Another bonus point win keeps West Hartlepool’s 100 per cent start to the season going and on top of the table after four games after beating Northern 37-20.
Having been forced into four changes from last week’s winning team this was another impressive performance, despite conceding the first tries of the season, two particularly soft ones coming in injury time at the end of the game.
It only soured very slightly what had been a very comfortable afternoon for the first hour with Northern not threatening much by way of attack.
Stu Waites had an early shot at goal from long range which fell short but Owen Bennett opened the scoring after just five minutes, finishing off a rolling maul from a close line-out.
West then scored from the same position when Ryan Painter drove in.
The ball was chipped through and the covering defender was forced to touch down and concede a five-metre scrum. From that position the forwards made several surges for the line before Painter snuck under the visiting defensive line.
Skipper for the day Waites was on target with a penalty before Northern stand-off Ben Crossley blazed wide with a relatively easy penalty.
With the half-time break looming, Zac Southern got try number three, finishing off a move started with a great break and offload from Chris Atkins before Waites’ sweetly-timed pass sent full-back Southern in at the left corner.
It wasn’t to be the last scoring action of the half though as Northern mounted a good attack and a half-break from prop Sam Wilson was well supported by second-row Jamie Powell who had enough strength to hold off the last-ditch tackle and get across the line.
West started the second half quickly and got the bonus point try after just two minutes, Waites capping off a busy afternoon with a try in the corner.
Northern bounced back again with a rolling maul try to cut the deficit back to 15 points but West wrapped up the game with two tries in four minutes just before the hour mark.
Greg Edwards had a typically solid afternoon stepping in at centre and his efforts were rewarded with a scrambling finish after a bouncing pass had caused the Northern defence to stutter.
Andrew Rollins then got the pick of the tries, finishing off a sweeping team move with a try under the posts, although there was a hint of a forward pass as he received the ball in the 22.
Waites’ conversion for a 37-10 lead seemed to wrap up the game as a contest but as referee Carl Hall found five minutes of injury time Northern came to life and secured themselves a four-try bonus point to take back up the A19.
First, an attacking West scrum was turned into a try for the visitors as scrum-half Ali Gray ripped the ball from Sam Miller and raced 70 metres to finish off in the left corner.
Then, almost from the re-start, skipper Alex Clark went on a mazy run, evading defenders on all sides to score Northern’s fourth try.
Head coach Iain Dixon said: “ It was a shame we went to sleep in injury time to allow those two tries from Northern.
“But it doesn’t disguise the fact this was a very good performance from a team missing five of the players who featured in last week’s win at Guisborough.
“All of the young lads who came in did a great job and there were excellent performances from some of the more regular players including Owen Bennett and Liam Bailey who both worked their socks off.
“Once we had the bonus point in the bag we eased up a little, but in some respects it is good to finally concede some tries as it may have become a monkey on our backs.
“We are still top of the league and have a very good points difference so things are set up very nicely for the trip to Morley who are also unbeaten.”
West: Zac Southern, Lewis Wilson, Stu Waites, Greg Edwards, Joe Willis, Gavin Painter, Ryan Painter, Adam Coates, Andrew Rollins, Ross Wood, Owen Bennett, Michael Hogan, Liam Bailey, Chris Atkins, Sam Miller.
Subs used: Tom Shaw, Jack Angus, Jonny Heal
Tries: Bennett, R Painter, Southern, Waites, Edwards, Rollins. Cons: Waites 2. Pen: Waites
Northern: Jimmy Crowther, Lester Bell, Alex Clark (capt), Paddy Harper, Dom Fawcett, Ben Crossley, Ali Gray, Sam Wilson, Ben Smallwood, Damian Martinez, Dave Snodin,. Jamie Powell, Rob Kinnell, James Nicoll, Tom Schofield. Subs used: Matt Hirst, Donal Collins, Hershall Ward.
Tries: Powell, Fawcett, Gray, Clark
Referee: Carl Hall (Durham)