Westoe slip to Second Defeat in Two Weeks
Home side's Boot makes the difference
South Shields Westoe travelled down the A19 to face Hartlepool Rovers on a dank, drizzly and bleak day. With six changes in the side and several more positional switches it was imperative that they gelled quickly and not allow their opponents to get any sort of foothold in the match.
Things didn’t start well when after only three minutes Rovers were awarded a penalty and kicked to touch, after Westoe played the ball from an offside position. They won scrappy ball and attacked close to the ruck finding a huge gap in the normally solid Westoe defence, hooker Tom Stead cutting back through the chasm, untouched, for a converted try. 7-0
Westoe came back strong and dominated in both territory and possession; however a passionate home side showed a determined defence and desire to hold out. In a similar vein to a previous encounter with West Hartlepool, Rovers were happy to kill any attack and accept the penalties, rather than allow Westoe to breach their line.
After several collapsed line-outs within feet of the line, Westoe crossed after 14 minutes when Chris Judson fed Raymie Elliott who powered through the trio of defenders awaiting him. Unconverted 7-5
The curse of the restart hit again, with Rovers attacking hard and after a few slick passes within a minute, Taz Pelser crossed under the posts for their second converted score of the day. 14-5
Westoe still looked to be in control, edging the scrums, dominant in the line-out and retaining the ball well. Despite this, their attack lacked the normal intensity, with players taking the ball flat and standing, giving Rovers easier targets in defence.
By this stage it was difficult to tell the two sides apart due to the clingy mud and the home side were adept at using this advantage to kill the ball at the ruck and break up any momentum the Westoe team generated.
Rovers received their first yellow of the day on 25 minutes, after persistent offending was eventually punished by the ref.
Following a now similar pattern, Westoe found themselves camped in Rovers’ twenty-two and drawing yet more penalties. A catch and drive to the corner was again collapsed just short, this time however, Martin Bengston broke free to score Westoe’s second. Unconverted, 14-10
This score spurred the home side into their best attacking period of the match, maintaining pressure and eventually finding the gap with a powerful run from second-row Joe Little after 47 minutes of the half for Rovers' best score of the day. 21-10
The second half continued in a similar manner to the first, with Westoe controlling the ball but making little headway against a focused home side. Conditions made things difficult and Westoe added to their worries by trying to force things, often breaking down their own moves due to lack of patience.
Twenty minutes in and Rovers found themselves in Westoe’s 22m for the first time of the half. The ball was transferred along the line for Armstrong to spot the gap and a well-placed kick found the Westoe defence napping, Barnfield sprinting through to ground the ball. 28-10
Westoe weren’t out at this stage and worked their way straight back into Rovers’ half. Rovers received a second yellow card for no arms in the tackle and Westoe turned up the intensity in attack.
With a penalty advantage, Raymie Elliott surged forward breaking tackles to find Derek Worthington, who took the ball close enough to the line for Joe McKenzie to finish the move and keep hopes high. Unconverted, 28-15
Westoe scored their fourth try with three minutes to play, a quick-tap spun wide to Paul Evans to score in the corner. Final score 28-20
Westoe will be upset at this loss as they maintained control of the ball throughout; however allowed Rovers three soft tries against the run of play. With four tries each the difference on the day was the goal-kicking prowess of Fawcett.
With a little more patience and concentration, Westoe would have come away with a very different result; however this highlights the level of competition within a close league.
Plaudits to Rovers who played the conditions well and despite only breaching Westoe’s twenty-two on four occasions, came away with four converted tries. The side showed great perseverance in defence and withstood a huge amount of pressure throughout the match.
Westoe have a home fixture next week against league leaders Northern and will need to return to their very best to ensure a win. They will take solace knowing that the side performs much better against quality opponents and hopefully we will be in for an open and exiting game.
Darlington Mowden Park cried off their arranged second team fixture.