visitors who were rewarded for their persistence with two tries in the closing minutes.

Both went to winger Tom Linham to earn his side a bonus point.

Haven will face much stiffer tests this season, though for the opening 76 minutes, they were strong in attack and defence. Dave Woods and his coaching team have solid foundations on which to build.

Haven: Thorman, Calvert, Parker, McAvoy, Fleming, Rooney, Southernwood, Jackson, Newton, Cullnean, Doran, Clarke, Paterson. Subs: Sice, Houghton, Martins, Cameron.

Tries: Jackson, Calvert, Fleming, Parker, Cullnean; Goals: Rooney 6.

York: Carr, Linham, Ford, Latus, Shaul, Brown, Niklas, Boweden, Lee, Aldous, Scott, Hadley, Golden. Subs: Brining, Haynes, Bell, Sullivan.

Tries: Ford, Lee, Linham 2; Goals: Brown 3.

Attendance: 801.

Referee: Warren Turley.

Star man: Dave Houghton.

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