Will Hilditch at the double as West Hartlepool seal derby win over Rovers
West's perfect start to the season continued with a win in the local derby with Rovers - with Will Hilditch grabbing two of the four tries and making it three bonus-point wins out of three.
It was the first league meeting between the sides for seven years and as has often been the case in matches between the two, parts of the game were quite scrappy with handling errors aplenty.
However, there was no lack of endeavour from either side and the game was an entertaining spectacle for those gathered at Brinkburn.
West showed intent right from the off with an early kickable penalty turned down in favour of kicking to the corner.
The lineout worked well but the ball was knocked on in midfield as it was moved along the backline.
Rovers had the first scoring chance with a long-range penalty from Ryan Foreman but it was well short, and aside from that the home side looked the more dangerous in the early stages – only let down by a few forward passes halting promising attacks.
Eventually, West got on the scoreboard with a well-worked backs move from a scrum in the right corner which sent Hilditch over on the left.
Five minutes later, a second was added in the same corner when penalty advantage allowed Stu Waites to launch a speculative cross-field kick and Hilditch collected and fed Gav Painter who finished nicely.
Rovers came back into the game well with a good period of possession and solid ball carrying.
The pressure paid off as they pulled a try back after a nice flat pass close to the line sent Joe Little over.
With a little under 10 minutes of the half remaining, Foreman tried his luck from long range again but this time his attempt came back off the bar.
West stretched their lead with a straight-forward penalty from Painter after Andrew Rollins set up good field position with a barnstorming run up the left wing.
However, West would go into half time disappointed not to be further ahead after twice kicking to the corner only to lose the lineouts with one overthrown and the other not straight.
Former West man Liam Austwicke was shown a yellow card early in the second half for a tip tackle on Ryan Painter, and after kicking the resulting penalty into the 22 West worked an overlap on the left and Waites darted in for a try converted by Painter.
It seemed like the score that might end the Rovers challenge, but they again they responded well and enjoyed their best spell of the match going forward.
Taz Pelser scored a great individual try, darting through after taking a quick tap penalty, and the conversion brought his side within eight points.
Momentum was now firmly with the visitors and when Jay Corbett was penalised for a high tackle it gave Rovers a great opportunity to push the ball into the left corner.
The defensive line repelled a few attacks but as the pressure built a crucial knock-on from Austwicke turned the ball back to West.
Minutes later, West achieved their bonus point with a fourth try at the other end and effectively sealing the game.
A kick upfield from Zac Southern was collected but the return kick was badly miscued and West took full advantage, Hilditch again the man to score after the ball was worked along the line and the winger cut inside the final defender.
Painter added the conversion, and although he failed with a late penalty attempt to stretch the lead, it was enough to secure the third maximum-point victory in a row.
Next week, West travel to Northern, the only other side to have maximum points from their three games so far, while Rovers have another tough game at home to Stockton.
West: Southern, Hillditch, G Painter, Youll, Peacock, Waites, R Painter, Hadwen, Rollins, Brown, Linighan, Atkins, Barker, Robinson, Corbett.
Tries: Hilditch 2, G Painter, Waites
Cons: G Painter 2
Pen: G Painter
Rovers: Foreman, Maguire, Barnfield, Gunn, Austwicke, Evens, Pelser, N Stead, T Stead, Pinchen, Whitehead, Little, Jeffrey, Dring, Amrstrong.
Tries: Little, Pelser
Referee: Chris Binnie [Yorkshire]