Six of the best as West Hartlepool are looking up
Six superb tries eased the relegation pressure on West as they earned a bonus point win against fellow strugglers Bradford and Bingley.
The visitors arrived on the back of two wins of their own, and knowing that another victory would put them 10 points clear of their hosts who occupied the final relegation place.
With their ranks boosted by the arrival of South African fly-half Tanner Lightfoot and Tongan centre Fuifui Moimoi, the Bees set off at storming pace with Moimoi hauled down as powered towards the West line.
He lost the ball in the tackle and West bravely opted to run the ball out along their own line to Liam Checksfield. The outside centre promptly stepped inside two tackles to set off on a 95-metre run to go in under the posts to give his side the best possible start.
With West starting to get the better of the scrums, the home side kept up the pressure and some sharp thinking by fly-half Gavin Painter brought the next score.
The Bees had to kick clear from behind their own line. Painter quickly took the throw to full back Zac Southern who weaved his way around two defenders before exchanging passes with the West fly half and gratefully accepting the opportunity run round behind the posts.
Bradford and Bingley were shell shocked but not prepared to lie down. They were fortunate when a burst through the middle saw Checksfield kick over the head of full-back Benny Greaves only to see the ball go dead as he chased it down.
They did close the gap when second row Tom Booth broke clear up the left to send in back row Louis Fraser with Lighfoot missing the conversion.
It was 14-5 at the break with West facing the strong breeze in the second half. However, there was no change in the pattern of play with Bunter and Linighan dominating the line-out for the home side, and the much-improved scrum more than holding its own against a big pack.
West’s third scorer came from a lineout in the visiting 22 with Jordan Foulds creating a gap as it took two defenders stop him from going over.
There was no stopping No 8 Andy Turner who timed his burst to perfection as Ryan Painter quickly recycled the ball.
Gavin Painter once again converted, and he was on target once again ten minutes later after brother Ryan earned the try bonus point for his side.
It came after as scrum close to the right touchline with Turner flipping the ball into the West skippers’ hands and he raced round the short side. A chip ahead beat three defenders in a 15-metre race to the line to extend the lead to 28-5.
With their tails up, West continued to threaten, and it was no surprise when Ryan Painter scored his second.
Again it was the scrum combination with Turner which did the trick.
This time the No 8 broke himself and, when he was tackled inside the Bees’ 22, Painter was there to pick up and twist and turn out of tackles to go over - brother Gavin missing his first kick of the afternoon.
The Bees did reduce the arrears through scrum half Dan Jeffrey from close range after Moimoi was stopped on the line.
But it was the home side who had the final flourish with Will Hilditch going in at the corner in the final play of the game as the ball was spun left from an attacking scrum on the Bees 22.
The victory takes West out of the relegation places to the relief of Head Coach Stuart Hardy.
“This was a game we knew we couldn’t really afford to lose,” he said.
“Fortunately, we showed the same form which beat league leaders Morpeth last time out and we were full value right across the team.
“It really was a team effort, and if we keep that up I’m sure we can take points from some of the difficult games we face in February.”
Next up for West is a trip to in-form Bridlington followed by the visit of newly-promoted West Leeds.
West: Zac Southern, Will Hilditch, Liam Checksfield, Peter Youll, Joe Willis, Gavin Painter, Ryan Painter (captain), Adam Coates, Adam Brown, Andrew Rollins, John Bunter, Jake Linighan, Scott Butcher, Jordan Foulds, Andrew Turner.
Replacements (all used): Johnny Hunter, Adam Peacock, Jay Corbett
Tries: Checksfield, Southern, R Painter (2), Turner, Hilditch.
Cons: G Painter (4)
Bradford and Bingley: Ben Greaves, Inoke Finau, Dennis Tuffour, Fuifui Moimoi, Ryan Wilson, Tanner Lightfoot, Dan Jeffrey, Michael Crotch, Corey Spencer, Ryan Wedderell, Tom Booth (captain), Joe Daley, Renan Mansoor, Louis Fraser, Tom Cummins:
Replacements (all used): Max Moiuntain, Peter Booth, Chris Battye
Tries: Fraser, Jeffrey.
Cons: Lightfoot (1)
Referee: Mark Harrington (Durham)