WEST Hartlepool set the scene for a tense top-of-the-table battle at home to North One East leaders Pocklington when they edged home 17-15 at Morpeth on Saturday.

This week's visitors also failed to gain a four-try bonus point in a 23-13 win at Dinnington, staying seven points clear.

West stretched their lead over third-placed Penrith to five points when the Cumbrians were held 24-24 at home by Driffield.

A laat-minute try by winger Rob Thorn, converted from the left touchline by Gavin Painter, completed West's comeback fron 15-0 down with 20 minutes left.

The fightback started when a break by Lee Maddison set up a try by centre Liam Checksfield, followed by Alex Barker starting a move finished by winger Jie Willis.

Durham City slipped deeper into relegation trouble as they suffered their eighth successive defeat, edged out 20-18 at home to Malton and Norton.

After a try by Rob Smith it was 8-8 at half-time, but a second penalty and an excellent converted try by Gary Izomor had City ahead, only to concede a third try to the visitors.

City's only remaining home game is against relegated Guisborough, so they will also need to win either at Driffield this week or Bradford and Bingley in the last game to have a chance of survival.

There was no change in the battle to avoid the second relegation spot in National One as neither Blaydon nor Hull Ionians picked up a point.

Blaydon's lack of depth was exposed as a 5-0 interval deficit became a 45-0 defeat at Plymouth, while Ionians lost 31-11 at Ampthill to remain two points behind.

Ampthill visit Blaydon this week, when Ionians have the easier match as they entertain Cambridge.

In the absence of props Andrew Foster and Robbie Kalbraier, plus skipper Keith Laughlin, Blaydon were unable to maintain their first half resistance as Plymouth scored six second half tries, roared on by a crowd of 1,820 A try five minutes from time consigned Billingham to a 28-27 defeat at Sandal in Three North after an interception try by Luke Wilson looked to have tilted the tight contest their way.

Northern confirmed that they are not going to slip up in the race to the Durham and Northumberland One title as they won 67-18 at home to Gateshead.

Barnard Castle and Westoe remain locked together in second place, after Barney returned to winning ways with a 43-26 romp at Novos. It was more of a battle for Westoe, but they emerged with maximum points from a 33-27 win at Medicals.

Consett's winning run was ended by a 30-10 defeat at Middlesbrough, where they led through an early penalty but were not helped by arguing with the referee.

With skipper Matthew Todd injured, Andy Micklewright slotted in well at fly half for Boro, although Todd's kicking was missed.

The one conversion came after the first try when, with the scrum half buried in a ruck, Peter Homan took the ball from the base and charged over.

Winger Sean Maloney made it 12-3 at half-time and further tries followed from Connor Foley, Ben Wood and replacement Michael Thornburn. Consett drove over for a late converted try.

Stockton won 34-13 on an excellent pitch at relegated Ryton, taking the lead after four minutes when left wing Joe Hargreaves took a long pass and outpaced the defence.

Full back Danny Phinn also used his pace to score, but Ryton competed well for the next 20 minutes, landing a penalty before flanker Joe Green strolled over for Phinn to convert and give Stockton a 19-3 interval lead.

Ryton kicked another penalty before the Stockton forwards mounted a series of drives, which brought tries for Green and prop Tom Nelson. Phinn added his third conversion and a penalty before Ryton were awarded a late penalty try.