WEST Hartlepool’s season ended with a Durham County Cup semi-final defeat at Westoe – but the club can go into the summer happy in the knowledge that it has unearthed some new talent for next season.
Injuries to a crop of regular backs has led to a trio of teenagers being thrown into the fray.
All three acquitted themselves well against a National Three side which had scored 90 points in their previous home league game.
West’s injury crisis had worsened during the warm up on the 3G pitch at Harton College when centre Colin Cheslin pulled a hamstring.
It meant that winger Scott Butcher had to play in the centre with Matt Tyers coming off the bench to make his first start for on one wing. Kyle Jamieson was on the other with another 17-year-old in CeeJay Beale at full back.
It left West without any backs cover on the bench.
Head coach Iain Dixon said: “Ideally, you don’t want three inexperienced young lads all coming into the side at the same time, and especially against a side with strong runners like Westoe.
“However, they can all be proud of their efforts and they will all develop into even better players next season.
“They deserved a better result on the day and with a bit more luck we could have won the game.
“A couple of decisions went against us, including for the first Westoe try, but we stuck at it and our forwards certainly won their battle. They were tremendous once again.”
That first try came on eight minutes after Stu Waites had been just wide with a 30-metre penalty.
Player-coach Scott Powell broke from a maul to touchdown with West claiming that his path had been cleared by a deliberate obstruction.
However, referee Charl Erasmus dismissed the protests. Westoe scrum-half Mathew Mellish added the conversion and a penalty before Waites put West on the score sheet.
The stand-off struck three penalties in succession including one from five metres inside his own half.
West then lost flanker Alex Barker to the sin-bin following an offside offence, and Westoe capitalised on the extra space with lanky fly half Jordan Carey selling a dummy to go in under the posts.
Waites added another penalty before the break and West turned around to face the wind just five points behind.
The forwards took up the challenge and the majority of the second half play was in the home half.
But when Westoe did attack their experienced backs were dangerous and they increased their lead on 50 minutes. A well-worked move saw right winger Jack Hawke go in at the corner with Mellish adding an excellent conversion from the touchline.
West continued to force the play, and with tempers becoming increasingly frayed West scrum-half Ryan Painter and the Westoe full back were both sin-binned after a fracas when the visitors tried to take a quick penalty in the home 22.
Four minutes later Westoe were down to 13 men when the influential number eight Powell was also sin-binned, and West took the opportunity to get their first try of the afternoon.
Dan Boatman was the player to emerge with the ball after the West pack had driven their opponents back over the line.
West were again just seven points behind and looked to be in the driving seat. However, the Westoe backs once again proved a force to be reckoned with.
This time left winger Chris Laycock went in at the other corner. Mellish once again managing a very difficult kick.
With 10 minutes left, West needed two scores to get on equal terms, and they got one of them through replacement Jay Corbett who forced his way over after some ferocious play on the home line.
The West pack had driven for the line only to see the ball turned over. But before Westoe could clear Corbett and centre Peter Youll were able to wrestle it back.
Waites once again put the visitors just one score behind only to lose replacement hooker Andrew Dixon to the sin-bin as the pressure mounted on both sides.
The home side seized their opportunity and Mellish added the final score of the game with a long range penalty.
Westoe now take on Billingham in the final at Hollow Drift on Thursday May 8 (kick-off 7pm).