West Hartlepool suffer disastrous defeat at Morpeth

Hartlepool Rovers in action in their big win against Gosforth.
Hartlepool Rovers in action in their big win against Gosforth.

Any ambitions West had of improving on last season’s third place took a massive blow at Mitford Road and now their number one aim must be to avoid the bottom three.

The resounding defeat put them just above the drop zone, fifth from bottom with unbeaten Penrith due to visit Brinkburn next week.

West went into the game missing a number of the stalwarts from last season through work commitments and injury, having to rejig the side as late as Saturday morning.

However, forwards coach Carl Miller said the performance was still unacceptable.

“Once again we had a complete new back row on the pitch, but those lads were among those who never gave up.

“We were naive, we made too many handling errors and bad decisions when we had the ball and we allowed the home pack to boss the game.

“It was extremely frustrating and we must learn the lessons from it.”

With playmaker Gavin Painter a late cry-off with a back injury, West moved winger Will Hilditch into the centre to partner Peter Youll.

Youngsters Ben Armstrong and Adam Peacock started on the wings following similar cry-offs from CeeJay Beales and Joe Willis.

West started strongly only for Morpeth to score with their first attack.

Ben Armstrong covered a kick down the right wing only to be judged to have held on with his knees as he collected on the West line. Morpeth opted to go for a line-out and had little trouble in driving hooker Carl Hill over the line to gain an early seven-point advantage.

Their pack dominated the scrum throughout so it was no surprise when they doubled their lead on 12 minutes. It came from another pushover, touched down by flanker Josh Williams and was followed by a try from centre James Phillips who brushed aside several tackles as he raced in from 15 metres.

At 21-0 with less than a quarter of the game gone, West needed some inspiration but could not force their way up the field.

Adam Brown was doing a valiant job as stand-in No 8 - having to pick up from the base of a scrum going backwards. However, West could not make any headway with the home backs quick to close down a visiting backline which had never played together as a unit before.

Morpeth earned their try bonus point just before the half hour with some strong running from their centres reulting in Alex Tait going over wide on the left - Fraser Boldy missing his shot at the posts for the first time.

West turned around 26-0 down and with Matt Siddle replacing Zac Southern at fly-half and with Craig Hadwen already on for Ross Wood in the front row.

However, the pattern remained the same with flanker Josh Williams reacting quicker then several defenders to pounce on a loose ball in the corner. He soon got his hat-track when he crashed over next to the posts.

Morpeth’s scoring spree ended on the hour with full back Jonny Ward cruising over in the corner to take the score to 43-0.

West continued to plug away and with Scott Butcher making several breaks they forced three penalties in the home 22 in an effort to gain a consolation score. Sadly, the attack once again floundered as West were penalized for hanging on.

Butcher continued to be the visitor’s main attacking force and he chased and caught his own kick up the left wing only to be tackled 10 metres short and having to receive lengthy treatment to an ankle injury to sum up his side’s afternoon.

Morpeth: Jonny Ward, Sam Hornby, Alex Tait, James Phillips, Liam Allen, Fraser Boldy, Jack Elliott, Ben Sandall, Carl Hill (capt), Anthony Moody, Steve Long, Karl Campbell, Ian Burnham, Josh Williams, Matt Dawson.

Replacements (all used): James Armstrong, Blake Robinson, Chase Evans.

Tries: Carl Hill, Jonny Ward, James Phillips, Alex Tait, Josh Williams (3)

Conversions: Fraser Boldy (4 )

West: Luke Mallinson, Ben Armstrong, Peter Youll, Paul Moss, Will Hilditch, Zac Southern, Ryan Painter (capt), Ross Wood, Andrew Rollins, Alex Key, Michael Hogan, Jake Linighan, John Bunter, Scott Butcher, Adam Brown.

Replacements (all used): Craig Hadwen, Adam Peacock, Kyle Jamieson.

Referee: Tony Manley (Northumberland)