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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

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Barrow Raiders beat Whitehaven in Cumbrian derby thriller



TOP of the league and there is nowhere Barrow Raiders would rather be.

With eight wins from nine at the halfway stage of Championship One, things are very definitely looking rosy in the Raiders garden.

An enthralling encounter at the Recreation Ground saw Barrow emerge with the three points and deny Haven even a bonus point.

It may not have been the highest-quality rugby, but it was non-stop entertainment from first whistle to the last and Raiders showed the guts and determination needed for any side who want to win promotion.

Following a pattern as set in stone as the Great Pyramids of Giza, Raiders went behind in the early running, with a Ben Karalius kick bouncing off the posts and Carl Rudd the quickest to react and ground over the line.

There needed to be an immediate response and there was, with a penalty for a high tackle on Scott Kaighan putting Barrow in position to attack.

They looked down both flanks, before Andy Bracek barged through on the right to level matters at 6-6.

Raiders defended well to hold up both Sam Gee and Andreas Bauer over the line in the space of three tackles, and made that count with their play at the other end.

With the ball in hand just inside their own half, Liam Campbell started and finished a fine move.

His pass sent James Finch away on the left flank, with another quick offload sending James Nixon scampering.

Nixon cut inside and found Campbell, who had not stopped running yet, too run in for try number 14 of the campaign.

There was no time for celebrating though, as Raiders allowed the kick-off to bounce into touch and then, just as unforgivable, gave Richard Varkulis licence to run through the Kaighan, Mike Backhouse and Ryan Shaw and level things up again at 12-12.

An even worse example of how to field a kick-off followed from Haven as Gee allowed the ball to bounce. He then failed to take it at the second attempt and allowed the kick over the try line, where James Dandy happily pounced for a comedy effort.

Once more there was no building on the momentum though and Haven pulled back to 18-all as James Finch was penalised for ripping the ball out despite the touch judge – better positioned to see – calling a knock-on.

Haven immediately went forward and Dave Houghton found it all too easy to go through Andrew Dawson and Ballard.

There was a helping hand for Barrow as Matthew Haggarty was sin-binned for a late tackle on kicker Kaighan, with the man advantage exploited with a delayed pass from James Gordon sending James Finch in.

This should have been the time to build a lead, but it did not happen and instead Haven made it 24-24 on the hooter in controversial circumstances.

Carl Sice broke down the left and went in between the posts, only to lose the ball over the line.

Despite this, referee Tom Crashley awarded the score, ruling a Barrow hand had knocked the ball out to the despair of the visitors.

The tide seemed to be turning against Barrow and they went behind for only the second time seven minutes into the second half, with Jessie Joe Parker making the Raiders defence look fools as he dragged three men over the line to score.

Yet again though, there was the quickest of responses from the visitors, with Rooney failing to find touch with a drop out and Ryan Shaw was the man to take advantage, going in wide right for his first try in Barrow colours to add to another immaculate day’s kicking.

It now turned into a real tussle, with neither side able to make the breakthrough the line, though Dan Toal had a score chalked off for the second week in succession as he was called offside from Kaighan’s kick.

Loz Hamzat being held up over the line was as close as Haven came to scoring – James Nixon and James Finch doing superbly to stop him – and the game went into the final 10 minutes with the result in the balance.

It could have gone either way, Craig Calvert denied a score from a Rooney kick as Kaighan pulled off an amazing leaping feat to claw the ball out of his grip as he went to ground.

But it went to Barrow thanks to a quick brace from Campbell.

Both were from typical examples of his neat footwork, cutting this way and that, pulling the defence all over the place and going in – once from dummy half on the line and once from a little further out.

There was now a 14-point advantage and less than 10 minutes the go – the game was in the bag.

A key result, a magnificent effort and top of the league – what more do you want?

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