Westoe slip to wiley West Hartlepool
Entertaining encounter by two strong sides
South Shields Westoe welcomed new league members West Hartlepool to Wood Terrace on Saturday. With both sides winning comfortably last week it was destined to be a close fought match.
The teams traded attacks from the off with dangerous runs from Westoe’s Jake Arnold and Pool’s Peter Youll, both stopped short by solid defences.
With the scrum being a close affair, Westoe turned to their driving maul and forward efforts, to edge their way slowly up the Westoe slope. A fifteen metre drive was collapsed close to the line and quick ball sent left along the line and then spun the other way to winger Paul Evans who touched down for the first score on ten minutes. 5-0
Westoe retained the majority of possession, but struggled to make much headway as the visitors tackled well and continuously slowed down ball at the ruck.
Reverting to the kicking game to gain ground, Westoe fielded some poor efforts allowing Pool to kick long and chase down the ball, finding Arnold isolated at the back and with no support. Pool stole the ball and Rafferty crossed to equalise the score on nineteen minutes. 5-5
With Westoe attacking again, Pool pounced on a loose pass, kicking through and chasing down a bobbling ball. Another grubber kick caught Jamie Preston off guard and Pool’s Peacock touched down for an easy score, taking the lead after 25 minutes. 5-12
Westoe fought back immediately with strong carries from John Younghusband and Raymie Elliott, working their way up-field. A dynamite burst from Derek Worthington split the visitors’ defence passing to Evans on the supporting run. Taking the final defenders, Evans offloaded to Sam Gaff who crossed to tie the score with ten to play in the half. 12-12
The half ended with Westoe defending the line, Sam Gaff receiving a yellow card for offside at the ruck.
Pool’s third try came after yet another silly mistake from Westoe. Poorly fielded ball was stolen and Pool’s Peacock sprinted 80m up the slope to with a couple of feet of the line. The ensuing scrum setting up Pool for an easy run-in with simple ball transfer along the line for Youll to score. 12-17
Within minutes Pool increased their lead after a solid defensive shift managed to strip the ball, with centre, Hilditch taking a great inside line to score close to the posts. 12-24
With a quarter of the match left to play, Westoe kept the game alive with John Younghusband taking clean line-out ball, the pack drove over the line for Martin Bengston to cross. 19-24
The final quarter was a frustrating time for Westoe, as attack after attack were either snubbed out by great defensive work or broke down by a barrage of players killing any quick ball on offer.
Westoe crossed the line on four occasions, only to have the ball held up by a determined defence. Pool were penalised on eleven occasions in the last quarter, also receiving two yellow cards, the second of which bizarrely helped their cause. Stating they had no available front-row, meant that scrums went uncontested, nullifying Westoe’s ascendancy in this area and allowing Pool to quickly line up in defence.
Pool showed some huge defensive prowess and more than a little guile and gamesmanship in keeping a rampant Westoe from touching down. On one occasion they committed four penalties in less than five minutes within the red zone and were extremely lucky not to receive further cards.
With Westoe passing up over half a dozen kickable penalties in favour of pushing for the try, they may look back at this match as one they should have taken. With the score within two penalty kicks for twenty minutes of the game, the sensible option would have been to take the points on offer, as Pool’s defence became stronger with every attack deflected.
Despite generally defending well, Westoe were punished for the second week by silly mistakes, leading to turnover ball, which they were slow to react to, allowing the opposition to capitalise.
On a positive note, Westoe looked dangerous in attack and will be in contention for the top spots again this season. Against a powerful opposition, they gradually gained ascendancy in the scrum and looked treacherous in their driving play.
Winning both territory and possession, they need only to stick to the simple stuff, cut out the loose passes and kicks, and speedily react to turnover ball.
Pool showed their experience throughout the second half, closing down the game; made easy by Westoe not taking the points available. Several times the ball was intentionally killed knowing that Westoe would reset and start again, eating down the clock and believing in a powerful goal-line defence.
Westoe travel away to Stockton next Saturday when they will need to put in a convincing performance to get back on track in the promotion race.