YMCA failed capitalise on a blistering first 15 minutes of rugby and a 14-0 lead and finished up hanging on for a 21-15 victory over West Hartlepool in North I East at a cold and wet Laund Hill.
It all started so well with the home side looking sharp and willing to throw the ball about, although they squandered some chances through a lack of concentration.
After 12 minutes of YM pressure they got their first points courtesy of Adam Ryder, who was on the end of a neat pass to cruise over for the try and Gavin Stead made no mistake in adding the extras.
Within three minutes the YM were on the board again, this time through Lloyd Bentley. Excellent work up the right hand touchline by Tom Sharrock was followed by the ball being thrown out and Bentley found himself as the extra man, rounding the cover tackler to give Stead the easiest of conversions (14-0).
YM should have added to their tally, Stead failing to find Bentley with the final pass, and Hartlepool dug deep, hitting back with a Waites penalty.
Josh Lumb was sin-binned for an infringement at the ruck and the visitors took full advantage, pressing in attack until their forwards managed a concerted drive over the YM line, allowing second row Michael Hogan to claim a try. Waites was off target with the conversion, so it was 14-8 at half time.
From the restart, Hartlepool picked up where they had left off and were unlucky not to add extra points when a penalty, awarded for offside, bounced off an upright and back into play.
Unfortunately the YM didn’t clear very well and the visitors again managed to break the YM defence for another try out wide. Waites made no mistake this time and suddenly, from looking promising at the start of the game, the home side knew they had a match on their hands as they trailed by a point.
The Hartlepool forwards were holding the ball up well and although YM tried to play the game their way, the foul weather conditions were not favouring them with numerous missed passes, dropped balls and basic errors.
The visitors were scenting a victory and had the home side on the rack at times, but by now the solid YM defence was at least functioning and, try as they might, like numerous other teams this season, Hartlepool couldn’t breach the wall of tacklers.
The home side had their moments and ran lots of ball into opposition territory, however they couldn’t find a way through until a sublime cross-field kick by Ed Barber found Bentley scorching up the wing.
He took the catch beautifully, without breaking stride, and stormed over for an impressive score. Stead kept his nerve and added the extras, but after that it was nip and tuck all the way.
At the final whistle the YM had done enough to win the game but certainly won’t regard it as one of their better performances. The win leaves them in clear water and it looks a certainty that they will be in the play-off position when the season comes to an end.
One thing is for sure, if the potential play-off opposition had sent someone to watch the YM on a spying mission they would have gone away scratching their heads, not having learned much at all.
YMCA: Johnson, Stead, Barber, Ryder, Bentley, Wood, Wilson, Wrafter, Hill, Dyke (Steve), Bell, Robertson, Sharrock, Hodge, Whitehead. Interchange players: Lumb, Slater, Dyke (Stuart).
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