Doncaster Phoenix too good for West Hartlepool

Doncaster Phoenix score their second try against West
Doncaster Phoenix score their second try against West

West Hartlepool battled hard against runaway leaders Doncaster Phoenix in the wide open spaces of the Castle Park Stadium.

However, the home side gave them a lesson in how to turn pressure into scores running out worthy 32-8 winners.

From the on it was all uphill for the visitors.

Phoenix have a reputation for starting quickly but West had nothing in their armoury to stop them on this occasion.

After just six minutes former London Irish fly half Jamie Lennard slid through a gap to go in under the posts to set himself up for an easy conversion.

Two minutes later his astute cross field kick was misjudged by a hesitant West defence, and winger Ed Miles had the easy task of dotting down to give his side a 12-0 lead.

From the on it was all uphill for the visitors, but the West pack stuck to its task and forced play back into the home 22.

A series of drives were repelled with the home side giving away a series of penalties. Eventually second row Chris Planchant was yellow carded for not allowing West scrum-half Ryan Painter ten metres after a tap and go from 15 metres out.

Zac Southern converted the penalty to get the scoreboard ticking for the visitors who kept up their pressure and got a fine try on the half hour.

Winger Scott Butcher was the man to finish off in the corner after Peter Youll had broken through the defence. He set up Painter who drew the tacklers before sending Butcher in at the flag.

Southern’s conversion attempt was narrowly wide but 14-man Phoenix were looking a little vulnerable.

That was until Lennard popped up again four minutes later with an identical cross field kick. This time it was centre Dave Hankinson who had the strength to collect and go over in the corner as Luke Mallinson tried to force him into touch.

Lennard’s conversion from the touchline was superbly struck, and he slotted a penalty just before the break to give the league leaders a 22-8 half-time lead.

The game had been becoming increasingly tetchy in the first half. It continued after the break with a flare-up in the West 22 as Phoenix were awarded a penalty which was reversed when the ruckus died down.

However, the peace did not last long with a major bust-up close to the halfway line, which saw West’s Aaron Myers and Phoenix replacement second row Martin Protheroe the last to emerge from beneath the pile of bodies - only to suffer further indignity with a ten-minute spell in the bin.

West continued to work hard with a series of drives for the line after opting for line-outs from penalty decision. John Bunter looked to have touched down after one such effort but the referee was unsighted.

Instead the crowd, who were enjoying the comfort of the padded seats in the majestic main stand, had to wait until almost the 65th minute for the first score of the half.

It came from one of the few fluid movements of the afternoon as dangerous fullback Dan Porter finished off a slick passing move up the right wing to give his side a try-scoring bonus point.

Lennard was wide of the mark with his conversion, and he failed again right at the end of the game as Phoenix completed the scoring with a push over try from prop Tom Bagnall.

West Head Coach Iain Dixon said his young side would have learned a lesson from the leaders.

“Phoenix are clearly the best side in the league,” he said. “They took their chances and the experience of having a handful of former professional players in their ranks showed.

“It was a learning curve for our a lot of our lads, but they can take pride in standing toe to toe with Phoenix on a their big pitch and not giving them an easy ride by any means.”

“Now we need to look forward to the remainder of the season and our aim is to win all of the last six games four of which at Brinkburn.”

Doncaster Phoenix: Dan Porter, Ed Miles, Dave Hankinson, Andy Ellis, Josh Fowler, Jamie Lennard, Tim Elliot, Joe Lowcock, Fran Hasija, Tom Bagnall, Ollie Harrison, Chris Planchant, Ryan Pearcey, Ben Hyde, Adam Kettle.

Reps (all used): Alex Keeton, Martin Protheroe, Will Burden.

Tries: Lennard, Miles, Hankinson, Porter, Bagnall.

Cons: Lennard: (2). Pens: Lennard (1)

Yellow: Planchant, Protheroe.

West: Luke Mallinson, Scott Butcher, Greg Edwards, Peter Youll, Joe Willis, Zac Southern, Ryan Painter, Jack Angus, Andrew Rollins, Adam Coates, Owen Bennett, Dan Boatman (captain), Liam Bailey, Aaron Myers, Sam Miller. Reps (all used): John Bunter, Alex Barker, Connor Fewster.

Tries: Butcher. Pen: Southern.

Yellow: Myers