The threat of relegation looms large for West Hartlepool in North One East as they suffered a heavy 48-12 defeat at home to promotion-chasing Alnwick.
The hosts will be thoroughly disappointed with their performance in a game they had to win to stay out of the bottom three as fellow strugglers Dinnington and Northern were playing each other (Northern winning 28-22).
Usually so competitive at home, West were well beaten, a fact reflected on the scoreboard as this was their heaviest defeat at Brinkburn all season.
To make matters worse, they lost skipper Ryan Painter to a serious injury that will keep him out for what remains of the season. If they are to survive in North One East they will have to find some form on the road, where they are they yet to win a game, as only one of their remaining five fixtures are at their Catcote Road base.
Lots of overnight rain left the going heavy and a late change in the West starting line-up saw Matt Siddle come in on the wing for Rob Thorn.
The hosts started the game with a decent spell of possession although it was all inside their own half and when Alnwick did get on the attack they looked more threatening. However a yellow card for full back Jack Smales brought the attack to an end and West cleared the danger.
With a man advantage, West were determined to get on the scoreboard and Adam Coates eventually crashed over after a long spell of pressure in the 22 with Gavin Painter converting.
The lead didn’t seem to do them much good though and their early tactics of retaining possession went out of the window in favour of some loose kicking. Scrum half Peter Moralee pulled a try back for the visitors when he spotted a gap at the side of a ruck and darted in from 20 metres.
Somehow West held on their our lead until the 32nd minute when Zac Southern’s chip and chase fell into a crowd of offside players and a quick tap from Moralee sent Callum Burn in for an easy score. James Warcup converted for a 12-7 lead.
With the scoreline still tight at the interval West could take encouragement from the fact they had been far from their best but had still stuck with the promotion contenders on the scoreboard. That encouragement wouldn’t last much longer than five minutes into the second half when a long range penalty from Painter drifted wide.
From that point on it was one-way traffic with the West defence unable to cope with the simple combination of accurate passing and pace from the Alnwick back division.
They ran in three more tries in 18 minutes to secure the bonus point before Alex Key pulled one back – just reward for following up what looked like a lost cause only for the ball to fall loose and the prop gratefully touch down.
Hopes of a late revival were short lived as another three tries in the final five minutes killed off any hopes of even a losing or four try bonus for the hosts.
Callum Burn completed his hat-trick and Moralee got his second with a break from a scrum on half way which pretty much summed up West’s afternoon – not a single defender touched him all the way to the line.
West: Zac Southern, Matt Tyers, Will Hilditch, Peter Youll, Matt Siddle, Gavin Painter, Ryan Painter (captain), Adam Coates, Andrew Rollins, Alex Key, John Bunter, Joe Rafferty, Alex Barker, Scott Butcher, Andrew Turner.
Tries: Coates, Key. Con: G Painter
Alnwick: Jack Smales, Johnny Burn, Callum Burn, Frank Hutchinson, Scott Atkinson, James Warcup, Peter Moralee, Duncan Smith, Lance Green, Colin Phillipps, Johnny Young, Matty Gray, Ben Courty, James Hamilton, Ben Gothorp.
Reps: Danny Clayton, Ali Blackett, Rob Cuthbert