WHITEHAVEN eased past Bramley and into the quarter finals despite producing a poor display at the Recreation Ground. The match facts show a game that had two sendings off, three sin-binnings and 23 penalties, but in truth it was never ill tempered and was played in good spirit.
Haven coach Dave Rotheram used the game as a chance to give a number of his key men the opportunity to rest their battle weary bodies after the gruelling Easter period and, partly because of the number of personnel changes, they never really found any rhythm.
The Buffaloes started reasonably well, defending their line in the face of repeat sets after John Richardson knocked Carl Rudd’s kick into touch. They were presented with the ball by a Steve Trindall knock but struggled to make much ground going forward. Bramley had only just made half way when Marc Gibson kicked long on the last. However brilliant work from Graham Harrison trapped Craig Calvert dead in goal and forced a repeat set, and the small but very vocal travelling support went crazy, knowing that Bramley had a great chance to get the games’ first points. But Brad Asquith spilled Marc Jackson’s booming drop out and their attack was over before it began.
As if to rub salt into the wounds Haven scored from the very next attack.
John Duffy went on the blind side and span a superb ball out to Calvert, missing out Steve Maden and Spencer Miller, the winger touched down for a score which Rudd converted.
That should have been the signal for a Haven onslaught, but it was actually the visitors who scored the next try. A cheeky chip over the top from Gibson gave Paul Coates and John Richardson something to chase. It looked like the ball might sail straight out but it landed in-field, and Coates was able to get a boot to it before it bounced into touch. That boot played it past Gary Broadbent and Richardson hacked it on, before Coates won the race with his team-mate to touch the ball down. Unfortunately he couldn’t add the extras. With the game 20 minutes old Whitehaven stepped up a gear, and on 22 minutes Derry Eilbeck took Duffy’s flat pass close to the posts to score a try which Rudd converted. Five minutes later they were in again, this time Duffy ignored the support and crossed himself, Rudd again added the extras.
By now Whitehaven were running riot, with Scott Teare and David Ford making great yardage and laying the platform for Aarom Smith and Duffy to tear the Bramley defence to shreds.
They scored from the next three attacks, putting the game to bed in the process.
First Gary Broadbent took an inside ball from Duffy to go over close to the posts for a try which Rudd converted (30), then Teare made a huge charge, turned in the tackle and waited for a runner to take the off-load. Aaron Smith obliged and went over, again leaving Rudd a simple two-pointer (33). Then a high cross-field kick from Leroy Joe deceived Nicky Fontaine, who allowed the ball to bounce straight back into the arms of Calvert, who added his second try. Rudd was forced off injured in the build up, but Marc Jackson knocked over the touchline conversion like he had been practising all day.
The second half was a poor spectacle, with more sin-binnings and sendings off then tries or moments to cheer. On 54 minutes Mark Butterill was given ten minutes for a high shot and he was joined on the sidelines by team-mate Paul Drake three minutes later.
Drake took exception to a hard but legitimate tackle from Jackson, and lashed out as the Haven player came down on-top of him. Never one to shy away from confrontation, Jackson appeared to retaliate with a punch of his own. What seemed strange was that as Drake headed to the sin bin Jackson was shown a straight red — then men were as guilty as each other and their punsihments, either red or yellow cards, should have been the same.
With 11 against 12 you could have been forgiven for expecting a more open game, but while the unforced error and penalty counts increased steadily, the score remained the same.
It took a moment of individually genius to finally give the 800 strong crowd something to cheer on 63 minutes. Gibson tried another of his cheeky chips, but this time the ball was gathered by Calvert on the full. The Haven speedster was facing his own line, but turned, picked up pace and went on a mazy run leaving defender clutching at air. Eventually he was faced with just full back Shaun Flynn, the head went back, the legs and arms started pumping and Calvert’s sheer pace left Flynn with no chance. Duffy missed the conversion attempt. John Duffy took the ball over the Bramley line on 67 minutes and managed to ground it, despite a shockingly high tackle from Flynn, which earned him a straight red card of his own. The Bramley man could have no complaints, and had Duffy not landed over the line when he was pole axed a penalty try would have been the only option. As it was he grounded the ball, and David Ford knocked over the extras. There was still time for Steve Trindall to earn a stint in the bin, for being off-side (75) and Derry Eilbeck to grab his second try (78) when he span brilliantly out of a tackle on half-way and raced away to score. Ford again converted.
Haven; Gary Broadbent, Craig Calvert, Steve Maden, Derry Eilbeck, Craig Benson, Carl Rudd, John Duffy, Steve Trindall, Aaron Smith, Marc Jackson, Spencer Miller, Ricky Wright, Leroy Joe. Subs (All used) Daniel Smith, David Ford, Scott Farmer, Scott Teare.
Bramley: Shaun Flynn, Nick Fontaine, Matt Mullholand, Paul Coates, John Richardson, Brad Asquith, Marc Gibson, Chris Gardner, Kevin O’Hare, Mark Butterill, Graham Harrison, Simon Speight Scot Pendlebury Subs (all used) Tom Webb, Paul Drake, Danny Mitchell, Neil Hesketh.
Tries; Calvert (8, 36, 63) Eilbeck (23, 78) Duffy (27, 67) Broadbent (30) A Smith (33).
Goals, Rudd, 5/5, Jackson, 1/1, Duffy, 0/1, Ford 2/2
Sin Bin Trindall (75) Offside
Sent Off, Jackson (57) fighting.
Star man; Ford.
Try; Coates (13)
Goals; Coates 0/1.
Sin Bin, Butterill (54) high tackle, Drake (57) fighting
Sent off; Flynn (67) high tackle.
Star man; Gibson.
Scoring; 6-0, 6-4, 12-4, 18-4, 24-4, 30-4, 36-4, 40-4, 46-4, 52-4.
Half time; 46-4.
Ref; D Merrick.
Pens 14-9 in Haven’s favour.
GAME BREAKER; John Duffy’s first score, coming within minutes of Eilbeck’s, ended any resistance.
GAME STAR; David Ford. Ford was immense and takes the accolade, although run close by Aarom Smith and hat-trick hero Calvert. Jackson was in with a shout before the red mist descended.