West Hartlepool secure promotion back to North One East in dramatic fashion
A dramatic last-minute penalty from player-coach Stu Waites secured promotion back to North One East for West after an enthralling contest with Yorkshire One runners-up Heath.
Having missed out on automatic promotion - after twice losing to eventual champions Durham City with the last kick of the game - it was the home side’s turn for a last-gasp win, and when
Waites kick slid through the posts it triggered wild celebrations in front of a big crowd at Brinkburn.
Trailing 11-23 early in the second half having already lost three players to injury it looked a long way back for West, but they stuck to their task against a much bigger side and were rewarded at the end.
West Director of Rugby Graeme Southern said: “It was a tremendous game and credit to both sides.
“We suffered some early injuries but got back into our stride and it was a really gutsy performance which kept us in the game.
“When we got our chance Stu Waites took it. It was by no means an easy kick but he nailed it and now we can look forward to a season back in North One where our young players will
continue to develop.”
Early eagerness in defence from the home team had led to a series of offside penalties and Heath inside-centre Ezra Hinchcliffe slotted one to give his side the lead after just four minutes.
West bounced back well to attack in the left corner and a reversed decision against the visitors would prove costly as when patient attack moved to the right Will Hilditch went over from
Two more penalties from Hinchcliffe followed and Scott Butcher was shown a yellow card as referee Michael Ince continued to establish the offside line.
Already under pressure West started to suffer injuries with Jay Corbett the first to leave the field after a heavy collision making a tackle. John Bunter came into the second row with Chris
Atkins shifting to number 8.
A matter of minutes later prop Adam Brown was also forced from the field with Michael Hogan replacing him in the front row.
The home ball-carriers in the forwards had enjoyed some success in getting across the gain-line but the backs were not having such a successful afternoon.
Things got worse on the half hour when Peter Youll couldn’t take a pass and Heath fly-half Dan Cole reacted fastest - breaking up field before exchanging passes and running in under the
The injuries kept on coming with influential Davy Heckles the next to go down, Luke Mallinson coming on for him and Will Hilditch moving inside to his early season position at centre.
Desperate for some points before the break West got back on the front foot after a no-arms tackle on Youll saw Matt Beasty yellow-carded and a series of penalties followed as Heath
repeatedly slowed the ball down at the breakdown.
Waites pulled three points back with a penalty and then, with another penalty advantage awarded, added a drop-goal with the last action of the half.
Those crucial points had Westback within a score but Heath came out the better of the teams after half-time and dangerous winger Callum Harriet-Brown finished strongly after a well-
Roared on by a large visiting support, Heath now looked like running away with the game. Crucially West kept them without further points and when their time came to attack the ball was
worked almost the length of the field into the 22.
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Another breakdown penalty allowed Waites to pull a further three points back and brought a final warning from referee Ince for slowing the ball down close to the line.
A nice run up the right wing from Luke Mallinson set up another good position in the 22 with a little over 10 minutes to play and another infringement saw Heath full-back Eddie Cartwright
shown the yellow card.
Knowing a try was now essential, West opted for a scrum and a superb effort against a much bigger pack set the platform from Chris Atkins to pick up and power over. Waites conversion
closed the gap to two points with six minutes of normal time to play.
Heath responded well but a superb turnover from Scott Butcher metres from his line kept West in the game.
A long kick to touch from a penalty in their own half seemed to provide one last chance but Heath held up the maul and it looked like our opportunity had slipped away. From the resulting
scrum the visitors set about running the clock down with the pick and go but West managed to rip the ball away and win possession back.
The award of the final penalty, knowing time had almost expired, gave Waites a massive decision. The kick was far from easy, 15 metres in from the left touchline with the season riding on
He opted for the kick and, while not the prettiest, it crept inside the right post.
The touch judge flags were raised and the final whistle was blown starting massive celebrations.
West: ZAC Southern, Will Hilditch, Davy Heckles, Peter Youll, Max Tennant, Stu Waites, Matt Siddle, Adam Coates, Andrew Rollins, Adam Brown, Chris Atkins, Jake Linighan, Alex Barker,
Scott Butcher, Jay Corbett.
Reps (all used): John Bunter, Isaac Robinson, Luke Mallinson, Michael Hogan
Tries: Hilditch, Atkins
Con: Waites. Pens: Waites 3. DG: Waites. YC: Butcher
Heath: Eddie Cartwright, Chris Robinson, Issy Spooner, Ezra Hinchcliffe, Callum Harriet-Brown, Dan Cole, Michael Reynolds, Dave Skinner, Alex McFadden, Chris Moore, Matt Beasty,
Alex Patrick, Jon Cole, Jason Merrie, Richard Brown.
Reps( all used): Jack Crabtree, Jordan Moana, Fergus Marsden, Chris Piper
Tries: Cole, Harriet-Brown
Cons: Hinchcliffe 2
Pens: Hinchcliffe 3
YC: Beasty, Cartwright
Referee: Michael Ince [Manchester]