WEST Hartlepool’s promotion bandwagon has moved through the gears again.
Seven days after being undone by the set-pieces of Cleckheaton, West’s rugby proved too good for Alnwick as they ran in seven tries at Brinkburn.
The win and bonus point keeps them right up in the mix – with only five points separating the top four of Pocklington (34), Cleckheaton (30), Hudersfield YMCA (29) and West (29).
The scoreline itself may not suggest it but this was an emphatic victory – the winning margin dented by missing a handful of conversions and conceding two late scores.
Nevertheless, a bonus point win was a very welcome one for coaches Iain Dixon and Peter Robinson.
“Once we got going in the first half we produced our best rugby so far this season,” said Dixon.
“The handling and support play were excellent and Alnwick just couldn’t stop us.
“It was inevitable that we relaxed a bit in the second half, but now we have to take this momentum into the next two away games to set ourslves up for a very big home game against Huddersfield YMCA, who were the first team to beat Cleckheaton at the weekend.”
It goes to show that teams are all capable of taking points of each other, and it seems unlikely there will be a runaway winner in this division.
Alnwick got off to the better start, with their reputation as a useful attacking unit looking to be well-founded,
The Northumberland side held possession well for the opening few minutes and James Bird put them in front with a fifth-minute penalty.
With the ball in hand, Alnwick looked a useful side but, defensively, they were exposed all too often.
And after prop Ian Pinchen broke away to touch down for their first score after 15 minutes, the procession of tries continued for the rest of the opening period.
Ryan Painter was next to shrug off a tackle from the base of a scrum and gallop in from 25 metres and then Scott Butcher stretched his legs up the right wing to score in the corner, despite the close attention of his opposite number.
Bird should have pulled three points back but saw his penalty attempt rebound off the post and moments later Luke Mallinson slipped through a gap on half-way and raced clear for a try under the posts.
The full-back, looking increasingly assured in the First XV, was across the whitewash again three minutes before half-time with probably the best try of the afternoon.
Mallinson started the attack by running back a clearance kick and the ball was kept alive through several pairs of hands before Liam Bailey surged for the line. He was held up short but offloaded back to Mallinson to touch down.
Alnwick’s first notable attack since the opening exchanges ended with a James Warcup drop goal but at 29-6 at the break it already looked a mountain to climb for the visitors.
Bailey continued the scoring spree five minutes into the second half when sustained pressure led to a huge overlap on the left and the centre went in untouched.
But, from that point on, the game became increasingly more even.
Alnwick began to retain possession much better than they had in the first half and as they had already shown, with the ball they looked dangerous.
West did add a final try through Adam Coates, from a rolling maul with a little over 10 minutes to play.
But the closing stages saw the visitors peg back the big West lead.
A long attack finally wore down the tenacious West defence with prop Ben Boothman finishing off and a minute later Rory Mallaburn broke free up the right touch-line for another try.
Two conversions from Bird gave the scoreline some respectability but despite Alnwick deserving some return for running the ball well, the home coaches will be disappointed to concede late scores, in what had been an otherwise faultless performance.
West: Mallinson, Butcher, A Cheslin, Bailey, Youll, Waites, Painter, Pinchen, Rollins, Coates, Hogan, Bennett, D Boatman, J Boatman, Miller.
Subs used: A Dixon, Atkins, Jamieson.
Tries: Pinchen, Painter, Butcher, Mallinson 2, Bailey, Coates. Cons: Waites 2
Alnwick: Bird, Moralee, Mallaburn, Hutchinson, Shell, Warcup, Gray, Johnson, Sordy, Boothman, Burgess, Sutheran, Smith, Thompson, Hamilton.
Subs used: Weddle, Hamilton, Brown.
Tries: Boothman, Mallaburn
Cons: Bird 2. Pen: Bird. DG: Warcup
Referee: Carl Hall (Durham)
Sinbin: J Boatman, Johnson