GUISBOROUGH’S first game of the New Year was a tough fixture at Hartlepool, who sat a place below the Priorymen in the league.

Hartlepool kicked off and, although having the upper hand in the scrums, Guisborough could not capitalise on this dominance. The first half-chance of the game fell to the hosts. As Guisborough pressed inside the opposition 22, a speculative pass was intercepted and a run out of defence took play to the half-way line, where a good covering tackle by Tony Conway halted any further progression into the visitors’ territory.

A cagey opening to the game saw few scoring chances, before Hartlepool were awarded a penalty that was kicked to touch five metres from the Guisborough try-line. A catch and drive looked menacing, but sound defending resulted in an infringement being spotted by the referee, which allowed James Clark to kick into the hosts’ half. Once in opposition territory a further penalty was awarded to Guisborough, 35 metres out, but the attempted kick at goal by Clark sailed to the left of the posts. Pressure was maintained though, as Guisborough continued to play in the Hartlepool half, and eventually deadlock was broken.

From a scrum on the home team ten metre line, play moved to the left wing where Michael Suthers made ground into the opposition 22. Recycled ball came back along the back-line, where Jack Robinson broke through the midfield and sprinted over to score. Clark added the conversion. The home team came back at Guisborough and found themselves deep in the visitors’ 22 after being awarded a brace of penalties. However, a well marshalled defence stopped a series of drives towards the whitewash before the ball was kicked clear.

Any chance of Guisborough taking a stranglehold on the game, as the second half got underway, were seriously dented when their team were reduced to 14 players. After a penalty had been awarded to the visitors inside the Hartlepool 22, Clark took matters into his own hands and was shown a red card. A Hartlepool player was shown a yellow card from the same incident, but it meant that the Priorymen would have to play a third of the game with a player less.

With the game entering the final quarter, Hartlepool started to use their one player advantage. Defending their 22 metre area, Guisborough appeared to have weathered the storm with some excellent defending, in which Alex Ruff put in a try-saving tackle and ripped possession from an opposition player at the same time.

But as penalty after penalty was being awarded against Guisborough, the home team remained camped deep in opposition territory. With the game going into time added on by the referee, a further penalty to the hosts was quickly taken. A back-tracking defensive line tried to cover some direct running lines, before it was breached and a try was scored. The conversion was successful, bringing the scores level. There was just enough time to re-start the game from the kick-off, but at the breakdown the referee blew his whistle to end the game with the scoreboard reading: Hartlepool 7 points, Guisborough 7 points.

Although remaining third in the league, both teams above Guisborough gained bonus point wins, stretching their lead over the Priorymen.