West Hartlepool 19
West Hartlepool’s defence of the Durham Senior Cup fell at the first hurdle with a strong running Billingham triumphing at Brinkburn.
West’s pack held an advantage throughout, but whenever Billingham threw the ball out wide they liked likely to score through speedsters Elliot Husband and Martin Hopley.
The visitors held sway for most of the first half helped by the loss of West line-out target man John Bunter after just 12 minutes to an ankle injury.
Worst was to come for the hosts with two yellow cards in quick succession for skipper Dan Boatman and fellow flanker Liam Bailey.
By this time West were already trailing to a sharp finish from an overlap by Hopley with man of the match Peter Evans converting.
Somehow West held when down to 13 men with some heroic tackling but, ironically, as soon as they were back to the full 15 they conceded.
Peter Evans was the scorer as he evaded three tackles and raced in from 20 metres to set up an easy conversion for himself.
It looked like Billingham would coast to an easy victory but West finally managed to gain some territory. They were rewarded withy a penalty try when Eldon Myers was tackled off the ball as Peter Youll was about to send him over from five metres.
Gavin Painter, back from a long lay-off after knee surgery, slotted the conversion and West turned round juts one score behind.
However, it was Billingham who extended their lead seven minutes into the half with Husband finishing of another flowing move along the backs with a smart finish in the left hand corner.
Evans failed with the conversion and West attacked strongly from the restart with Ryan Painter seizing on a loose ball to fly hack up the wing with Dan Boatman in support.
The West skipper was taken out off the ball but Painter collected to go over only for play to be brought back for a foot in touch.
With the wind at their backs the home team were now putting pressure on the side from the league above only to fall to a sucker punch after 55 minutes.
The West backs were making inroads inside the Billingham 22 when a pass was spilled with full back Luke Wilson the first to react – he raced the full length of the pitch to score to make it 24-7 to the visitors.
The West pack continued to grind away earning a succession of penalties which led to the award of their second penalty try by referee Carl Hall.
It came as the West eight drove their opponents back towards the line with two Billingham players breaking to kill the ball as Sam Miller was about to touch down.
Painter converted to put the home side just ten points behind, but once again Billingham had the answer.
Replacement Liam Armstrong was the man to go over - neat footwork keeping him just inside the field of play as Scott Butcher despairingly tried to force him into touch .
The hosts were to have the last word as Ryan Painter finished off some pressure on the visiting line by diving over through a mass of bodies.
Brother Gavin hit the post with his conversion from wide on the left – the last play of the game.
West Director of Rugby Graeme Southern said that despite going out of the cup it had been a very useful workout for the home side.
“Billingham had an intensity and speed of thought which we won’t find very often in our league.
“It will have sharpened our lads up ahead of the first league game next week,” he said.
“We grew into the game thanks to an excellent performance by the forwards, and the fact we were awarded two penalty tries shows that we had Billingham on the back foot at times.
“We need to be sharper in some areas, and our decision making needs to improve but that will happen as the new faces blend in with the rest of the side.”