West Hartlepool ran in seven tries in a comfortable 43-15 victory over Dinnington, the bonus-point win meaning the home side are assured of finishing above their South Yorkshire visitors in North One East with only one game left to play.
This win also means they have secured at least fourth spot and still have an outside chance of stealing third place from Alnwick in the final round of games next week.
We played very well in patches and could really have had more tries.
The Northumbrians travel to runaway league champions Doncaster Phoenix for a championship celebration whilst West host already-relegated Beverley at Brinkburn.
They will need the full five points, hoping Alnwick gain none, and will also need an 86-point swing across the two fixtures - unlikely maybe, but certainly not impossible.
The game had to be moved to West’s second team pitch adjacent to the usual first team pitch on Catcote Road after heavy overnight and morning rain had left the ground unusually wet underfoot.
The game kicked off in bright sunshine though and conditions were pretty much perfect aside from a stiff breeze into the faces of the hosts in the first half.
After a blistering start, West were on the board after a couple of minutes. Several surging carries marched them into the visitor’s 22 and Ryan Painter wriggled over for the try.
Dinnington battled back from the early setback and converted the second of two penalty attempts, fly-half Chris Williams slotting from distance on 18 minutes after West were penalised for not rolling away.
Despite having the upper hand in the forwards, especially in the scrum, West struggled to carve out any clear scoring chances for most of the first half with some loose passing at crucial times proving costly.
They eventually stretched the lead on the half hour with two tries in two minutes.
It was Ryan Painter again to the fore, breaking away from a ruck just inside the Dinnington half for a superb solo score.
He was involved again in the second - his kick over the top being allowed to bounce by the visiting defence and Gav Painter collected to feed Dan Boatman who in turn released Luke Mallinson for a simple run-in. Painter converted for a 17-3 lead.
Dinnington answered with an unconverted try from lively full-back Robert Leivars but West secured the bonus point before half time when Jay Corbett crashed over 2 minutes into first half injury time. Painter again added the extras.
As in the first, West started the second half quickly with replacement Connor McLurg, on for the injured Sam Miller early in the game, finishing off from close range after a driving maul.
It seemed as if it may open the floodgates but a combination of Dinnington retaining possession well and regular penalties frustrated the hosts until the closing stages.
Dinnington replacement Jayden Kohika pulled them another try back on 63 minutes after a lovely offload from skipper Ryan Donnelly but a yellow card for flanker Jamie Shaw finished off any hopes of a miraculous comeback.
Having already dominated the scrum throughout the game West took full advantage with two pushover tries in the last four minutes, Dan Boatman finishing off both and Painter converting.
Iain Dixon said: “We played very well in patches and could really have had more tries.
“We lost Sam Miller very early in the game but Connor McLurg came off the bench and had a great game and he fully deserved his try.
“Ryan Painter also enjoyed himself specially in the first half where his strong running caused Dinnington all kinds of problems.”
West: Fewster, Willis, Edwards, Youll, Mallinson, G Painter, R Painter, Hogan, Rollins, Coates, Atkins, Bunter, Corbett, Boatman (capt), Miler.
Reps: Angus, McLurg, Southern.
Tries: R Painter 2, Mallinson, Corbett, McLurg, Boatman 2. Cons: 4
YC: R Painter
Dinnington: Leivars, Humphries, Brown, Rodgers, Trueman, Williams, C Differ, Ufton, J Differ, Ross, Wood, Leitch, Shaw, Kohika-Skipper, Donnelly (capt).
Reps: Meese, Marsden, Kohika. Tries: Leivars, Kohika. Con: Williams
Pen: Williams, YC: Shaw
Referee: Barrett Aldwinckle