RUGBY PREVIEW: Rochdale v Westv Hartlepool


WEST Hartlepool go in search of their first double of the season in North One East when they visit Rochdale.

A trip across the Pennines is traditionally one of the toughest in the calendar and Moorgate Avenue has proven a graveyard for travelling sides.

After losing their opening home game of the programme, Rochdale have reeled off five straight wins, averaging 40 points per game, to be fifth in the table.

There is little to choose between the respective records of West and Rochdale – both sides have lost six times but the Lancashire side hold a 10-point lead in the standings.

Rochdale are the division’s bonus point kings on 12 and, as the league’s joint leading scorers, are dangerous opponents.

But West do boast a victory already over the maroon and whites and head coach Iain Dixon says his side must summon up more of the same tomorrow (kick-off 2.15pm).

“We need a repeat performance,” he told SportMail. “If we can get the win it will make our position in the division more comfortable.

“It’s hard to win on the road in this league but we are hoping for the result.

“If we are on our mettle and are in the right frame of mind then there is no reason why not.

“We have won at Pocklington which, until then, had been the hardest place in the league to go.

“We proved that day we can do it and if we get our defence and attack right tomorrow then we are capable of winning there.”

West go into the game looking for three wins on the bounce for only the second time this season.

The Brinkburn side have ground out hard-fought, no frills victories over Dinnington and Rovers.

Dixon believes the Boxing Day derby win could prove crucial towards tomorrow’s awayday.

“It was a scrappy affair and a bit of a dire spectacle to be honest,” he said.

“I don’t think either side could get into it, I thought the referee was a bit whistle-happy.

“We played OK and maybe aside from the last 10 to 15 minutes I thought we dominated the game.

“We never really got out of second gear, but it was a run-out and good preparation for Rochdale.

“If we’d not played then it would have been a few weeks between games and that would have been too much.”

West have had mixed news on the fitness front.

They have been boosted by Zac Southern shaking off an ankle problem which forced him to hobble off on the hour at Catcote Road.

But while the stand-off has been passed fit, full-back Stuart Waites misses out with the shoulder problem sustained in the early minutes of the derby.

Luke Mallinson switches from the wing to number 15 with Greg Edwards making his first start of the season at centre after recovering from an ankle injury.

Lock Jay Corbett troubled by a back injury against Rovers is also OK to play tomorrow, keeping out Owen Bennett despite his return to fitness after hand trouble.

The Durham lock will play for the Second XV against Gateshead at Brinkburn.

There is a change in the back row, where Liam Bailey, who has made a good return to his old position, is unavailable.

Jordan Baggs, who has enjoyed a fine season, joins captain Dan Boatman and leading try scorer Sam Miller in the back three.

West: L Mallinson, S Butcher, G Edwards, P Youll, K Jamieson, Z Southern, R Painter, R Wood, A Rollins, A Coates, J Corbett, C Atkins, D Boatman (capt), J Baggs, S Miller. Subs: M Hogan, J Rafferty, AN Other