Painter's late miss costs West Hartlepool win against Percy Park
West Hartlepool kicker Gavin Painter was off target with a penalty with the last kick of the game to beat Percy Park.
Painter had been the difference between West and Huddersfield YMCA with his boot on the first day of the season.
But at Brinkburn on Saturday, he skewed his shot at goal wide from a straight-forward position and the North East rivals had to settle for two points apiece.
It proved a thrilling draw in a topsy-turvy tussle, with West head coach Stu Hardy lewft to rue a missed opportunity.
“We did enough to win with a much-changed side against a team which was unbeaten,” he said.
“We had the last kick to win the game but it was one if those games where some skilful rugby mixed with mistakes provided a really enertaining game for the supporters if a bit frustrating for the coaches.
“We had yet another back row combination in Jordan Foulds, Andy Turner and Alex Barker and all three had excellent games.”
West went ahead in the first two minutes, Will Hilditch crossing for the first try after a close-range line-out fell kindly to him and he nipped into the corner.
The hosts were attacking again in the Park 22 minutes later only for the ball to be turned over and full-back Toby Davison set off a blistering run all the way up-field to level the scores mat 5-5.
Gav Painter pushed West back into the lead with a well-struck penalty on seven minutes but he saw a second attempt sail wide five minutes later after a high tackle saw Andrew McGrath despatched to the sin-bin.
The man shortage seemed to galvanise the visitors and they dominated possession and territory, looking threatening without adding any points.
It was inside the final 10 minutes of the half when West eventually established some good field position thanks to two penalty kicks to the corner.
It led to a try made by the Painter brothers. After some solid carries from the forwards the sniping Ryan sent Gavin in for a tidy finish although he was unable to add the conversion.
West continued to press into lengthy first-half stoppage time when a key moment arrived.
The hosts won a penalty on halfway only for a scuffle to result in the penalty being reversed. Park took a quick tap and a flowing move led to a try from number eight Michael Langlands under the posts.
Michael Grove’s conversion left a half-time score of 13-12, a cruel blow right on the interval whistle.
The second half was more of a cagey affair and with West now playing into the wind, the hosts struggled to advance much over the half way line.
West though came close to another score from a good break from Ryan Painter. West thought they had the crucial score only for play to be brought back for a forward pass.
Eventually, West had to settle for another penalty from Painter but the slender four-point lead always looked in danger, especially with the counter-attacking threat of the Percy Park backs.
In fact, it was less counter-attack and more bludgeoning power that led to Park’s first lead of the game just six minutes from time.
A kick to the corner set up the platform and powerful carries blunted the defence before Charles Greswold went in for the score and left a simple conversion for Grove.
Now trailing by three points and looking fatigued after a gruelling defensive effort against a much bigger side, West got back in the game thanks to a spot of ill-discipline from the visitors.
After aiming a big clearance kick down field from inside their own 22 the referee took exception to something said to him and brought play back following a West penalty, almost in front of the posts.
Painter squeezed what should have been a simple kick just inside the right post but the scores were levelled up at 19-19.
With Craig Hadwen on for his league debut at the age of 35, both teams were intent on trying to win.
Late on, sub CeeJay Beales put his mark on the game with a run up the left which looked like finishing with a superb try only to be stopped by a high tackle.
West opted to kick for the corner rather than take a shot at the posts but the danger was cleared.
Then came that final chance after Park were penalised for kicking the ball through a ruck, only for Painter to fluff his lines.
West: Mallinson, Armstrong, Youll, G Painter, Hilditch, R Painter, Wood, Rollins, Key, Linighan, Bunter, Foulds, Barker, Turner
Subs used: Beales, Hadwen, Siddle
Tries: Hilditch, G Painter. Con: G Painter. Pens: G Painter 3
Percy Park: Davison, Faatau, Greswold, Morse, Reece, Grove, Gilmore, Wafer, Dubois, Cook, Phillips, Thompson, McGrath, Lake, Langlands.
Subs used: Kidd, Sutherland, Caulfield
Tries: Davison, Langlands, Greswold. Cons: Grove 2
Referee: Tony Jenkins (Durham)