Rugby preview: West Hartlepool v Cleckheaton

GO JONNY GO: Jonny Boatman attacks for West against Rochdale. Picture by TOM COLLINS
GO JONNY GO: Jonny Boatman attacks for West against Rochdale. Picture by TOM COLLINS

WEST Hartlepool have an “impeccable” home record and they do not plan to see it end against Cleckheaton.

West play host to North One East’s champions-elect tomorrow at Brinkburn, where Iain Dixon and Peter Robinson’s team have won all eight of their home games.

Cleckheaton will arrive as hot favourites – they lead the division by the proverbial mile and have won 11 in a row.

But third-placed West, looking to stay in touch with Huddersfield YMCA who occupy the play-off spot in second, are looking to overturn the odds (kick-off 2.15pm).

Robinson is in no doubt.

“Our home form is impeccable,” said the veteran former back row forward.

“Cleckheaton are the most efficient team in this league, I am not saying they are the best, but they certainly are the most efficient.

“But we can beat anyone at home and we can beat Cleckheaton, no two ways about it.”

It will be a big ask for West, despite their home record, but they have won back-to-back games in contrasting style.

West played some excellent rugby in beating Rochdale in their last game at Catcote Road while they snatched a last-gasp success at Driffield 13 days ago when Stuart Waites put over a penalty with the final kick of the match.

“It wasn’t perfect at Driffield and not as good as the Rochdale game,” admitted Robinson.

“The away form is something which desperately needs addressing.

“At the end of the day, it takes a lot of bottle and a good team to create two opportunities and to take them like we did at Driffield.

“And for all the ball they had, we defended magnificently again.

“Defensively I’d say we are as good as any team in the league.”

It will need to be tomorrow and so too must their discipline – given Clecky’s ruthless finishing power from catch and drives, West cannot afford to be giving away any penalties which the Tykes could kick into their 22.

Director of rugby Kevan Oliphant said: “When we lost down there earlier in the season, we were beaten by their catch and drive.

“We scored three tries from open play and they got three as well, but from drives.

“If we’d had a bit of luck on the day, we might have got something from the game.

“Cleckheaton are not just about the catch and drive – they are a better team than that – but that is their main weapon.

“But they are beatable – we have show we can compete with anyone, especially at home.

“We often pick our game up against the top teams as we proved here aagainst Rochdale.”

West have had to make one change from the side which won 13-12 at Driffield.

Full-back Colin Cheslin has failed to recover from a knee injury which forced him to come off in the first half at Kelleythorpe.

Luke Mallinson, who has played superbly both at wing and full-back this season, takes the number 15 shirt, with Peter Youll making a welcome return out wide.

Scott Butcher, Liam Bailey and Ryan Painter, who all were injured at Driffield, are all fit to start tomorrow.

“If we’d had a game last week, we’d have been struggling,” Oliphant explained. “But that free Saturday has given a lot of the lads chance to recover.”

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: A Dixon, D Tighe, A Turner