West Hartlepool hit back for important win at Durham
West are back in the North One East promotion play-off place '“ but only just.
A Durham City side fighting to get out of the relegation zone battled their way to a 15-0 lead before the promotion hopefuls could get their act into gear in the re-arranged game - the only one played in the league.
In the end, West ran out comfortable winners, and could even have had an important bonus point if the ball hadn’t eluded Anth Carr’s grasp as he went to touch down.
But, with a much-changed side, West coach Iain Dixon was happy with the result.
“We won and that’s what matters,” he said.
“City were desperate for the points and fought for everything, while we had some very late changes and it took some time for us to get into our stride.
“Once we did, there was only one side looking likely to win - although we would have been more comfortable on the touchline with a bigger margin.”
West went into the game without No 8 Sam Miller and centre Greg Edwards who were injured last week.
To make matters worse of the selected side second row Joe Rafferty and winger Rob Thorn cried off with other commitments, while scrum half Ryan Painter suffered a back injury at work.
As a result, West gave a debut on the wing to 18-year-old Adam Peacock and brought in student Fraser Handley in the second row for his first game of the season.
The bench also had league debutants in prop Alex Key and half back Danny Quinn.
The home side seized the advantage from the start with a penalty after just one minute from fly half Paul Armstrong.
West had to wait 10 minutes for their first seious attack with City eventually conceding a penalty five metres out as they struggled to keep the visiting forwards from crossing.
Unfortunately for West, Gavin Painter’s penalty slid past the posts.
With both sides making plenty of handling errors, it was unusual that the packs had to wait for half an hour to test themselves in the scrum.
West came out on top and earned themselves a penalty only for referee Charl Erasmus to reverse his decision and yellow card West No 8 Carl Miller for stamping.
City took advantage with burly centre Chris Metcalfe spotting a gap chasing down his own kick to touch down virtually unopposed to give City a 10-0 lead at the break.
They increased that lead to 15 points just minutes after the restart when flanker Craig Dominick burst into the 22 to evade two tacklers to touchdown.
Armstrong’s conversion came back off the post, and that let off was the signal for West to set about getting themselves on the scoresheet.
The breakthrough came on 50 minutes after full back Zac Southern and fly half Gavin Painter had swopped roles.
Painter opted to kick for the corner when West were awarded a penalty on the 22 for a high tackle. The lineout ball was won, and when the ball was moved left Southern spotted the narrowest of gaps in the defence to force his way over with Painter adding the extras.
West kept up the pressure with Dominick yellow carded for persistent offside and Jordan Foulds replacing a tiring Handley on the hour.
West were getting the ball out wide whenever they could and were rewarded when leading try scorer Liam Checksfield opted for a grubber kick as he and Will Hilditch threatened up the right wing. The City cover looked to be there, but the ball was fumbled and Checksfield gratefully collected to go over.
Painter’s conversion was again wide but with 15 minutes still left on the clock City’s lead was looking vulnerable.
And so it proved with Checksfield again the man to score. This time the move was down the left wing with Siddle choosing the short side to attack and Checksfield cruising in from wide on the left to go in under the posts to set his side up for a 19-15 lead.
West opted to keep on attacking as the best way to defend the four point lead and opting for scrums, instead of penalty kicks at goal, as pressure mounted in the home 22.
The try bonus point was in sight and West were helped when City pop Tim Mackay was yellow carded with five minutes left as the West pack drove for the line.
The pressure eventually saw Anth Carr with a chance to force his way over. However, he lost control as he twisted out of a tackle and a City hand was first to the ball to give them a pressure relieving 22 drop out.
West are on their travels again next week with a visit to Morpeth whose home form will demand a better performance from the promotion hopefuls.
City: Phil Stewart, Rob Smith, Garry Izomor, Chris Metcalfe, Tom Elliott, Paul Armstrong, Will Paxton, Tim Mackay, Kenny Reader, Benny Parkinson, David Lyall, Josh Cotton, Kevin Showler, Craig Dominick, Howard Johnson.
Reps (all used): David Atkinson, Max Bailey, Joe Maw.
Tries: Metcalfe, Dominick.
Conversions: Armstrong (1)
Penalty: Armstrong (1)
Yellow: Dominick, Mackay.
West: Zac Southern, Adam Peacock, Liam Checksfield, Peter Youll, Will Hilditch, Gavin Painter,Matt Siddle, Anth Carr, Andrew Rollins, Adam Coates, John Bunter, Fraser Handley, Dan Boatman (captain), Lee Maddison, Carl Miller.
Reps used: Alex Key, Jordan Foulds. Not used: Dan Quinn.
Tries: Southern, Checksfield (2)
Conversions: Painter (20
Referee: Charl Erasmus (Durham Society)