West Hartlepool must catch out Cleckheaton in rugby’s match of the day

IN A LEAGUE OF HIS OWEN: West forward Owen Bennett
IN A LEAGUE OF HIS OWEN: West forward Owen Bennett

WEST Hartlepool must put the brakes on Cleckheaton’s catch and drive in the top of the table clash.

Second-placed West visit Cleckheaton, who are third, in North One East’s match of the day (kick-off 3pm).

The hosts are one of two sides in the the table with 100 per cent records though they were denied a chance of going top last week after their match at Wheatley Hills was abandoned after the referee was injured.

Both West and Clecky are level on 24 points thanks to five wins and four bonus points.

Iain Dixon and Peter Robinson’s side edge them for second spot on points difference – 101 compared to Clecky’s 99.

It’s too early in the season to be talking of this game in terms of a promotion but West are keen on making a statement.

Director of rugby Kevan Oliphant said: “The lads are very upbeat.

“I think everyone feels they let themselves down on the last away game at Rochdale and want to go to Cleckheaton and prove they can win on the road.

“There’s still a long way to go but it’s one where we really want to go and win.

“Cleckheaton are up there at the top and are going very well.

“They seem to rely heavily on the pack – the catch and drive appears to be their main weapon, a lot of their points come from that.

“But we worked on that last night at training.

“We had 35 players out for the session – two full packs and two full backlines and more.

“It was great to be able to practice defending catch and drives so hopefully we are ready for it.”

Cleckheaton will no doubt look to kick deep and force West to concede line-outs in their own 22 and also hope to win penalties which they can kick to the corners.

It means the West back three of Colin Cheslin, Greg Edwards and Peter Youll need to be at their best in terms of communication and make their clearances count.

And West must also try to avoid conceding penalties in their own half.

Oliphant said: “We must be disciplined, but it’s something which is so much better than it was say a year ago.

“What we must do though is if we are struggling with a referee and any of his decisions we must learn to adapt to him and his interpretations.”

West are boosted by the return of two of their key players in the backs.

Stuart Waites, who sat out last week’s 29-0 shut-out victory over Driffield resumes at stand-off with David Tighe stepping down.

And Colin Cheslin returns at full-back which means Luke Mallinson moves to the bench.

Up front, Ian Pinchen is at a wedding but West are able to call upon Ross Wood, who starts in the front row alongside Andrew Rollins and Adam Coates.

Oliphant had words of praise for lock Owen Bennett for his contribution to the West cause since his summer move from Horden.

“He’s a tough lad but also a calming influence on what is quite a young pack,” he said.

“Owen is what I’d describe as an old-style player, who just gets on with the job and puts the graft in.

“Him joining us has been a real bonus.”

West: C Cheslin, G Edwards, A Cheslin, L Bailey, P Youll, S Waites, R Painter, R Wood, A Rollins, A Coates, M Hogan, O Bennett, D Boatman (capt), Boatman, S Miller. Subs: A Dixon, A Turner, L Mallinson