West Hartlepool 51, Novos 26 - Not a Million Miles Away
By Magnus Leask
Novos lost their opening fixture against top four candidates West Hartlepool. However, the backs earned a losing bonus point.
Novos started the league campaign with an away game against opponents who were relegated from Level 6 last season. West Hartlepool have had an auspicios start to the season with the odd defection and some injuries. However, an experienced side took the field and we were unable to rattle them early doors as we had hoped.
West Hartlepool started the stronger and gained possession from a very good box kick. They were then able to rumble into our 22m before scoring out wide to make it 5-0. We handed the initiative straight back as we gave them a few set pieces in our half without them earning it. They capitalised on individual errors and scored again to make it 10-0.
Fifteen mins in and we finally awoke from our slumber as Sean Ramsay and Jez Nash secured penalties from jackaling over the ball. One of these was kicked from out wide by Nick Bellamy who was on his league debut. We were now putting the pressure on as we grew into the game. Line out possession secured by Alex Littlefair was moved to Sam Busby who left their 13 flat footed before off loading to his centre partner Jez Nash. This made the score 10-8 and the game was very competitive across the field.
Our opponents are expected to be in the top four this season and showed why, as their well drilled forward pack started to win the set piece battle for a period. They went over for a soft try which we did not defend as we had training and then one that was a bit jammy, as they moved out to a 22-8 lead. Whilst their lads thought they'd killed us off we had other ideas.
Just before half time one of their defenders raced out of the line to nail Sean Ramsay however a deft spin move saw him break the defensive line. Wests were unable to stop they attack as the ball was off loaded to Jonny Ward who raced in from 40m for a converted try to make it 22-15 to Wests at half time.
Early in the second half we had some momentum and should've scored but instead our bubble burst as West Hartlepool seized the initiative. A cross field kick resulted in a two horse race and Jonny Ward and their wing battled for the ball. Jonny was adjudged to have played more man than ball and was sin binned. Wests scored off the resulting kick to the corner and would proceed to score three tries when we were down to 14 men. This period unfortunately led to the game getting away from us and all we had to play for was the losing bonus point.
With the score at 39-15 we were back to fifteen men and Sam Busby soon scored an incredible solo effort beating several defenders to make it 39-20. No chance of an incredible come back though as Wests went in to move the score back out to 46-20 with ten mins to play.
The moment we had hoped for came as Sam Busby picked up a charged down, stepped his man before passing to Jonny Ward. A great fend and Jonny accelerated away to run in from 50m for the bonus point try, converted by Nick Bellamy.
Wests then added the final score to make it 51-27.
Thanks to the Andrew Bennett, who I thought was outstanding as referee. He had great rapport with the players, his decision making was excellent and he seemed to enjoy the game himself.
Cheers to Wests for hosting us - thought your set piece was very good despite missing players. Also, your nine and fly half pulled the strings well especially when we were down a man in the back field. Bit concerned about the hair style choice of your 2 and 13 but perhaps I'm just jealous ! Really enjoyed going back there and we wish you well for the season.
To our lads - we know that the game was much more competitive than the score line. Great to get something out of the game. We spoke about working harder to use and keep possession but thought we stuck together as a squad throughout. Man of the match was Sean Ramsay with a typical 100% effort in attack and defence.
See you all next Saturday as we host Stockton at Sutherland Park for a 1500 kick off.