Rovers 8 West 22

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HARTLEPOOL rugby derbies rarely have two winners – but both clubs will today be a little happier with life.

West strengthened their position at the top of North One East when they completed the double over Rovers with their 10th win of the season and the ninth time they have registered a try bonus point victory.

Kevan Oliphant, Tim Sawyer and Stuart Hardy's side lead the league by four points and they are nine clear of third-placed Cleckheaton.

And while, on paper, Rovers look dead and buried at the bottom, they will have taken a good deal of satisfaction.

Rovers face a brutal January with games against promotion-chasing Wheatley Hills and Cleckheaton and a trip to Carlisle, where they have a dreadful record.

But if Alan Brown's team can build on the battling effort they produced on Saturday and create some momentum ahead of a more friendly February and March then they still have hope.

Rovers must keep the faith and hold their nerve – if they do that there are points still to be won and they have an ally in the West camp.

Oliphant said: "I think Rovers have a chance to get out of it, if they play like they did on Saturday.

"Their side fought for everything and if they get behind Alan I think they can do it.

"The fight they put up was a lot better than some teams we've come up against."

While Rovers need to dig deep, West can't stop winning, even when they are short of their best.

They came no-where near the standard of rugby they displayed in the 41-3 romp against Mowden Park last Monday.

"Overall we got five points and we're still top of the league but we must improve on this," Oliphant told SportMail.

"We got three decent tries that was the pleasing thing of the afternoon.

"Apart from that we've just got to put this behind us and move forward to Morpeth on Saturday. We've got to play a lot better.

"But a lot of that was down to the pressure Rovers put on us around the breakdown – they slowed our ball down and stopped us playing the fluent rugby we wanted to play.

"We can scrap it out as we proved on Saturday and do the hard yards.

"But against Morpeth we want to get back to getting the ball moving and putting some pace into our game which we weren't able to do on Saturday.

"There wasn't a great deal of positives we took from the game. It was a good grafting team performance."

Andrew Cheslin, Stuart Waites, Lia Bailey and Scott Butcher ran in the tries for West with Stewart Grazier touching down for Rovers, Chris Sainty having opened the scoring with a penalty.