THE further up the professional sporting ladder you advance, the more the fine margins between victory and defeat come into play.

Barrow Raiders know how much that can be the case after yesterday’s Betfred Championship game at the Crown Oil Arena, where a game they were in control of turned on a decision by the referee on the half-hour mark.

Had Jarrad Stack not been dismissed for what referee Matthew Rosleigh deemed dangerous play in a tackle where fellow second row Gary Middlehurst was lifted above the horizontal and taken to ground, it is easy to imagine the Raiders would have gone on to press home their 12-0 advantage at that point.

Instead, they did not trouble the scoreboard again and five unanswered tries in the second half from the Hornets ensured it was Alan Kilshaw’s men who were celebrating their first Championship win of the season when the hooter sounded at full time.

Up to the point of Stack’s sending off though, Barrow had seemed to be on course to take the two points thanks to tries from Luke Cresswell and Declan Hulme, plus a conversion and a penalty from Brad Marwood.

And even after being reduced to 12 men they had managed to keep Rochdale from scoring before the end of the first half. However, the amount of defending Barrow had to do with a numerical disadvantage took its toll and that fatigue led to errors when they did have the ball in hand.

No-one can fault the effort or determination from the Raiders players though, yet sadly their afternoon was perhaps best summed up when they were denied a consolation try from Ryan Fieldhouse due to a knock-on being spotted in the build-up.

Of more concern to head coach Paul Crarey will be not only the fact Stack is likely to be handed a suspension of some kind, but that try-scorer Hulme could be out for up to three months after being forced off due to suffering a burst bicep.

Head coach Paul Crarey’s resources are stretched enough as it is, which was evidenced by the fact winger Cresswell, centre Tom Loxam and half-back Marwood were all in the side with Glenn Riley and Brett Carter injured, and Jamie Dallimore serving the first of a four-match suspension.

How the Raiders could have done with some of his inventiveness when they were trying to find a way back into the game. Instead, him and ex-Rochdale second row Jono Smith, who has been ruled out recently due to illness, could do little but watch on from the stands.

And yet as early as the first play of the game, when a high, short kick-off from Ryan Fieldhouse saw the Hornets knock on, it seemed as if this could well be Barrow’s day.

The first quarter of an hour was fairly see-saw after this though, with both teams coming up with errors or penalties. Nevertheless, a spell of patient build-up play from the away side saw them take the lead when Fieldhouse found Cresswell, who managed to burrow over for an unconverted try in the corner despite the close attention of two defenders on 15 minutes.

Four minutes later, Barrow were in again following a break and pass from Ryan Duffy. Then a superb offload under pressure from Stack and some trademark excellent support play from centre Hulme led to the latter scoring and Marwood adding the conversion.

The fine margins seemed to be favouring the away side at this point, evidenced when a penalty at the play-the-ball on a repeat set allowed Marwood to slot over another two points. Fortune can be a fickle mistress though, as was proven soon after.

First, Hulme had to go off. Then on the half-hour, Stack hit Middlehurst, sparking a melee between both teams and concluding with Mr Rosleigh pulled a red card from his back pocket for the Raiders man, plus a yellow for Rochdale's Richard Lepori for punching, following consultation with his touch judge.

Some stoic defence saw Barrow hold out until the break and even go close to adding a third try soon after the restart when Alec Susino was held up over the line. However, their resistance was broken by Lewis Palfrey scampering through a gap from close range on 45 minutes.

That went unconverted, but Rochdale started to claw their way back into the contest and drew to within two points three minutes later following Patrick Moran bumping his way through and Palfrey converting.

Deon Cross’ unconverted try in the corner put the Hornets ahead in the 52nd minute as the game started to get away from Barrow. Lee Mitchell then capped his 150th professional appearance with a try nine minutes later, and Rob Massam put the seal on the win when he plucked a high kick from Danny Yates out of the air to dot down.

Rochdale Hornets: Richard Lepori; Declan Kay, Earl Hurst, Deon Cross, Rob Massam; Lewis Palfrey, Danny Yates; Joe Taira, Ben Moores, Lee Mitchell, Gary Middlehurst, David Allen, Luke Adamson. Interchange: Declan Gregory, Toby Adamson, Patrick Moran, Billy Brickhill.

Barrow Raiders: Ryan Fieldhouse 7; Shane Toal 6, Declan Hulme 7, Tom Loxam 7, Luke Cresswell 7; Brad Marwood 6, Karl Ashall 6; Ryan Duffy 7, Dean Parata 8, Joe Bullock 7, Bradd Crellin 6, Jarrad Stack 5, Martin Aspinwall 6. Interchange: Nathan Mossop 7, Tom Walker 7, Dan Toal 7, Alec Susino 7.

Referee: Matthew Rosleigh.

Sin-bin: Rochdale Hornets – Richard Lepori (punching, 30). Sent off: Barrow Raiders – Jarrad Stack (dangerous play, 30).

Attendance: 414.

Playback: 15 – Cresswell try (0-4); 19 – Hulme try, Marwood conv (0-10); 45 – Palfrey try (4-12); 48 – Moran try, Palfrey conv (10-12); 52 – Cross try (14-12); 61 – Mitchell try, Palfrey con (18-12); 67 – Massam try, Palfrey conv (24-12).

Raiders star man: Dean Parata: Tried to make something happen whether playing at hooker or in the halves, and three ripped shirts showed how much in the middle of the action he was for the full 80 minutes.