West Hartlepool get stuck in Morpeth mud

For the first time this season, West failed to earn even a single bonus point as a depleted side lost 22-6 a muddy Morpeth.

A side already missing a handful of regulars suffered another blow when flanker Liam Bailey had to pull out before the game with a knee injury he received in training - John Bunter having to travel from second team duty at Westoe to join the squad.

Against a team unbeaten at home it was always going to be a tough task for the Brinkburn side. They stuck at their task with the hosts scoring the only try of the game, and maintaining a healthy lead through some excellent goal kicking from full back Alex Ball who scored 19 of his side’s 22 points.

West gave a senior debut to Connor McLurg in Bailey’s place and he went on to be one of the better performers.

Head Coach Iain Dixon said: “Connor did us proud and he is a real prospect as is CeeJay Beales who came on as full back in the second half.

“We also had some hard work from Andrew Rollins and Owen Bennett. Unfortunately, we didn’t play the way we had planned, and even though the conditions were pretty poor we still dropped too many balls and in many ways made it too easy for Morpeth.”

Heavy rain meant the game has to be switched to Morpeth’s alternative pitch in the shadow of the town’s former monastery .

For much of the game the interesting skyline of the relic proved more interesting than the game down below. Both sides struggling to put phases together.

Morpeth went into an early lead through a penalty from Ball before West enjoyed their best spell of the game.

Scott Butcher got a rare sight of the ball and broke through in midfield afetyr he wa sent away by Peter Youll but he was penalized for not releasing a the West forwards piled in to supporty in the home 22.

Opposite winger Joe Willis had the next run with Owen Bennett popping up kin the back line. The youngster was sents racing away only to be tackled ten metres out.

Gavin Painter pulled West level as the continued pressure produced a 25 metre penalty,and he gave Wrest the lead, for the first and only time, with a well executed drop goal on the half hour.

That score came after Youll was unlucky to find himself in the sin bin for a late tackle in midfield.

It looked like West would be able to maintain the lead as his sentence ticked away, but a bit of enterprise on their own 22 was to cost them.

Danny Boatman, playing at No 8 in the absence of Sam Miller, flicked a pass back through his legs as the West pack went backwards.

The ball wasn’t good enough for Ryan Painter to collect. Morpeth swarmed on the loose ball with fly half Karl Birch spotting a gap behind the defense to send in a grubber kick.

Ryan Painter almost got there, but full back Ball had the momentum and he touched down and then produced an excellent conversion from close to the touchline.

He was on the mark again with a penalty before Gavin Painter was just inches wide with his own attempt right on the break.

West were tarilingby just one score but had Ryan Pinter, the head bandaged Danny Boatman and Chris Atkins noticeably struggling with first half knocks.

John Bunter came on for Atkins early in the second half and his presence continued to ensure good line-out ball.

However, both sides struggled to create any try scoring chances as the game was largely played between the 22s.

The hosts had the best chance after 50 minutes when winger Andy Gayner did touch down but youthful Scottish referee Ross Mabon brought play back for a forward pass. Instead it was left to full back Ball to keep nudging his side further ahead.

He had to wait until the 68th minute for his next opportunity, which was helped by West bemoaning a penalty decisions and being marched back ten metres .

Ball made no mistake with that effort and another five minutes later put his side 19-6 ahead.

West had brought on speedster Beales at full back and he had a couple of good runs, while at the opposite end of the experience scale Anth Carr came off the bench into the front wo and produced one or gwo cameo moments.

Unfortunately for West they couldn’t produce any try scoring attempts , which might have earned them their usual bonus point.

Instead it was fly half Karl Burch who sealed the home side’s win with a neat drop goal to complete the scoring.

Morpeth :Alex Ball, Andy Gayner, Ben Hornby, Will Thornton, Ben Turner, Karl Birch, Jack Elliott, Liam Carmichael, Car Hill (captain), Tony Moody, James Armstrong, Simon Michie, Micky Craigs, David Calder, Tim Michie. Replacements (all used:) Karl Campbell, Matt Dawson, Ryan Moon

Tries: Ball. Conversions Ball. Penalties :Ball (4)

Drop goal: Birch.

West: Luke Mallinson, Joe Willis, Greg Edwards, Peter |Youlll, Scott Butcher, Gavin Painter, Ryan Painter, Michael Hogan, Andrew Rollins, Ross Wood, Owen Bennett, Joe Rafferty, Connor McLurg, Chris Atkins, Dan Boatman (captain).

Replacements (all used): CeeJay Beales, Anth Carr, John Bunter. Penalty: G Painter

Drop goal: G Painter Yellow card: Youll

Referee: Ross Mabon ( Scottish Referees)