WEST Hartlepool – contenders or pretenders?
The answer may become clearer after North One East’s third-placed side visit mid-table Driffield (kick-off 2.15pm).
West displayed their promotion credentials last Saturday with an excellent 27-12 win over Rochdale, who had gone into the contest as the league’s in-form side.
With Huddersfield YMCA, who currently occupy the play-off spot, facing a testing derby at Rochdale, West could, potentially, finish the day just a point or two behind second position.
It means West cannot afford to slip up at eighth-placed Driffield, who they enjoyed a 29-0 win over at Brinkburn earlier in the season.
A trip to Kelleythorpe will not be easy – Driffield have won their last three at home and averaged 40 points a time.
Director of rugby Kevan Oliphant told SportMail: “We were excellent against Rochdale – a totally different side to the one we were the week before at Malton & Norton.
“We have got to go into the game with some confidence given the way we performed.
“We must try to treat it as a home game – if we do then we are capable of winning it and winning comfortably.
“Our away record has been holding us back so we’ve got to go out, be professional, do the basics right and put the pressure on the opposition.
“That’s what we did last week against Rochdale,
“We put them under so much pressure and they could not cope – we forced them into mistakes because of our fantastic defence.
“I don’t think we hardly missed a tackle all afternoon and we’ve got to do that again.”
That could be the crux of the game.
Driffield love to throw the ball around as their record suggests and will run from pretty much all areas.
It is therefore up to West to put the home side on their backsides and it’s also up to the pack to try to take a stranglehold on the forwards to deny them clean possession.
“I read a report of Drifield’s game last week when they struggled against the rolling maul,” Oliphant added.
“If we can get our line-out right then we can cause them problems.
“Driffield is historically a difficult place to go.
“Their results have picked up since the start of the season and they traditionally like to throw the ball around.
“But if we defend like we did last week, then teams are going to struggle to break us down.”
West, not surprisingly, make the minimum of changes for the journey to East Yorkshire.
Ian Pinchen, who was forced to withdraw with a back problem at the 11th hour last week, returns to the front row.
Andrew Dixon, who stepped in and played well in a rare starting appearance, will move back down to the bench with Andrew Rollins switching to hooker.
The rest of the West side, which was led superbly last week by captain and flanker Dan Boatman, remains unchanged.
West: C Cheslin, S Butcher, A Cheslin L Bailey, L Mallinson, S Waites, R Painter, I Pinchen, A Rollins, A Coates, M Hogan, O Bennett, D Boatman (capt), J Boatman, S Miller. Subs: A Dixon, D Tighe, A Turner