West Hartlepool’s promotion bandwagon continued with a straightforward win against struggling Malton & Norton.
The only regret for the Brinkburn side was that their pressure failed to produce the four tries which would have given them an important bonus point as they strive to stay clear at the top of North One East.
They came close with Man of the Match Sam Miller twice held up over the line, but a mixture of desperate tackling form the visitors and some wayward passes meant they had to wait until the very last minute of the game to get their third try.
Head coach Iain Dixon said: “How we didn’t get more tries is baffling.
“We have to take consolation in the fact that Malton and Norton failed to get on the scoreboard despite having a beefy pack and a couple of lively runners in the backs.”
West were once again forced into changes because of injuries and unavailability and suffered a blow when line-out expert John Bunter cried off with illness just before the game.
West drafted in 17-year-old Jake Linighan for his full debut and the youngster went on to have a fine game.
Malton & Norton are down in the relegation zone and arrived looking to give it a go against the league leaders.
They forced a penalty after five minutes with South African full back Xavi Payi just short with his effort from just inside his own half.
West set up camp in the Malton half but scorned several chances - Rob Thorn dropping a cross kick from Gavin Painter, and then Liam Checksfield sending in out a high and wayward pass as the backs created a two man overlap.
Malton were constantly infringing at the breakdown and eventually referee Matt Dunn’s patience wore thin with prop Liam Vaughan sin-binned.
West seized the opportunity and when Checksfield was hauled down as he went for a gap Rob Thorn was in support to power his way towards the line. The ball was quickly moved right where Zac Southern came into the line to go in at the right corner.
Gavin Painter’s conversion was wide, but he had better luck from the other side of the pitch three minutes later.
Brother Ryan was the first to react when West were awarded a penalty on the visiting 22 and Rob Thorn was in support of his quick break to go in at the corner. With the deadlock finally broken the expectation at half time was that West would go on to build on their 12-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the home crowd it was not to be. The play was mainly in the visitors’ half but West struggled to get over the line, and when they did Referee Dunn was unable to see clearly enough through a melee of bodies to make an award.
Gavin Painter did add a penalty shortly after the restart but the crowd had to wait for another 38 minutes to see the next score as the light faded
West forced a series of penalties close to the line and once again the referee lost patience the number of infringements.
He yellow carded hooker Jim Thornton whose reaction as he trooped off turned the colour of the card being waived to red
West took advantage of the numerical advantage in the pack with Sam Miller breaking from the base of the scrum, and he was able to feed replacement back row Carl Miller who powered his way over the line.
Painter’s narrow miss with his conversion was the last act of a game with West hoping they will not go on to rue that missed opportunity for a bonus point.
West: Zac Southern, Rob Thorn, Liam Checksfield, Peter Youll, Will Hilditch, Gavin Painter, Ryan Painter, Adam Coates, Andrew Rollins, Tim Blades, Jake Linighan, , Joe Rafferty, Lee Maddison, Dan Boatman (captain), Sam Miller
Subs (all used): Ross Wood, Carl Miller, Greg Edwards.
Tries: Southern, Thorn, C Miller.
Cons: G Painter (1)
Pens: G Painter (1)
Malton & Norton: Xavi Payi, Rob Armitage, Nick Rangiuira, Tom Foan, Tom Clark, Paul Angus, Luke Raduva, Liam Vaughan, Jim Thornton, Nick Salisbury, Sean Emms, John Lumley, Tom Lowry, Sam Triffitt (Capt), Ali Fothergill.
Sub (all used): Simon Thompson, James Bulmer, Harry Coulson.
Yellow: Vaughan, Thornton (2).
Referee: Matt Dunn (Durham)