Ryan Painter inspires West Hartlepool victory over Ponteland
With ten minutes of West’s first ever league visit to Ponteland, it looked like the Brinkburn side’s hopes of promotion this season may have been about to be shattered.
The home side – second bottom of the league – had gone into a 26-22 lead thanks to their ability to seize on West’s mistakes and take their chances with some slick handling.
By comparison, the visitors lacked energy and with a handful of changes from last week’s big win against Stockton looked distinctly disjointed at times.
Fortunately, skipper Ryan Painter was in in mood to capitulate scoring three of his sides six tries - crucially the one in the 75th minute which restored his side’s advantage.
West looked to have survived Ponteland’s early pressure, but as they broke out Zac Southern was unable le to gather a high pass.
The lively home backs swooped with winger Connor White going over and fly half John McConnell converting.
David Heckles got his side back into the game with West pressure on the home 22 creating a gap - Stu Waites’ sending the centre over for his first try since his return from Horden.
The West coach was wide with his conversion, but it wasn’t long before his opposite number was on target for the second time.
Luke Chick was an attacking threat all afternoon, and he evaded three tackles to go in next to the posts after Ponteland had secured good-line-out ball.
West’s response was to use their dominance in the scrum to forge their way back upfield, and when they took the ball against the head, Painter was quick to spot the blindside gap to go over.
Painter made the break which took the play into the home half. Alex barker took the ball on, but Luke Mallinson was tackled just short of the line.
Ponteland were penalised at the scrum, and with West opting for yet more scrums, referee Tom Grayson had little choice in awarding a penalty try as the home pack continually infringed.
West went into the break with a slender 17-14 lead, mainly thanks to a try-saving tackle from Max Tennant as his opposite number looked set to go over in the corner.
Three minutes into the half Isaac Robinson was yellow carded for coming in at the side after only just coming on as replacement for Adam Brown.
Ponteland seized their opportunity and from a line-out some 30 metres from the West line caught the visitors napping with a throw to the front – Ben Stewart taking a pass and sprinting up the one to score on the corner followed by a superb conversion from McConnell.
West squandered a chance to regain the lead with Adam Coates failing to hold onto a pass.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
Fortunately, he made amends two minutes later. Waites had set up a line-out five metres out from a penalty. John Bunter took good ball and Coates was the man in the maul to touch down to give his side a one point lead.
That wasn’t to last as Ponteland again showed how to move the ball, with Dan Carruthers finishing off a sweeping move.
This time McConnell failed to convert, but his side were back in the lead and looking to cause the upset of the day.
It looked like their luck might be in when Max Tennant lost control of the ball as he was about to touch down.
However, the dominant West scrum and determined Painter weren’t prepared to capitulate with pressure in the home 22 paying off twice in the closing minutes.
Painter restored his side’s lead on 75 minutes, going through a gap close to the posts. He then put them more than one score ahead after Luke Mallinson had again been tackled just short of the line.
The West forwards were there first to create a gap on the blindside for Painter to finish the scoring.
West face bottom club Whitby in a fortnight’s time and after this test against the second bottom side would do well not to take that encounter for granted.
Ponteland: James Sheils, Connor White, Luke Chick, Jamie Taylor, James Charlton, John McConnell, Navaj Bal, Paul Baron, Lawrence Mew, Jon Livingstone-Evans, Chris Freer, Sean Bettison, Matt McKenna, Ben Stewart.
Replacements (all used): Harry Lane, Phil McAreavey, Josh Beswick.
Tries: White, Chick, Stewart, Carruthers. Cons: McConnell (3).
West: Luke Mallinson, Max Tennant, David Heckles, Zac Southern, Callum Johnston, Stu Waites, Ryan Painter (captain), Adam Coates, Andrew Rollins, Danny Cookland, John Bunter, Michael Hogan, Alex Barker, Adam Brown, Chris Atkins.
Replacements (all used): Isaac Robinson, Jonny Hunter, Adam Peacock.
Tries: Painter (3), Heckles, Coates, Pen Try. Conversions: Waites (2)
Yellow: Robinson. Referee: Tom Grayson (Northumberland).