HARTLEPOOL’S slim hopes of promotion to Durham Northumberland One were surely dashed when they lost at Whitley Bay Rockcliff.
Pool started brightly, camping close to the home try-line without being able to make the final step to across it.
After soaking up tremendous pressure, Rockcliff actually opened the scoring after 15 minutes through a penalty from stand- off Josh Donnolly.
Pool were having the better of the play, but not firing on all cylinders, losing possession in key areas on several occasions.
They did manage to score a breakaway try when they overturned possession at a home line-out through Andy Palmer. The backline broke free with Jason Norman powering through from the half-way line, sidestepping the full-back to score under the posts, Michael Barnfield converting for a 7-3 lead.
Despite this success, the determination of the Rockcliff pack saw them up their game which, in turn, allowed Donnolly to take a firm grip from stand-off.
He scored a perfectly-executed try straight from an attacking scrum, running onto a pass from his number eight, before swapping passes with the inside centre, to sprint free towards the line, evading a last-gasp effort from Palmer. This gave the home team an 8-7 advantage at the interval.
The second half was a hard-fought affair in heavy and difficult conditions, with Hartlepool having the lion’s share of possession without managing to break the home line.
Rockcliff were defending manfully, but on the hour, Pool pulled back three points thanks to a penalty 30 metres out from Barnfield.
Unfortunately, they soon gave possession back to the Whitley Bay team, which eventually saw Donnolly hit a sweet drop goal to put them back into the lead again.
Pools were now trying to play catch up rugby, which they were finding difficult in the conditions, while Rockcliff played the percentage game.
A further penalty saw Rockcliff increased their lead to 14-10, before Pool put on one final push.
Sub prop Andy Cummins put in a storming run before, once again, possession was overturned to allow Rockcliff to clear.
This was a disappointing loss after a series of good results for Hartlepool as they struggled to overcome a team were fighting desperately for points at the bottom of the table.
Sully Tubunar was the pick of the players for a below-par Hartlepool, who now need to re-group for the visit of Winlaton on Saturday, before they visit league leaders Acklam in three weeks.
The target must now be to go undefeated for the rest of the season, which will require victories over the three teams above them in the league.