Hartlepool West move towards the summit after stunning performance at Barnard Castle
With just four league games left to go, West moved up into second place in Durham and Northumberland One with a comfortable win in the shadow of the handsome Bowes Museum.
The 39-7 win earned a try-bonus point, which could be vital as they closed the gap on leaders Durham City to just one point, and the pair meet at Hollow Drift at the end of the month.
Northern are also still in the mix after their last minute 25-24 defeat at City, and with pressure mounting the final places could be decided by who blinks first.
There was no sign of that on the Upper Demenses pitch at Barnard Castle, despite the home side competing fiercely throughout, but rarely making it to the visiting 22.
West went into an early lead when persistent pressure on the left saw Luke Mallinson react the quickest as play broke down in the corner to collect and dive over. Waites’ kick into a biting wind was just short.
Playing down the slope, West’s forwards dominated the scrum, but it was from a line-out that the second score came with Jay Corbett powering over from five metres with the wind again thwarting Waites.
West were dealt a blow on the half hour with skipper Ryan Painter suffering an ankle injury as he made a break into the home 22.
Mallinson moving to scrum half and going on to prove to be a more than able deputy.
Waites promptly slotted a penalty in front of the posts as his side regrouped.
And he was on target again just before the break when a slick move down the right opened a gap in the home defence with Peter Youll powering through to give his side a 20-0 lead at the break.
It looked like West wouldn’t have long to wait for the bonus-point try when Waites collected his own lofty kick into the Barnard Castle half to send winger Callum Johnston galloping up the right.
He looked to be going all the way, but opted to run a diagonal line for the posts which allowed home second row Nic Moore to bring him down just short.
But that all important bonus-point try came on 50 minutes after West kicked a penalty to the corner.
Andrew Rollins’ throw was taken by a home line-out jumper, who promptly gifted the ball to the West hooker, who evaded two tackles as he went for the line, with the conversion attempt just wide.
Barnard Castle mounted their first real pressure of the game and got their reward when scrum half Rees Doyle took a quick tap penalty to go over and set up an easy conversion.
Hopes of a home revival were soon dashed when fly half George Welsby made a hash of a clearing kick.
West centre Davy Heckles won the contest to take the miscued high ball and he took maximum advantage racing in from just outside the 22.
Waites added the extras and he was on target again for West’s final try of the afternoon.
Once again, the West scrum was too powerful for the home eight who were pushed off their own ball, with Isaac Robinson picking up and sending Peter Youll in under the posts.
Barnard Castle: Adam Kicks, Dean Bainbridge, Lucas Summers, Charles Butlin, Jake Webster-Cheetham, George Welsby, Rees Doyle, Dan Souter, James Allison, Charles Garland, Dan Potts, Nic Moore, Sam King, Callum Burke, Rob Stanwix.
Replacements (all used): Joe Larder, Jack Worley, Matt Morrison.
Try: Doyle. Con: Welsby
West: Luke Mallinson, Callum Johnston, Davy Heckles, Peter Youll, Max Tennant, Stu Waites, Ryan Painter (captain), Adam Coates, Andrew Rollins, Adam Brown, John Bunter, Michael Hogan, Scott Butcher, Isaac Robinson, Jay Corbett.
Reps (all used): Adam Peacock, Craig Hadwen Hunter, Alex Barker.
Tries: Mallinson, Youll (2), Heckles, Rollins, Corbett.
Referee: Alex Mackinder (Durham).