West Hartlepool begin life in top flight with nine-try demolition of Novocastrians
West began life in their first season in Durham and Northumberland One in some style.
The nine-try demolition of Novocastrians at Brinkburn came courtesy of a dominant pack and some sharp handling in the backs.
Head coach Stu Waites mad an immediate impression at fly half after missing the whole of last season after a shoulder operation.
He pulled the strings which kept Novos on the back foot throughout - although the visitors did manage four tries and a bonus point of their own.
Their tries all came from long range as West lost concentration or missed a tackle.
But Director of Rugby Graeme Southern was more than happy with the start.
“We only managed one warm up game pre-season so you have to be happy with the way we took the initiative from the start,” he said.
“Even when Novos sneaked back into it at 10-8, we never looked uncomfortable.
“There were some fine individual displays, but it was mainly a team effort, and we’ve now set out ourselves a standard in terms of work rate and application, which we hope to build on as we have some tough games coming up.”
West’s season was up and running as early as the fifth minute with man-of-the-match Scott Butcher finishing off some pressure in the right hand corner.
Gavin Painter’s conversion slid across the post, and he was narrowly wide four minutes later when Isaac Robinson scored in the same spot on his return to the club from University. The flanker emerging from a melee of bodies to stretch out to touch down.
Novos came back with a penalty from fly half Nick Bellamy quickly followed by a try from centre Jez Nash. He brushed aside two tackles as he powered in from the 22-metre line.
Bellamy’s easy conversion was missed and West’s response was to keep play in the opposition half where the pressure eventually told.
Full back Zac Southern came into the line and timed his pass to perfection to send winger Adam Peacock in at the right hand corner.
The conversion was again just wide but it didn’t take long for West to increase the margin with the try of the game.
Replacement Matt Siddle – on for an unwell Will Hilditch – collected a clearing kick deep in his own half.
He kicked over the onrushing defenders, won the race to the bounce where he deftly flicked the ball into his hands, drew the full back and sent in Alex Barker to give West a try bonus point with just half an hour gone.
Painter converted to give West a deserved 22-8 lead but lost their concentration just before the break with dangerous full back Jonny Ward racing in from 40 metres - Bellamy taking the half time score to 22-15.
With just one score in it the game was still open. That all changed within minutes of the restart. This time Ward was the villain as a smart cross field kick from Waites looked destined to be collected by Siddle on the left wing.
However, he was take out by Ward just five metres from the line with referee Andrew Bennett deciding a yellow card was sufficient punishment.
The home supporters were demanding a penalty try, but their side was not to be denied as they scored three tries while Ward was in the sinbin.
West had numerous attacks from the resulting penalty with Scott Butcher eventually finding the space.
Then it was the backs’ turn as Peter Youll burst through the middle to bring Southern into play. The full back stepped inside and timed his outside pass to winger Peacock who smartly stepped in for his second try of the afternoon.
Then it was the Siddle and Barker combination which again proved successful. Waites began the move to send Siddle racing up the wing and his inside pass gave Barker an easy run in once again.
The game was already beyond Novos when Southern cut inside once again and, despite being held up close to the line, was first to react when the ball went loose to gather and touch down.
The visitors were in consolation score territory and did manage two tries from centre Sam Busby who danced his way through the defence, and then they achieved their bonus point try from full back Ward.
However, it was West who had the last say with prop Adam Brown powering over in the last move of the game.
West: Zac Southern, Will Hilditch, Gav Painter, Peter Youll, Adam Peacock, Stu Waites, Ryan Painter (capt), Johnny Hunter, Andrew Rollins, Adam Brown, John Bunter, Joe Rafferty, Alex Barker, Isaac Robinson, Scott Butcher.
Replacements (all used) Craig Hadwen, Matt Siddle, Connor McLurg.
Tries: Barjker (2), Butcher (2), Peacock (2), Brown, Robinson, Southern.
Cons: G Painter (4)
Novocastrians: Jonny Ward, Ben Wollerton, Sam Busby, Jez Nash, Shaun Stewart, Nick Bellamy, Paddy Sowter, Josh Stacey, Pete Twentyman (capt),Luke Menzfeld, Adam McDonald, Alex Littlefair, Chris Law, George Banbrick, Sean Ramsay.
Replacements (all used). Euan Duncan, Tommy Bilclough, Rich Harrison
Tries: Nash, Ward (2), Busby.
Referee: Andrew Bennett (Durham)