Friday, 12 March 2010

Saints & Sinners

Sunday 7 March – Hull KR 28 St Helens 24

I won’t be at Craven Park for tonight’s Super League clash with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. This is due to Mrs Slush’s “prior arrangement” at X-Factor Live in Sheffield.
My better half is having an overnight stay in the Steel City.  With the Elder Slushette also on a “sleepover” it leaves just me and my youngest to usher in my 44th birthday tomorrow.
Hopefully, this momentous event will be accompanied by a Rovers’ win tonight, victory for all three Easington teams tomorrow afternoon and The Tigers putting it right up The Arse in the televised clash at the KC.
In missing tonight’s game – which has been spiced up by the “imminent” departure of Paul Cooke from the Robins to the Wildcats – I’ll console myself with the thought that surely it can’t match last Sunday’s win over St Helens in terms of excitement?

I’d promised Emma Slushette her latest trip to Craven Park in return for a good school report and/or moving up a grade in her swimming class. As is usually the case our tickets were for the North Stand, the former golfing section that remains unprotected from the elements.
Thankfully, as with Saints’ most recent trip to east Hull, the sun shone brightly and even though the temperature was a dozen degrees below that particular afternoon, it was still a pleasant one in which to enjoy a decent game of rugby league.
My eldest is now in her third year of watching the Robins and although the main enjoyment of such trips is still gained from ancillary aspects of the day – Rufus, the Robinettes and the bagful of sweets that she knows I’ll have with me – she is starting to show just the tiniest awareness of the actual game.
For example, she now knows that Rovers don’t play “the Black & Whites” every week (even though the East Stand tend to sing most songs about the Dullers regardless of the day’s opponents), she is learning the respective points values for tries and goals (I use it to improve her basic maths) and she realises that all referees have questionable eyesight, judgment and parentage.

Sunday’s latest lesson involved trying to explain the definition of “Scouse sheep-shagging bastards”, or rather why Daddy found it so amusing.
Given Rovers’ “iffy” start to the season and the continuing rumours about off-the-field troubles, I wasn’t exactly optimistic about things as we took our seats; and that was despite St Helens’ sizeable injury list. These reservations increased when Saints went over inside the first 5mins. Tellingly, the kick was missed.
But Rovers responded and in something of a purple patch raced into a 16-4 lead thanks to scores in the corner from Liam Colbon and a scrambled effort just wide of the posts by the returning Ben Galea.  Even Emma got excited.
She might have been out of her seat again only for Kyle Eastmond to seize on a deflected pass and race to the corner for Saints. Again the kick was missed. But the tone was set for another change of fortune and by half-time, scores from Moore and Meli meant the visitors led 20-16.  Those around us in the rather fetching blue shirts were now the happier set of fans.
The second half continued in the same exciting vein. Colbon in again at the corner and Dobson’s superb kick nudged Rovers ahead. Then a sweeping move from Saints saw Chris Dean slide in for 24-22. Crucially, Eastmond again missed the conversion.
With the momentum back with the visitors only some sterling defensive work kept them out, one tackle from Kris Welham in front of us had to be seen to be believed.
Into the last five minutes and Rovers sniffed victory. Twice Saints were forced to drop out from under the posts but the pressure eventually told when Ben Fisher went in with just two minutes remaining. Dobson kicked the goal and Craven Park celebrated a third win of the season.  Emma clapped politely while her Dad high-fived with a rather well-to-do looking bloke in front with whom I'd shared perhaps two words all game.  That's what sport does.

If the second half at Craven Park was all that was good about Sunday, City’s abject surrender in the second 45 minutes at Goodison epitomised the very worst aspects of the Tigers’ current Premier League plight.
I had intended trying to sneak a viewing of the later stages of the Everton clash thanks to Mrs Slush’s suggestion that we adjourn to The Haven Arms for tea. My hopes rose when the first person I saw at the door was the brother-in-law. Result.  Not. The first thing he did was to steer me clear of the bar:
“2-1 down aren’t we?”
“Yeah but it should be more, Everton are a class above us”
And true to form, as I waited to be served, Richard Garcia headed into his own net to virtually confirm the points for the Toffees. I thought to myself, I’ll pass on the footy and catch MOTD2's edited version later.
My decision proved a good one.  As the Tigers subsequently slipped to a 5-1 hiding I found comfort in a fine pint of York Brewery Constantine’s and the perennially good Sunday carvery. It was a cracking end to an exhilarating weekend.
I didn’t bother with Match of the Day!

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