West Hartlepool got their season off to a winning start with a comfortable victory over Huddersfield YMCA.
The West Yorkshire side arrived at Brinkburn as one of the pre-season favourites for promotion given they had narrowly been relegated from the National Leagues on the final day of last season.
They weren’t on top form but were never really troubled and ran in six tries.
It may be a bit early for predictions but an opening day defeat was probably not in their plans as they plot a route back out of North One East.
For West, consistent finishers in the top half of the table for a number of seasons, this was a reminder that they will compete with most, if not all, visitors to Catcote Road this season.
They weren’t on top form but were never really troubled and ran in six tries on their way to a handsome winning margin.
Whether it was the benefit of a good pre-season or first game nerves from the visitors, West started much the sharper of the two teams and were two tries up inside two minutes.
First to cross was winger Will Hilditch, on his league debut, taking a nice offload from Zac Southern after a break on the blind side of a scrum in the Huddersfield 22.
Southern’s conversion hit the post but he didn’t have to wait long for another opportunity as West were over again three minutes later.
A wild pass in the YM backline was hacked clear and when the visitors did regather their clearance kick was charged down and the ball rebounded into the in-goal area where Dan Boatman dove in to touch down. Southern made no mistake this time for a 12-0 lead.
From the restart, Gavin Stead got the visitors on the board with a penalty for obstruction but Southern cancelled it out on 18 minutes with a penalty of his own after an offside decision.
With half an hour played YM got their first try thanks to right wing Stuart Morton who went in at the corner but the men from West Yorkshire hadn’t settled into the game and were being pressured into mistakes and failing to build sustained possession or territory.
A good kick chase from Eldon Myers forced Huddersfield to concede a lineout in the corner and after a first attempt at a rolling maul was halted illegally, a second effort saw Andrew Rollins burrow his way over behind the rest of his pack.
Southern’s conversion was wide leaving the half-time score 20-8.
The first score of the second half was all important and West got it thanks to another league debutant, Lee Maddison.
A lengthy period of pressure in the visitors’ 22 told and the former Rovers’ flanker popped up in midfield to finish off a good team try.
Southern converted to stretch the lead to 19 points with a little under half an hour to play and a four try bonus point already secured.
Eldon Myers put the game beyond Huddersfield when he crashed over after a scrum was won against the head and then the returning Paul Moss got his name on the scoresheet when he finished off another good move, started by a Myers break and featuring super hands from the excellent Southern.
YM’s scrum half did add a consolation score in the final minute, darting over from the base of a ruck but it couldn’t take the gloss off a fine opening day victory.
West head coach Iain Dixon said: “This was a really good all round performance with the front five exceptional and giving us a great set-piece platform throughout the game.
“Our support play was superb at times and - while we know there will be tougher games ahead - you couldn’t really have asked for a better start.”
West: Mallinson, Hilditch, Checksfield, Youll, E Myers, Southern, R Painter, Coates, Rollins, Blades, Bunter, Corbett, Boatman, Maddison, Miller.
Reps: Wood, Barker, Moss
Tries: Hilditch, Boatman, Rollins, Maddison, Myers, Moss
Cons: Southern 2
Huddersfield YMCA: Ledgard, Tetley, Stead, Boothroyd, Morton, Piper, Bradley, Slater, Hill, Dyke, Boussaada, Housley, Tindle, Hodge, Lumb.
Reps: Fletcher, Emsley, Watson.
Tries: Morton, Bradley
Referee: Paul Musgrave [Durham Society]