WEST Hartlepool reached the mid-season league break in the top half of the table after a hard-fought try-less home victory over Dinnington.
The success – revenge for a 13-0 defeat in South Yorkshire in September – was built on a tremendous defensive display in another low-scoring battle with Dinnington.
Three penalties from the boot of Zac Southern was enough to secure the victory and finish league action for 2014 on a winning note.
It was real backs-to-the-wall stuff for large parts of the game with Dinnington’s big forward runners pounding away at the green, white and red defensive line.
But West kept tackling, scrapping and making the visitors work for every metre and on a day when there were few opportunities to score tries it proved to be the key to the game.
Kick-off was delayed 10 minutes after some of the Dinnington squad were held up travelling north and for West, Adam Coates suffered an injury in the warm-up so Ross Wood stepped in to the front-row.
Southern hit the post with an early penalty but succeeded with two further attempts in the first-half to send the hosts in to the break with a 6-0 lead.
The first came on 18 minutes after the visitors were penalised for going off their feet to secure the ball and the second on 29 minutes when attacking ball was slowed by players not rolling away.
Dinnington had enjoyed the edge in the set-pieces but despite being under pressure, West held up well and frustrated the Tykes pack by thwarting several rolling mauls close to the line and forcing errors in the backline when the ball was moved wide.
The first 20 minutes of the second half was spent almost exclusively in the home 22. With the number of tackles made in the first half it would have been easy for fatigue to set in and the pressure to tell but West refused to crack and further frustrated the visitors. The crucial moment came when, having been held up over the line, a five-metre scrum advanced towards the line in what looked like a certain try only for number eight Will Marshall to lose control of the ball, allowing West to hack clear.
Some wild passing didn’t help ease the pressure West had been under but still the defence didn’t tire and Iain Dixon and Peter Robinson’s team were finally rewarded on 74 minutes when, on a rare surge into the Dinnington 22 after a chip and chase from Stu Waites, earned another penalty and Southern duly slotted it through the posts.
Dinnington responded almost from the kick-off, bringing them a penalty which, after some debate, they kicked through the posts to bring them back within a score and into losing bonus point territory.
With a little under five minutes to play Dinnington started attacking from deep but the home defence again pressured and harassed them into mistakes and despite Southern missing another penalty attempt two minutes from time, West held on for an exceptionally hard-fought victory.
Dixon said: “It was a tremendous performance where every single player did his bit when it mattered.
“Our defence was outstanding and we just kept knocking their big forwards back.
“Liam Bailey was outstanding on his first start in the back row and the others weren’t far behind.
“We can now enjoy our Christmas and hopefully continue our improvement in the new year, and continue to develop what is basically a very young team.”
West: Waites, Jamieson, Butcher, Youll, Mallinson, Southern, Painter, Pinchen, Rollins, Wood, Rafferty, Atkins (Corbett), Bailey, Boatman, Miller.
Pens: Southern 3
Dinnington: T Stimpson, Kohika, Rodgers, Doughty, Thompson, Farris, Reynolds, Bunting, J Marshall, Woodcock, Hopkinson, Dudley, J Stimpson, Donnelly, W Marshall.
Referee: Paul Candlish (Durham)