A penalty try three minutes into stoppage time gave the visitors victory in a pulsating game which had seen us play the entire second half with 14 men after Ryan Painter was sent off just before half-time.
It was a quite unbelievable effort from the players to even be in a position to win the game and made for a cruel end to the final home game of the regular season. Both sets of players should be commended for a fantastically competitive game of rugby in front of one of the biggest crowds at Brinkburn for a league game in some years.
Although it was real backs to the wall stuff at times we also scored three superb tries and were moments away from a quite remarkable win in the circumstances.
Pocklington opened the scoring with 4 minutes played thanks to a penalty from outside half Matt Proctor after we came in at the side of a maul. It was evident early on that Pocklington had a strong line out and would kick for territory but we showed intent to run back any kicks we could and it was this counter-attacking mentality which brought about a fantastic opening score. Rob Thorn fielded a high box kick and set off on a mazy run through the midfield. Aaron Myers was in support and he showed enough pace to beat the covering defence and score a fine try. Gav Painter had no trouble with the conversion for a 7-3 lead.
The visitors had the upper hand without carving out too many scoring opportunities and our ferocious competition at the breakdown was frustrating them despite costing us several penalties. Offside at a scrum allowed Proctor to peg back the lead but a long range attempt after 31 minutes to go in-front was short and wide.
The number of penalties conceded led to Lee Maddison receiving a yellow card with a little over 5 minutes left in the half and he was soon to be followed to the sidelines by Ryan Painter. It had been a physical but fair contest from both sides to this point but a confrontation after the whistle had gone for another ruck penalty led to yellow for Pocklington winger Tim Nixon and straight red for Painter.
Starting the second period down to 13 men we controlled things well and Gav Painter was unlucky with a long range penalty attempt before Proctor’s boot sent Pocklington back into the lead after Aaron Myers carried well from the base of a scrum but was judged to hold onto the ball after the tackle.
Despite the setback our resolve and commitment was unwavering and we continued to pressurise the visiting attack and force handling errors whenever the ball was moved wide.
A Painter penalty took us ahead again and almost straight from the restart our counter attacking was rewarded again. A loose kick was fielded by Zac Southern and his deft chip was deflected into the hands of Liam Checksfield and the young centre produced a sublime try (right), breaking tackles and using his pace to finish off the score. Painter again converted to make it 17-9.
However, the see-saw scoring would continue with Pocklington mounting their best sustained attack of the game and Nixon touching down after cutting back against the drifting defence. Proctor converted to bring his side back within a point with 16 minutes remaining.Rob Thorn was instrumental in another counter attacking score when Zac Southern fielded a kick and launched an ambitious long pass to the winger, just outside his own 22. He took on the defence again, running hard and keeping two defenders guessing before setting Checksfield away up the left touchline and he could not be caught. Painter’s well struck conversion slid wide leaving Pocklington still right in the game, less than a converted try behind.
A turning point came with six minutes to go when we won a lineout 10 metres inside our own half. As we set up the maul Adam Coates was penalised and yellow carded for using his boot on a player lying on the wrong side. It left us to play the game out with 13 men and also allowed Pocklington to peg us back into the corner.
Heroic defence kept the visitors at bay into the second minute of injury time when we bundled a man into touch and earned a pressure relieving lineout, but we were unable to take the ball cleanly and conceded a 5 metre scrum after grounding the ball in-goal. The scrum was initially taken against the head but rebounded back to the Pocklington side before appearing to go forward as the number eight picked up. With the scrum still advancing the referee awarded a penalty try, appearing to indicate the ball had been kicked out of the scrum deliberately. What would have been a difficult match winning conversion was now right in front of the posts and Proctor made no mistake to wild celebrations from the considerable visiting support.
Although time for the restart, we couldn’t retrieve the ball and Pocklington kicked clear to seal the title and promotion. It was a bitterly disappointing finish for the West players who put so much into the game and deserved so much more but ultimately couldn’t hang on and now need to win two games on the road to keep a promotion play-off hope alive.
West: Zac Southern, Luke Mallinson, Liam Checksfield, Peter Youll, Rob Thorn, Gavin Painter, Ryan Painter, Anth Carr, Andrew Rollins, Ross Wood, John Bunter, Dan Boatman (captain), Carl Miller, Lee Maddison, Aaron Myers.
Changes: Adam Coates, Joe Rafferty, Joe Willis.
Tries: Myers, Checksfield 2
Cons: G Painter 2
Pen: G Painter
YC: Maddison, Coates
RC: R Painter
Pocklington: Dan Elliot, Tim Nixon, Pete Massie, James Flint, Josh Britton, Matt Procter, Ben Rees (capt,) Chris Morton, Ben Stephenson, John-Paul Kelly, Archie Fothergill, Karl Durkin, Owen Jackson, Johnny Wood, Jack Holbrough.
Changes: Tom Peters, Johnny Borja, Joe Brown
Tries: Nixon, Penalty
Cons: Proctor 2
Pens: Proctor 3
Referee: David Herdman (London Society)