West Hartlepool hit back after awful first half

Zac Southern dives over for a try for West
Zac Southern dives over for a try for West

West Hartlepool recovered from an awful first half display to score three second half tries and claim a crucial win in the battle at the top of North One East.

The victory, combined with defeat for Penrith, means West leapfrogged the Cumbrians back into second place, with Pocklington stretching their lead at the top to three points thanks to a bonus-point win over struggling Wheatley Hills.

If West want to hold onto second, or even improve on that position in the table, they will do well not to replicate the first 40 minutes of the game in any of the remaining eight matches.

West looked off the pace throughout with some wayward kicking allowing Park to dictate.

Their only highlight was a break up the touchline from Ryan Painter which was nicely followed up by Andrew Rollins, but the hooker held on after he was tackled just short of the line.

Park full-back Michael Grove kept the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors and his penalties spread throughout the half gave his side a 12-0 interval lead – nothing short of what they had deserved.

Whatever was said inside the huddle at half-time had the desired effect and West resumed with far more purpose.

Inside two minutes, West had their opening score with two half-time replacements playing a starring role.

Aaron Myers and Anth Carr had both been introduced at the break and were straight into the action with strong carries as West moved the ball well into the Park 22.

With a big overlap on the left, Gav Painter threw the ball wide and despite not reaching its intended target, Zac Southern had plenty of time to gather the loose ball and cross the line, Painter adding the conversion.

Three minutes later, Painter was converting again when, following more pressure in the Park 22, the visitors threw a loose pass of their own and Peter Youll collected for a simple run-in under the posts.

In a handful of second half minutes, West had turned around a 12-point deficit to lead 14-12 and in the process left the visitors shell-shocked.

Their resurgence was halted momentarily by a yellow card for Myers but while he was off the field West extended the lead with another gift of a try, this time Sam Miller the beneficiary.

Having kicked a lot of ball throughout the game, West finally had a bit of luck when a high kick was not dealt with just outside the 22 and Miller was on hand to pounce on the bouncing ball and score the third try, again converted by Painter.

With 15 minutes to play, it seemed as though the story would be whether West could go on a claim the fourth try bonus point but Park were to battle back and score the pick of the afternoon’s tries.

A scrum wide on the left gave the backs plenty of room to run in and they executed a perfect training ground move resulting in winger Toby Davison touching down.

Grove couldn’t keep up his perfect record from the first half and missed to the left with his conversion.

West continued to search for the fourth try as time ran out, even running the ball after the referee had called for the last play, but it wasn’t to be.

Iain Dixon said: “We had a really poor first half when the ball retention was terrible.

“However, We had the luxury of being able to bring on some experience at half-time with Aaron Myers and Anth Carr steadying the ship, and once We built up some phases, we got ourselves in front and we should really have scored more tries and got a bonus point.

“Aaron fell foul of the knee-high tackle interpretation and I’m sure that if he hadn’t had to leave the pitch for 10 minutes, we would have scored more tries.”

West: Southern, Tyers, Edwards, Edwards, Youll, Hilditch, G Painter, R Painter, Coates, Rollins, Wood, Bunter, Rafferty, C Miller, Boatman, S Miller.

Reps: Maddison, Carr, A MyersTries: Southern, Youll, S Miller

Cons: G Painter 3 Sin-bin A Myers

Percy Park: Grove, Davison, Danil, Pike, Chambers, Morse, Baldwin, Cook, Dubois, Birkett, Hedley, Saint, Lake, Wilson, Langlands.

Reps: Purdy, Caulfield, Fa’atau

Try: Davison

Pens: Grove 4

Sin-bin: Hedley

Referee: Lewis Harrison (Durham)