Hornets 12 Whitehaven 31
For the first 40 minutes this was a collossal battle. But - despite giving everything - Hornets eventually succumbed to Whitehaven's superior expenditure.
Once again this game proved an object lesson in how signing PNG internationals and ex-SL mercenaries can provide mediocre teams with just enough class to scramble out of this division.
However, it was Hornets that started with a bang. Just three minutes in a neat interchange of passes threaded John Cookson through a glaring gap only for referee Mr Turley to strike off the try for an obstruction only he saw.
And three minutes later, swift hands up the left fed Wayne English on an arcing run through a flat-footed defence. Mr Turley again adjudging obstruction and no try.
Haven capitlised, taking the ball upfield where Hornets allowed the peripatetic Rooney enough space to skip through tackles and score after nine minutes.
But Hornets stuck to the plan and - after 15 minutes - some great approach work by the forwards gave Paul Crook possession 10 metres from the Haven Line. Crook dinked a teasing grubber into the in-goal and was first to react, pouncing on his own kick to score. Mr Turley happy this time. Crooky added the extras and Hornets were level.
With Hornets pack making good metres in the tackle and Wayne English wreaking havoc coming into the line, Whitehaven were driven backwards and a good period of pressure came to fruition when tidy hands from Tony Stewart fed Jonny Leather in on 30 minutes. Crook added the two and Hornets had the lead they deserved.
But with the half ebbing away, a lapse of concentration at the ruck gave Rooney the half second he needed to burst into space and slip Palfrey in under the black dot. Rooney added the extras and the sides went in locked up at 12-all.
The second half began in similarly tight fashion. For 18 minutes the game had a chess-like feel - move and counter move: both sides producing unrelenting defence. It fell to Haven's PNG international to break the deadlock - Parker loping away from the cover defence, creating just enough space to send Calvert in by the flag.
But Hornets weren't done. With Sice coughing the restart kick-off, Hornets laid seige to the Haven line, the best chance of a repeat set falling to Dave Newton who fumbled the ball with the Haven defence back-pedalling. From the resulting possession Rooney kicked a casual 40/20 and quick hands from the scrum saw Parker score. Rooney added the two - and a drop-goal two minutes later to shut out the bonus point.
While a tired Hornets scrambled, scrapped and struggled to maintain their shape, Haven found enough space to squeeze Hamzat in at the corner. And with a last minute Hornets drop-out failing to go ten metres, Sice added a gift two points to all but seal the season for both clubs.
There's no doubt that Hornets were beaten by a better team on the day. No arguments about that at all. Rooney was allowed sufficient space to boss the game and Parker is way too good to play at this level.
Whilst the defeat brings a whole host of future challenges firmly into focus, it's not the end of the world. On the other hand, a win was absolutley imperative for Whitehaven who have wagered big on gaining promotion. Indeed, I'd loved to have been a fly on the wall in their dressing room at half time. As would their bank manager, I imagine.
And, whilst it's disappointing from a Hornets point of view, the big-spending four in Championship One continue to laugh. All the way to the bank.