WEST Hartlepool clinched the honours in the 219th staging of the town rugby confrontation – yet both sides will have gone home happy.
The North One East side won the derby for the seventh time in a row, though Rovers made a good fist of it at Brinkburn where they started and finished the scoring.
But for the third Boxing Day in succession, three tries were enough for West, Chris Atkins and Luke Mallinson strolling over either side of a penalty try.
Unfortunately for the big crowd there were a lot more penalties than tries, the game interrupted by 28 penalty awards by Hartlepool referee Tony Jenkins.
There was no lack of effort from both sets of players but with constant interruptions and solid defence from each side, quality and chances were at a premium.
But it represented a good afternoon’s work by West, who will go into the 2015 league programme looking to cement their place in the top half of the table by winning at Rochdale.
Coach Peter Robinson said: “It was a typical hard-fought derby and I thought a three tries to one margin was just about right.
“There were a lot of penalties in the game so it was very stop-start at times.
“Both sides gave it their all but we’re pleased to have come away with the win.”
The only black mark for West were the injuries to two of their most creative backs, a shoulder problem forcing Stuart Waites off inside six minutes while Zac Southern hobbled off on the hour.
Physio Michael Geritz will be busy over the coming week getting the full-back and stand-off ready for Saturday’s fifth v seventh showdown in Lancashire.
West should head across the Pennines in good heart.
They had the edge at Brinkburn, making use of their superior forward power in the first half while their physical strength was evident in defence where they offered Rovers few sights of the home line.
Rovers almost made the dream start when David Grand – one of seven players on show to have played for both clubs – made a fourth-minute interception to take off up the right wing.
But with the West cover closing in, the winger slipped in the home 22 and the green line remained intact.
However, Rovers did go in front in the sixth minute, Daz Fawcett slotting over a simple penalty in front of the impressive new clubhouse.
The lead lasted barely 120 seconds.
West’s forward won possession down the right and pushed Rovers deep in their 22, where Southern made a half-break and played a neat inside pass to Chris Atkins who sauntered over unimpeded next to the posts.
Southern converted to make it 7-3.
West extended their advantage to 14-3 five minutes from the break.
Rovers were penalised three times and on each occasion, skipper Dan Boatman chose a scrum rather than a simple three points given the problems they were causing the away pack in this particular set-piece.
With Rovers down to seven men in their pack after a yellow card for Anth Hanley, West always looked favourites to score,
And it came from a penalty try, Mr Jenkins ruling Rovers illegally stopped Sam Miller from touching down. Southern again converted and West were firmly in charge.
Rovers were unlucky moments later as they returned to the attack, Mr Jenkins blowing his whistle to award an away penalty just as Grand had a one-against-one chase for a touchdown after a Fawcett kick-ahead.
But while the Durham Northumberland One team could curse the intervention of the referee – when advantage should have been played – they had only themselves to blame for running a penalty when they had a certain three points on offer.
Instead of being only 14-6 behind at the interval, they instead started the second period 11 points down.
Their interval substitutions seemed to improve them, the arrival of number eight Stewart Grazier and youth product Josh Bragman, now of the Natal Sharks U19 team, at stand-off giving the side some much-needed forward impetus.
Bragman made a smart kick to the right for Grand only to be denied by some excellent defensive work by Luke Mallinson, while Grazier was bundled into touch 15 metres out following a sharp break by Lee Maddison.
At the other end, Miller threatened to go clear before being hauled down by a try-saving Steven Barnfield tackle.
But West sealed the deal 14 minutes from time when the forwards again set up a good position and stand-in number 10 Peter Youll’s long pass to the left found Mallinson in acres of space.
The 24-year-old had almost broken clear in injury time at the end of the first half only to be hauled down by the away defence.
But, this time, there was no-one within 10 yards of him when he received from Youll and scampered over down the left.
Rovers heads could have dropped at this stage but they fought out the remaining minutes with some spirit.
Sub Michael Tucker was upset not to be awarded a try after a big pack drive but the forwards, who performed much better in the second period, did get their reward.
The Rovers eight pushed West back over their own line a minute from the end of normal time with sub Michael Foster getting the touchdown. Bragman converted.
It was a deserved score for the visitors but West took the honours for the seventh time on the spin.
West: Waites, Jamieson, Butcher, Youll, Mallinson, Southern, Painter, Wood, Rollins, Coates, Corbett, Atkins Boatman, Bailey, Miller.
Subs used: Johnson, Edwards, Barker, Angus, Rafferty, Hogan, Baggs, Quinn
Tries: Atkins 9, Penalty try 35, Mallinson 66. Cons: Southern 9, 35.
Penalties awarded 14, kicked 0, missed 0; scrums won 9; lineouts won 11
Rovers: Harrison, Grand, Gunn, Coulson, A Smith, Fawcett, S Barnfield, A Flounders, Maguire, Little, Hanley, Langley, Church, Maddison, Wilson.
Subs used: Bragman, Grazier, Tucker, Baxter, Foster, I Flounders, Pelser
Try: Foster 79. Con: Bragman 79
Pen: Fawcett 6
Penalties awarded 14, kicked 1, missed 1; scrums won 7, line-outs won 7
Referee: Tony Jenkins (Durham)
Sin-bin: Hanley 35, Atkins 67