Whitehaven 12, Featherstone 36
Whitehaven were in contention for the first-half of this Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie before Featherstone pulled away in the second period.
But if Rovers were deserving winners, the main talking point afterwards was the performance of referee Chris Kendall who awarded 25 penalties during the tie.
Haven’s new assistant coach Peter Williams could be in trouble with the Rugby League for his comments afterwards, but certainly the official won no plaudits from the home faithful.
A controversial try was awarded to Featherstone just before half-time which enabled them to turn round 16-12 in front, and it was a decision which sparked cat-calls and boos as the players left the field.
The touch judge indicated that Sam Irwin had knocked-on going over the line but Mr Kendall over-ruled him and allowed the try to stand. Even Irwin looked sheepish about the award of the try. The fact that Paul Sykes missed the conversion was only a minor compensation.
Sykes proved to be the match winner, though, putting in a top display as he pulled all the strings for his side in all areas of the field.
Rovers had gone in front on ten minutes after being helped up-field through back-to-back penalties and resulting in prop Andy Bostock shrugging aside some weak tackling to score. Sykes converted.
Five minutes later Whitehaven were level with a fine try from Jessie Joe Parker, a former Featherstone player. He side-steeped his way over after a penetrative run and John Paul Brocklebank added the conversion.
It was Featherstone’s turn on 24 minutes when Will Sharp was on the end of a clever Sykes off-load to score the second try. Sykes converted.
Again Whitehaven levelled, this time on 31 minutes when Parker set-up his Papua New Guinea team-mate Dion Aiye and Brocklebank added the extras.
But four minutes before the break came the disputed try by Irwin to send the Rovers into the dressing room with a four point advantage.
The visitors dominated the second-half though and scored 20 unanswered points to book their place in the next round.
The stand-out try of the tie came five minutes after the re-start when winger Kyran Johnson followed-up two kicks to reach the ball in the corner and touchdown. Sykes missed the kick.
With what had gone on before half-time that seemed to break Whitehaven’s resolve and Rovers scored three tries in ten minutes to put themselves out of sight.
Will Milner broke through some tired tackling to score and he was followed over by Matt James and Nathan Chappell. Sykes and Remy Marginet each landed a conversion.
Unfortunately, what should have been an intriguing Cup confrontation was over-shadowed by the crowd reaction to the referee, who departed to another round of jeers and boos.
Coach James Coyle came out with the old cliché about being able to concentrate on the League but his assistant Williams’ comments are likely to incur the wrath of the RFL.
GARY McKEATING was our man with the camera at the Recreation Ground featuring Dion Aiye side-stepping his way over for the second try and Tyla Hepi in typical combative action.