Checksfield inspires West Hartlepool victory

West Hartlepool ended their North One East travels in style with two superb individual tries in the dying minutes at Percy Park to seal a 24-10 victory.

The visitors had never looked in danger of losing the game after going into an early lead, but saved the best until last with young centre Liam Checksfield showing remarkable skill and strength.

First, he ripped the ball off a home attacker some 40 metres out to set Ryan Painter moving forward.

The No 9 spotted Scott Butcher out on the left and his floated pass sent the winger into space. His deft kick with the outside of his right boot set up a chase which the West speedster won with some ease.

Gavin Painter converted and most at Preston Avenue that that would be the end of proceedings.

However, the second half was to end a full 52 minutes after it had started and that gave the crowd some late excitement.

Checksfield proved his first steal from the home side wasn’t a fluke by doing it again.

This time it was winger Rich Berne who lost the ball and this time Checksfield kept it to himself - racing diagonally for the corner from 30 metres to outpace the despairing defence.

Gav Painter once again added the spice to the cake with a superb conversion form the left touchline.

West head coach Iain Dixon was delighted for the 17-year-old.

“That’s two superb tries in two weeks for Liam and he is certainly realising his potential,” he said.

“I thought it was an excellent all-round performance by the lads who defended very well, and stuck at the task in the face of a physical home side.

“We had a completely different back row this week with Jay Corbett coming into the side and being my man of the match. John Bunter in the second row also had an excellent game.”

It was Corbett who set West on the way to victory in their first visit to the home 22.

Skipper Dan Boatman - at No 8 in place of Sam Miller who was away on County Under 20 duties - stole line-out ball at the back and almost made it to the home line himself.

However, when he was tackled just short Corbett was there first to pick up and drive over with Painter adding the extras.

For the rest of the half the game became an absorbing arm wrestle played out mainly between the 22-metre lines.

West’s backs always looked dangerous but the visitors were suffering from having too many penalties awarded against them.

Ryan Painter gave away an extra ten metres when he kicked the ball away in frustration at one decision - presenting fly-half Paul Spowart with an easier opportunity to get his side their first points of the afternoon.

West went into the break with a 7-3 advantage but lost prop Michael Hogan to injury early in the second half.

Gavin Painter was the next to attract Mr Crozier’s attention with a ten minute spell in the sin bin for not releasing.

Five minutes later he was joined in the naughty corner by West’s Adam Coates and Park back row Craig Smith who had a slight altercation after Park had illegally brought down a West maul.

Zac Southern stepped up to take the long range shot at goal and his immaculate kick restored the visitor’s seven point lead.

Flanker Chris Atkins was the next to leave with injury heralding a debut for West Colts skipper Fraser Handley. The young second row marked his entry to senior rugby by promptly winning his first line-out ball.

As the clock ran down it looked like West’s 10-3 advantage would be the final result until that final flurry started by Liam Checksfield.

His try and the conversion gave the visitor’s a 24-3 lead and most in the ground were expecting that to be the final play.

Mr Crozier’s timepiece said differently, and that gave Park a chance to mount one last attack which saw Craig Smith tackled short of the line. However, he managed to get over the line by crawling forward Army style with an unsighted Mr Crozier giving the award and Spowart’s conversion finally bringing the marathon to an end.

Percy Park: Jimmy Baldwin, Kieran Sutherland, Sam Jobson, Rich Berne, Leo Caulfield, Paul Spowart, Davy Kay, Marc Cook, Jonny Dubois, Michael Birkett, Austin Phillips, Josh Hedley, Liam Scott, Craig Smith, Michael Langlands.

Tries: Smith. Con: Spowart . Pen: Spowart.

West: Zac Southern, Joe Willis, Liam Checksfield,, Peter Youll, Scott Butcher, Gavin Painter, Ryan Painter, Michael Hogan, Andrew Rollins, Adam Coates, Owen Bennett, John Bunter, Jay Corbett,Liam Bailey, Chris Atkins, Dan Boatman (captain), Reps all used: Jack Angus, Greg Edwards, Fraser Handley.

Tries: Corbett, Butcher, Checksfield.

Cons: G Painter (3). Pen: Southern.

Yellow: G Painter, Coates.

Referee: G. Crozier (Northumberland Society)