Extra quality proves just enough for West Hartlepool in win over South Shields Westoe
West battled their way through a tense last 10 minutes to record a an excellent five-point victory at the home of one of the fancied promotion sides in North One East.
The Brinkburn side had the bit of extra quality throughout the game, and deserved their win against a big South Shields Westoe side who battered away at the visiting line in vain as the clock ticked down.
West had already weathered an eight-minute spell when they were down to just 13 men and managed to keep the 24-19 scoreline intact.
Director of Rugby Graeme Southern said: “The lads showed real character and composure.
“We’d taken our chances very well, and when Westoe sent their big lads and the kitchen sink at us we defended strongly and our spirit shone through.
“We’d had to change the side from last week’s big win over Novos, and we knew this was going to be a difficult game, so to come away with maximum points is tremendous.”
With the slope in their favour, West began the game brightly moving the ball around to stretch the home defence - only to see Westoe go ahead in their first attack with winger Jamie Preston going in at the right-hand corner.
Peter You’ll led the visitors’ response, crashing through the midfield to send fellow centre Will Hilditch into space only for the final pass to go to ground.
West kept up the pressure with Zac Southern’s pass almost sending winger Adam Peacock in. It told when the forwards bustled their way to the line with Joe Rafferty given the easiest of tasks to touch down after desperate defenders actually hauled him over the line to make it 5-5.
The visitors continued to press, but it was from a rare Westoe foray into the West half that the next score came.
The home midfield made a mess of things as they passed the ball along the line and Hilditch was the first to pounce. He drilled ball deep into the home half where Peacock was first to the loose ball.
He hacked on, judging the kick to perfection, as he followed up for the simplest of touchdown with Waites converting.
The lead wasn’t to last as some poor tackling in midfield allowed the home back row to make progress - flanker Sam Gaff racing away from the cover to brink his side level at the break.
West did make a concerted effort to restore the lead before half-time with Westoe lock Younghusband sin-binned just before the break for persistent offside.
Westoe had the advantage of the slope in the second half, but despite their considerable weight advantage were consistently coming off second best in the scrums.
That pressure told in the 47th minute when a West shove sent the ball careering out of the scrum and an alert Adam Peacock set off on an 80 metre run up the right touchline. He almost made it and when he was stopped just short the supporting Ryan Painter was bundled into touch.
However, West now had the ball firmly in enemy territory and continued to press. Quick hands in the backs eventually setting up the the chance for Peter Youll to go over in the corner from short range to restore the lead.
Five minutes later came the score which gave the visitors the breathing space they needed. Fly half Stu Waites pulled the strings with centre Hilditch running an excellent line to collect a perfectly timed pass.
The centre still had plenty to do as he raced in from 30 metres evading two tackles as he made his way under the posts.
West were now 12 points clear with the try bonus point in the bag.
Westoe’s response was to hammer their way down hill forcing several penalties which were invariably kicked to the corner. It paid off when No 8 Martin Bengston crashed over with Luke Moffett converting to bring his side within five points.
The pressure continued with West’s Alex Barker sin-binned followed two minutes later by prop Craig Hadwen.
For a time the game went to uncontested scrums with the unlikely sight of West full back Zac Southern packing down at No 8 to maintain the law that eight players have to be in the scrum at all times.
The home forwards looked to have crossed again only for referee Les Cash to rule they had been held up, and there was similar heroics as Westoe time and again resorted to catch and drives from line-outs.
But a combination of intelligent play and heroics kept the Shields men at bay with a frustrated Westoe knocking on just two metres short of the line in the final play of the game.
West will be looking to maintain their work-rate, discipline and team spirit in next week’s big local derby when Rovers visit Brinkburn for the first time in the league for a number of years.
South Shields Westoe: Jake Arnold, Jamie Preston, Sam Hughes, Derek Worthington, Paul Evans, Luke Moffett, Michael Booth, Ryan Lamb, Raymie Elliott, Louis Kellett, John Younghusband, Anthony Rumis, Jamie Hughes, Sam Gaff, Martin Bengston.
Reps (all used): Clayton Fox, Chris Judson, Matthew Bengston.
Tries: Preston, M.Bengston, Gaff.
Cons: Moffett (2).
Yellow: Younghusband (39)
West: Zac Southern, Matt Siddle, Will Hilditch, Peter Youll, Adam Peacock, Stu Waites, Ryan Painter (capt), Adam Brown, Andrew Rollins, Craig Hadwen, Chris Atkins, Joe Rafferty, Alex Barker, Isaac Robinson, Jay Corbett.
Reps (all used): Adam Coates,, Connor McLurg, Ben Armstrong.
Tries: Rafferty, Peacock, Youll, Hilditch.
Cons: Waites (2)
Yellow: Barker (60), Hadwen (62).
Referee: Les Ash (Durham)