Hartlepool West turn on the style to keep pressure on league leaders
A superb second half saw West overcome neighbours Stockton 21-15 to keep their pressure on the leaders of Durham and Northumberland One.
Against a big side and playing up the slope and into the wind, West struggled for territory in a first half, which also saw them lose influential hooker Andrew Rollins to an early ankle injury.
Hard tackling kept them in the game with Stockton restricted to a penalty from former Newcastle Falcons and Exeter fly half Steve Jones who also sent in winger Steve Bartliff for an unconverted try.
The Brinkburn side turned round just 8-0 down. On the restart Stu Waites failed to get West on the scoreboard with an ambitious penalty from close to half way line, but the deadlock was broken two minutes later when West quickly moved a penalty for a high tackle.
Isaac Robinson made a short swift break to get Stockton on the back foot, and the ball was moved left where prop Danny Cookland crashed over for his first try on his return to the club.
Waites converted and his side kept up the pressure with most of the play in the home half.
Wing Callum Johnston made a 30-metre break up the left and Stockton were penalised as he was brought down. The kick to the corner was perfect, but the line-out throw was judged to have been not straight and the chance was lost.
With John Bunter on at the break for the injured Joe Rafferty, West then lost back row Chris Atkins to the sin bin for handling on the floor.
While he was having an enforced rest the visitors took the lead. Centre Peter Youll shrugged off a tackle to burst through the middle, and with top try scorer Will Hilditch on his shoulder, he drew full back Jonny Horner to send his teammate under the posts to give his side a six point led.
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It wasn’t to last as Steve Jones once again showed his pedigree - popping the ball up for centre Steve Tampin to cut a good line to go under the posts.
West came back one again and the pressure eventually told with just two minutes left on the clock.
Jake Linighan took the ball towards the back of a line out on the home 22 stepping inside one tackle to find Danny Cookland in support.
He powered forward with Ryan Painter collecting with a determined burst for the line, and when he was help up just short Adam Brown was there to force his way over just inches from the flag. Stu Waites adding the conversion from the touchline.
The player coach’s next contribution was a 50 metre kick, which gave West a line-out in the opposite corner and the chance for the try bonus point they’d achieved in every other game so far.
It wasn’t to be as the referee again ruled the throw was not straight - but that was of little concern to the Brinkburn side as they celebrated a hard fought win.
West: Zac Southern Adam Peacock, Will Hilditch, Peter Youll, Callum Johnston, Stuart Waites, Ryan Painter (capt), Adam Coates, Andrew Rollins, Danny Cookland, Jake Linighan, Joe Rafferty, Issac Robinson, Chris Atkins, Adam Brown.
Reps (all used): Connor McLurg, John Bunter, Liam Rutherford.