Hilditch brace helps West Hartlepool to 19-8 victory in Boxing Day derby at Hartlepool Rovers

A Will Hilditch brace helped West Hartlepool to a 19-8 victory in yesterday's town derby with Hartlepool Rovers at the Friarage.

Wednesday, 27th December 2017, 9:29 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th December 2017, 9:30 am

The winger’s double, either side of a first half stoppage touchdown down for West’s skipper Ryan Painter, meant the Brinkburn side continued their Boxing Day hold over their arch-rivals who had opened the scoring.

West will take the improvement in form from their last league game that saw them hold off a late fightback by Malton and Norton and yesterday’s victory and hope it continues when they visit Percy Park for a crucial league encounter after the New Year break.

Rovers will look on successive derby losses to Horden and Peterlee (26-0) and West where the margins of defeat didn’t reflect the matches and wonder what they might have done differently.

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The Whites’ defence, against a side that had scored 43 points last time out, was, overall, excellent but, as at H&P, the scores just wouldn’t come.

If there was slight compensation for the hosts, two of West’s tries came when they had a man advantage with Dylan Langley firstly sin-binned and then sent off after a second yellow card.

West’s defence was also the stronger of the two disciplines but they will look back on their inability to fully bring into play their chief strength of a backline that included proven finishers in the two Liams, former Rovers’ star Austwicke and Checksfield who played age group rugby at the Friarage.

“I’m gutted,” was the White Shirts’ player-coach Steve Smith’s initial reaction after the final whistle.

“Defensively, we were excellent once again.

“We have to build on that strength, and which was also on show at Guisborough and, in defeat, at Horden and level of display moving forward.

“I thought that Jack (Gunn), Callum (Whitehead) and Pinhead (Ian Pinchen) were fantastic for us today and, whilst I’d liked to have won, we’ve matched West and could have beaten them.”

West’s coach Stu Hardy was in reflective mood after leading his team to victory in the traditional festive clash.

“It was a typical Boxing Day derby,” he said.

“We were frustrated early doors and then Rovers scored first with us unable to convert pressure into points.

“We couldn’t put the game to bed and credit to Rovers who battled hard to the end.

“We’ve picked up a couple of knocks but nothing serious and we had 24 players out there as we look to prepare for the crucial trip to Percy Park in the New Year where we need to get a result.”

Rovers took an 11th minute lead, against the run of play, through Harrison.

A home lineout on halfway saw scrum half Taz Pelser put in a box-kick for winger Adam Smith and, after handling across the pitch through Steven Barnfield and Jack Gunn, Harrison got on the end of the move to cross in the Steetley Corner. Daz Fawcett’s touchline conversion rebounded from the right hand upright but his side led 5-0.

West were then quickest to a loose ball on the home 22 through Joe Rafferty and Scott Butcher and the pack kept the ball alive under the posts before Ryan Painter put Hilditch in at the right hand clubhouse corner.

This time it was Gavin Painter who unluckily saw his extreme conversion hit the right upright to leave the scores tied 5-5.

A sequence of three scrums on the opposite side of the pitch from penalty awards eventually saw Rovers, minus the yellow-carded Langley, pushed over their try line, Ryan Painter touching down and brother Gavin adding the extra points for a 12-5 interval lead.

Fawcett went for goal after 45 minutes and his three-pointer was bang on target to cut the deficit to 12-8.

Referee Gareth Foreman, showed a second yellow and then the red card to Langley for his part in halting Checksfield.

After 74 minutes, West, again, opted for a scrum instead of a penalty and Gavin Painter timed his pass to Hilditch, who had come off his wing, to perfection for West’s third try; Gavin Painter’s conversion making the lead 19-8.

Rovers: Harrison, S Railton, S Barnfield, Gunn, A Smith, Fawcett, Pelser, Pinchen, Maguire, Lloyd, Langley, Little, Dring, Church, Whitehead (c). Subs used: S Smith, D Smith, Jeffery, Burnside, O’Callaghan, Cookland, Montgomery

Try: Harrison 11; penalty: Fawcett 45

Penalties awarded 9, kicked 1, missed 0; scrums won 8, 1 against the head; lineouts won 11, 3 stolen

West: Austwicke, Checksfield, Youll, G Painter, Hilditch, Southern, R Painter (c), Wood, Brown, Coates, Linighan, Rafferty, Butcher, Maddison, Turner. Subs used: Bunter, Corbett, Peacock, D Boatman, Hunter, Tyers, Mallinson, Quinn, Siddle

Tries: Hilditch 33, 74; R Painter 40+5; conversions: G Painter 40+5, 74

Penalties awarded 16, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 11, 3 against the head; lineouts won 11, 2 stolen

Referee: Gareth Foreman (Durham)

Sin bin: Langley 40+3; sent off: Langley 72