Whitehaven Cup Victory
On this day ….. 19 May
Eighteen years ago today, on 19 May 2002, Rovers beat Whitehaven 22-20 at Craven Park in the semi-final of the Buddies National Cup. In a tremendous end-to-end game, Rovers saw off a strong Whitehaven challenge to reach their first final in the competition. Rovers were missing influential centre Whetu Taewa, whilst in-form Whitehaven relied on their big pack of forwards, led by former Robin Howard Hill.
Rovers made a poor start in front of 1,871 spectators, and another former Robin, Leroy Joe, put the visitors ahead with a fourth-minute try. The Robins were having trouble coping with the big Whitehaven side, and mistakes did not help their cause in the first 15 minutes. But on 16 minutes Rovers got back into the game when Chris Charles and Matt Shultz created an opening for Craig Farrell, who made a good beak and slipped out a good pass for the flying winger Alasdair McClarron to fly in at the corner and make it 4-4. A mistake by Rob Everitt straight from the kick-off put Rovers under pressure again, and Joe put in dangerman Seeds in the corner to make it 8-4 to the visitors on the quarter mark. That sparked more Whitehaven pressure, relieved only when Farrell snapped up a loose ball ten yards out and race up field. A penalty to Rovers for a late tackle led to a kick and chade from Farrell, but the try was disallowed. Whitehaven came back again and Everitt twice did well to field dangerous kicks before David Luckwell charged up field, and quick passing gave Chris Charles the opportunity to dive over for a try that he himself converted to make it 10-8 to Rovers. Two minutes from the break, Paul Fletcher stole the ball in a one-on-one tackle and drove hard to the line, only to be held inches short. That did not matter though, because two tackles later, Mike Dixon forced his way over and Charles made it 16-8 at half-time.
Rovers got on the board first in the second half, when Mark Cain coolly slotted over a drop goal in the 46th minute, but that only signalled more Whitehaven pressure. Eventually Rovers cracked, and the visitors pulled the score back to 17-14 with a converted try as the game approached the three-quarter mark. More Whitehaven pressure followed, relieved only by another Cain drop goal, then two minutes later Fletcher drove hard into the visitors’ defence and managed to get the ball away under pressure. Quick hands then gave Alex Godfrey the chance to race over in the corner, and it was 22-14 to the Robins with ten to go. The visitors scored a consolation try in the 80th minute to make the score 22-20 but Rovers held on for a great win. Luckwell and Fletcher made a huge impact from the bench, Farrell had a great game, and Lynton Stott personified some heroic defending with three try-saving tackles.
The Rovers team that day was – Rob Everitt; Alex Godfrey, Lynton Stott, Craig Farrell, Alasdair McClarron; Mark Cain, Dane Dorahy; Richie Hayes, Mike Dixon, Richard Wilson, Matt Schultz, Jon Wilkin, Chris Charles (capt). Bench: Jimmy Walker, Craig Murdock, Paul Fletcher, David Luckwell.
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