Ponteland 15 Hartlepool Rovers 26 Durham and Northumberland, Division One
A SEVERELY under-strength Pont put up a brave display, but still came unstuck against their opponents.
With so many players out injured, they were always going to find it tough going and were forced to field a front row with an average age of 40, even though it included a 19-year-old.
And the hosts looked to be in for a long afternoon as Rovers scored two very similar tries in the opening 25 minutes.
On both occasions, Pont were short of numbers in midfield, allowing the flying backline to twice dive over to take an early and seemingly commanding 14-0 lead in the opening stages.
The second try was scored while the home side were down to 14 men, with Philip Mundy forced to take a ten-minute rest by the referee as Pont were penalised for persistent infringement while they struggled to cope with the Hartlepool onslaught.
And fresh on the back of a run of just three victories in 13 games and a 46-10 trouncing at Horden last week, it seemed like Pont could be on the wrong end of another cruel beating.
But, led by a front row which encapsulated the cliche of ‘youth and experience’ beautifully, they started to find their feet in the game and mounted a fight-back.
Michael Mullins sent over a penalty just before half-time to reduce the deficit and Pont were then grateful to skipper Richard Moller for a try-saving last-ditch tackle as the hosts went in 14-3 down at the break.
Despite all their hard work at the start of the second half, Hartlepool scored a third try just after half-time. There was some great resistance in the Ponteland defensive line, but they struggled to live with the sheer weight of the mountainous Rovers forwards as the second row dived over. The try was converted.
However, credit must go to the home side for again fighting back as they refused to lie down against their stronger opposition. And this time it was the visitors who were guilty of indiscipline as they lost a player for more persistent infringement and Pont were able to take advantage as Michael Mullins danced over for a well-taken try, which he then converted himself.
Pont had their tails up and looked a completely different side to the one who looked they might roll over in the opening stages of the match. Rovers lost another player to the bin for a blatant infringement as Ponteland threatened to score, before the try of the match followed.
Mullins was again involved as he played a delightful kick out to the wing where the flying Chris Searle kicked it on himself before diving on the ball over the line. Suddenly the score was back to 15-21 with the previously slumberous Ponteland supporters waking up to cheer their team on.
Sadly though, it was asking too much for the home side to pin the game back and when Rovers got back to a full compliment of players, Pont rarely threatened but maintained the strong spirit that had been encapsulated throughout the game.
Unfortunately, a stroke of misfortune followed when a forward pass was missed by the referee and while Ponteland did miss tackles, the nail in the coffin was dealt as Hartlepool went over for their fourth and final try of the match.
The conversion was missed and a few minutes later the full-time whistle was blown with the score at 15-26.