West Hartlepool see off Percy Park with solid show
West came through their hardest test so far this season with flying colours to keep their five-point lead at the top of North One East.
Against a big physical side with some real pace in the backs, West took their own chances and defended superbly to frustrate their hosts.
They were boosted by the return of England 7’s international Aaron Myers.
He began in the back row but finished the game in the centre as West had to constantly reshuffle their backs because of injuries.
Myers scored the best try of the day to give West impetus at the start of the second half, and the visitors can count on that and a superb start for their success.
They began the game with two quick scores as the West support play had the home team going backwards.
West’s initial pressure paid off after five minutes. Zac Southern kicked superbly for the corner, and when the Percy Park throw was judged to be not straight West took advantage of their own throw to catch and drive - Sam Miller emerging with the ball as they forced their way over the line. Gav painter’s kick was just wide.
West then lost winger Luke Mallinson to a hamstring injury - Paul Moss coming into the center and Liam Checksfield moving out wide.
It didn’t slow the visitors’ early momentum as the pack forced its way back to the right corner.
A series of pick and go’s had Percy Park defending desperately, but they couldn’t stop skipper Danny Boatman who seized his chance to pick up and dive over from two meters out. This time Painter added the conversion from out wide.
With just 10 minutes gone, it looked like West might be in line for another resounding victory. However, the big home pack finally got going forcing the West pack backwards from their own put in at a scrum on the halfway line.
That was enough to open space for fly half Phil Morse to send former rugby league centre Ali Blair streaking through the West defence to score with Morse missing the easy conversion.
He missed again with penalty on the 22 as the home side got back into the game only to lose No. 8 Michael Langlands to the sin bin. He was caught for illegal use of the boot as he powered over Aaron Myers at a ruck.
He was soon followed by Myers himself. He earned the wrath of the referee as he fought for the ball after a superb last ditch tackle by West winger Will Hilditch thwarted Park’s Guy Pike who had raced diagonally through the West defence.
However, Myers was back for the start of the second half and he quickly added to West’s well-deserved 12-5 half-time lead.
Gavin Painter force the home side back onto their line with a deft grubber kick. When Morse’s clearance kick went to Zac Southern on the half way line the West full back sent Myers charging down the left wing from fully 45 metres.
He evaded the first tackle, changed gear as he raced through the Percy Park forwards before rounding scrum half John Scott whose despairing tackle couldn’t stop Myers from touching down.
Gavin Painter again added the extras to give West a two score advantage.
The visitors lost winger Will Hilditch to a shoulder injury with Joe Rafferty coming on into the second row with Myers forced to provide cover in the backs.
That didn’t stop West continuing to have the Lion’s share of possession, but stout home defence meant that it was by no means sure that West would once again secure a bonus point fourth try.
Fortunately their pressure eventually paid off when a catch and drive in their favoured bottom right corner was held up.
From the scrum, the home pack were going backwards with Sam Miller taking the opportunity to pick up and score despite the attentions of three defenders. Painter again converting from out wide.
Percy Park came back and looked to have scored when hooker Jonny Dubois dived over in the corner only for the referee to rule that home skipper Michaele Langlands had blocked the defenders.
West took the opportunity to take the game back into the Park half, and they themselves looked to have scored when Sam Miller once again dived over, but he was judged to have lost as the ball as he went to ground it.
Superb defence on their own line did almost get West the fifth try they had looked so close to achieving.
The Percy Park pack was shunted backwards on their own scrum five metres from the West line. Ryan Painter was quickest to collect the loose ball and he sent Liam Checksfield away on a run which saw him outpace the first tacklers only for desperate defence from full back Michael Grove and winger Liam Blackburn to stop the West youngster just short of the line.
It was a hard-fought win for the Brinkburn side and one which particularly pleased forwards coach Peter Robinson.
He said: “We toughed it out when we had too and we played intelligently against a big and pacy side.
“There won’t be many teams leaving Percy Park with a win this season, so we can go into next week’s break and take a well-earned rest.”
Percy Park: Michael Grove, Liam Blackburn, Ali Blair, Guy Pike, Jimmy Baldwin, Phil Morse, John Scott, Marc Cook, Jonny Dubois, George Purdy, Karl Thompson, Austin Philips, Sean Williamson, Ethan Wilson, Michael Langlands (captain).
Reps ( all used): Dan Ward, Sam Warren, Kieran Sutherland.
West: Zac Southern, Luke Mallinson, Liam Checksfield, Peter Youll, Will Hilditch, Gavin Painter, Ryan Painter, Ross Wood, Andrew Rollins, Michael Hogan, John Bunter, Dan Boatman (capt), Aaron Myers, Lee Maddison, Sam Miller.
Reps (all used):: Jack Angus, Paul Moss, Joe Rafferty.
Tries: Miller (2), Myers, Boatman.
Cons: G Painter (4)
Yellow: Myers, Miller.