West Hartlepool pull off a big finish to beat Driffield

South Yorkshire rugby
South Yorkshire rugby

Trailing 32-19 going into the last 10 minutes of this game, few would have given lack-lustre West a hope of pulling this game out of the bag.

The home side had toiled all afternoon.

They had dropped balls, conceded turnovers and kicked the initiative back to Driffield for the first hour of the game - looking a pale shadow of the side which had secured five-point wins in the first two league games.

Fortunately, they did manage to put some phases together in the final quarter with the forwards sticking their ball up the proverbial jumper to score two converted tries to give them another five points by the narrowest of margins.

Head Coach Iain Dixon was very relived at the final whistle.

“We were poor for the first 65 minutes,” he said. “Nothing was going right and we were playing as individuals not as a team.

“But we did show character and we have to thank the pack for grinding their way back into the game and for scoring all five tries. They weren’t pretty but they got us a win which many in the crowd would think new scarcely deserves.

“If this had been the first game of the season I would be worried but we have played much better in the previous games and, at the end, if the day we have won all six games so far including warm-up and cup games.

“We do know, however, that we must work harder in training and take that out onto the pitch.”

West began brightly and should have scored in the first minute when a sharp attrack opened up gaps on the visiting line. Adam Coates charged for the line but, as a sign of things to come, couldn’t hold the pass and knocked on.

Driffield cleared their lines and didn’t look back for the rest of the half. They played simple rugby with good support play and kept the ball – something West struggled to do when they had their opportunities.

Fly-half Will Brigham got their first score with an easy penalty before dangerous scrum half Craig Gray went over after a dummy pass saw the West defence open up.

Brigham missed the conversion but was soon target with an other penalty on the half hour before the visitors got their second try.

Left wing Ben Dinsdale was the last man out wide as the home defence was spread and he had to easy job of touching down to give his side a 16-point lead.

West had shown little during the half but were handed a lifeline with the last play of the 40 minutes.

A penalty was kicked to the corner and Adam Coates was the man to finish the catch and drive with Gavin Painter adding a superb touchline conversion.

This was the perfect half time tonic and West came out firing on all guns at the restart.

Sadly Ryan Painter was tackled just as he passed to Sam Miller on the visiting 22 and the ball was too high for the West No 8 to take. However, winger Sam Furbank had no trouble in picking up, and he raced full 65 metres to score and to put a massive dent in West’s hopes of a fight-back.

Brigham added another penalty to make it 24-7 the Woldsmen before the West forwards went back to their best weapon on the day – the catch and drive. Coates was again the man to touch down but this time Painter couldn’t convert.

West were back within two scores of the visitors only to concede another kickable penalty to make the margin 15 points entering the final quarter.

Anything other than a Driffield win was looking out of the question, but West finally managed to put some phases together with winger Will Hillditch almost going over in the right corner. Driffield defended doggedly as the West forwards battered their line, but had no answer when the ball was moved left where Sam Miller had been biding his time.

The No 8 collected at speed ten metres out forcing his way through two tackles to touch down under the posts.

Driffield’s response was to get their fourth try. Once again it was scrum-half Gray causing problems as West paid the price for missed tackles on centre Alex Piercy.

He was stopped short of the line and as Driffield piled in Gray had the easy task of finishing. Brigham’s kick was wide but the 32-19 scoreline looked more than comfortable.

However, the West pack had other ideas. Back row Alex Barker had come on for the injured Lee Maddison early in the game, and sealed one of the finer performances for West with a try which was the home side’s fourth and the one which earned a bonus point.

Scrum half Ryan Painter made a break form a maul 15 metres out and, as he was tackled on the line, he managed to spin and offload to Barker who had the simplest task in diving over. Gavin Painter’s conversion brought the scores to 26-32 and with just one converted try needed West were finally firing on all guns.

A tiring Driffield lost Oliver Borman to the sin bin and West opted for the scrum from the penalty.

They drove for the line with Sam Miller picking up and stepping inside one tackler to dive in at the foot of the posts to set up the easiest of conversions.

For the first time in the game, West were ahead but with two minutes left there was time for more drama.

Driffield attacked up the left and forced several penalties in the home 22. With referee Aaron Fowler calling last play they decided they daren’t risk a missed attempt on goal so opted for line-outs.

West skipper Danny Boatman was judged to have pulled down jumped Oliver Cooper but Driffield skipper Paul Dervey rashly dived on his opposite number who was left writhing after a knee to the back.

The penalty was reversed and a mightily relieved West celebrated as the ball was kicked dead.

West: Luke Mallinson, Eldon Myers, Liam Checksfield, Peter Youll, Will Hilditch, Gavin Painter, Ryan Painter, Adam Coates, Andrew Rollins, Ross Wood, John Bunter, Jay Corbett, Lee Maddison, Dan Boatman (captain), Sam Miller.

Changes: Greg Edwards, Tim Blades, Alex Barker.

Tries: Coates (2), Miller (2), Barker.

Cons : G Painter (4)

Driffield: Ben Blacker, Sam Furbank, Gary Stephenson, Alex Piercy, Ben Dinsdale, Will Brigham, Craig Gray, Felix Nellen, Guy Brumfield, Paul Dervey (capt), Oliver Borman, Oliver Cooper, George Mewburn, Rob Mewburn, Will Burns

Changes: James Short, Kyle Turner, Henry Waterhouse.

Yellow: Borman.

Tries: Gray (2), Dinsdale, Furbank.

Pens Brigham (4).

Referee: Aaron Fowler, West Yorkshire.