Rugby preview: West Hartlepool look to bounce back against Alnwick

ON THE ATTACK: Sam Miller passes to Ryan Painter during West's win over Driffield
ON THE ATTACK: Sam Miller passes to Ryan Painter during West's win over Driffield

WEST Hartlepool may have dropped points on their last two away days – but director of rugby Kevan Oliphant insists everything is going in the right direction at Brinkburn.

West’s 32-17 defeat at unbeaten Cleckheaton on Saturday dropped the side down to fourth place.

But they are only five points behind North One East leaders Pocklington going into tomorrow’s home match with fifth-bottom Alnwick (kick-off 3pm).

“We are in a good position,” Oliphant told SportMail.

“If we can win our home games and pick up as many points as we can on the road then I think we can stay up there.

“It’s important we get to Christmas in a good place.

“Seven of our 12 games in 2014 are at home and all the leading teams have to come to us next year, so we are in decent shape.”

Alnwick are generally tough opposition though are less effective away from their Greensfield home just off the A1.

And Oliphant knows West, who scored some great tries at Cleckheaton last weekend, have the game to pick up four or five points tomorrow at Brinkburn.

“It’s a good opportunity to get back to winning ways,” he explained.

“If we play to how we know we can then we should have a good chance.

“It was a tough game on Saturday but I thought we were the better rugby side.

“They scored three catch and drives and other than that we more than competed with them.

“We scored all our tries from open play and some good ones.

“But once they were in the corners and with the throw-in, we could not stop it.

“How they operate the catch and drive borders on obstruction, we could not get in to bring down the catcher.

“They do it cleverly and effectively and it is so hard to counter-act.”

The 46-year-old added: “We’re not downhearted about losing last Saturday – Clecky are up at the top and unbeaten.

“We are more disappointed the nature of the defeat.

“We knew their threat and if we’d handled it better we could have won.

“It’s a shame we could not turn last Saturday into a victory but that’s life.

“We’ve got to get on with it and bounce back tomorrow.”

West are minus winger Greg Edwards tomorrow but are able to welcome back their pacy three-quarter Scott Butcher.

Full-back Colin Cheslin is unavilable so Luke Mallinson slots in at full-back where he has performed well this season.

Up front, Ian Pinchen returns after being at a wedding last week.

West include one of the club’s young prospects on the bench, 1y-year-old back Kyle Jameson, who has impressed for the Stags.

West: L Mallinson, S Butcher, A Cheslin, L Bailey, P Youll, S WAites, R Painter I PInchen, A Rollins, A Coates, M Hogan, O Bennett, D Boatman (capt), J Boatman, S Miller. Subs (from): A Dixon, C Atkins, K Jameson, G Robinson