Following the close defeat at Penrith last Saturday the Woldsmen had to again travel north, but this week to Brinkburn, the home of West Hartlepool RUFC. Driffield have not won there for at least six seasons but with more success in home matches at Kelleythorpe. Stuart Cooper knew the challenge : ‘must-win’ game to keep promotion aspirations alive. This season West have been struggling – normally promotion hopefuls, they were hovering above the relegation zone, but never the less dangerous opponents.
The side showed significant changes : captain Mewburn and Brumfield returned after illness and injury respectively. Furbank and Blenkinsop, who have both been playing well, were unavailable and were replaced by Dearing and Waterhouse. With Lawrence struggling with an injury, Robinson took over on the wing. The bench was taken up by George Mewburn, Ryan Murray and a welcome return to the colours for Paul Dervey.
From the kick-off, Driffield showed enterprise as Stephenson created room for Robinson down the right, and only good defence halted him. Within two minutes, Driffield went offside and from 45 metres West’s fly-half Painter converted. DRIFFIELD 0 – WEST HARTLEPOOL 3
Driffield were awarded a similar penalty shortly after. Dearing found touch but from the line-out Driffield’s driving maul was stopped short. In the early scrums, it was apparent Waterhouse was causing the opposition tight-head all sorts of problems, as their front row buckled under the pressure. This dominance continued for most of the half with Henry’s opponent regularly seeking sympathy from the referee.
West’s moved the ball right and they put in a grubber to the 22. Piercy did well to recover it and then made his customary 15 metres of ground. Driffield soon levelled the score when West came offside on their 22 and Dinsdale made the straightforward kick. DRIFFIELD 3 – WEST HARTLEPOOL 3
West got another shot at goal when Driffield went off their feet at a ruck but their kicker missed from 35 metres. A short while later, Dodds took a high ball superbly on his 22. He made ground to his 10 metre line and put Stephenson away down the right. As he chipped ahead he put a foot in touch bringing the promising move to an end. On 22 mins Driffield came off their feet again at a ruck. West’s kicker went for touch instead of opting for the kickable penalty, but their drive at the line-out was well defended by Driffield. West were exerting pressure, with Burns and Dinsdale bringing off great tackles. Driffield were well marshalled in defence by Rob Mewburn. West eventually got their reward when their flanker burrowed over from a ruck to get the try. The points were added. DRIFFIELD 3 – WEST HARTLEPOOL 10
As the game restarted Gray showed great hands when he chased a high ball and caught it from behind as it came over his shoulder. Douglas was having a good game, hungry for the ball and regularly breaking tackles. At a ruck near to West’s line, Gray first went close, followed by Dench, but it was captain Mewburn who eventually got over for a vital try. Dinsdale could not add the extras. DRIFFIELD 8 – WEST HARTLEPOOL 10
As half-time approached Driffield supporters were treated to 2 bone-shaking tackles in succession from Dench, as if to keep his own tackle count ticking over.
Half time – DRIFFIELD 8 – WEST HARTLEPOOL 10
Coach Cooper rang the changes with Dervey replacing Zavatti at prop, George Mewburn for the hard-working Cooper and Murray at 10 for Dearing. Young Henry Waterhouse got a lecture from the referee – either complimenting him on his scrummaging or passing on West’s concerns at his technique. Either way, Henry kept his views to himself.
The game resumed with West applying early pressure. Captain Mewburn was everywhere matching Dench tackle for tackle. Driffield upped the ante, Douglas drove through some West tackling and Driffield pressure led to a West infringement for failing to move away in the tackle. Dinsdale kicked the penalty. DRIFFIELD 11 – WEST HARTLEPOOL 10
Under pressure on his own 22, Stephenson made a good break, the ball was recycled and Murray put in a useful grubber for the movement to steal 60 metres from West’s attack. What had been noticeable for Driffield was their uncharacteristic number of handling errors. This was not through poor skills but more because they were trying to force their game plan, when perhaps playing the phases, as opposed to risky off-loads would have suited this game better.
Driffield’s line was under pressure from a ruck on the far left. As West moved the ball wide, Robinson intervened and knocked on. The referee was in no doubt and sent him to the bin for multiple offences. The pressure was now on Driffield, and West deserved their try when they went over after repeated drives for the line. Fortunately for Driffield they could not add the extras. DRIFFIELD 11 – WEST HARTLEPOOL 15
There was major panic a short while later when Murray, who had settled in well, tried a speculative 40 metre quick throw-in. The ball flew into the centres, missing its target. West almost stole possession, but somehow Gray recovered the ball and put in a good touch-finder to relieve the pressure. Driffield recovered composure, Brumfield picked and drove at a ruck, Dodds and Douglas combined well through midfield. This was followed by a vintage ‘all in’ driving maul over 30 to 40 metres. Some 15 metres out from West’s line the ball went left through quick hands in the centres, and Robinson sped over for the try. Dinsdale added the extras. DRIFFIELD 18 – WEST HARTLEPOOL 15
West, in characteristic fashion, responded immediately : they moved the ball right on the Driffield 22 and it took a huge tackle from Rob Mewburn on their centre to stop the move, and turn the ball over. Under pressure, Burns and Dodds put in a great drive to make ground over their 22.
Gray went off for Robinson to move to 9. Dench added to his tackle count with a numbing hit on his opposite number. Murray was fed the ball and sent a 60 metre touch finder to put Driffield on the attack. It became end-to-end stuff with both Dodds and Douglas massive influences in the loose. Zavatti came on for the tireless Waterhouse and was quickly involved. As the final whistle approached danger loomed. West went left and their powerful wing Tyer headed for the corner. Dearing pulled off a great block tackle and Rob Mewburn dived in to roll the winger on his back into touch. A great double act. The game was won.
Final Score – DRIFFIELD 18 – WEST HARTLEPOOL 15
It had been a very physical game. West’s supporters although disappointed were pleased with their improving form. They performed well, belying their position in the league. Coach Cooper was pleased with the win but felt his team had made it difficult for themselves. This view was amplified by captain Mewburn in his post-match interview stating the team had tried to force situations, thereby increasing the error rate.
This was as expected a tough game but West, like Driffield, are a ’never-say-die’ outfit. Very few Driffield teams have had success at West Hartlepool. A deserved break next week, with Huddersfield YMCA the visitors on 3rd March. Coops, Mitch and Macca will be huddled around the plotting table once again.