PERCY Park were looking to extinguish the bad memory of last week’s loss at Morpeth against Northern, who had beaten them twice last season.
The McCracken Park side got off to a strong start with the lion share of possession early on, starving Park of any ball for long periods.
Phil Morse had an opportunity to put points on the board after six minutes but his penalty went wide, and it was the visitors who scored first through No. 8 Paul Brady with Alex Clark converting.
The home side had a chance to hit back almost immediately with a strong midfield break by Ash Smith. From the resulting ruck the ball went left but with an overlap Joe Wafer elected to take the ball back inside and a potential scoring chance went begging.
Northern looked the more likely side to score, although Clark missed a penalty chance by hitting the post.
The half-time break gave Percy Park a chance to regroup, and kicking west to east with a slight wind advantage in the second half, they upped their game.
Ali Blair scored close to the posts after a good run by Smith set up the Park wing, who had moved back to the centre.
Blair was stopped inches from the line, but had the strength to reach out and dab the ball over. Morse levelled the scores with the conversion.
Park then took the lead on 48 minutes with a Morse penalty.
The Northern pack appeared much heavier than the Park forwards but with a scrum on the visitors five metre line, Jonny Dubois took a ball against the head and Park drove the scrummage back with referee Max Burnard indicating advantage for a penalty.
James Ponton picked up and drove over the line for the try on 62 minutes, although the conversion was missed.
Northern hit straight back with an attack deep into the Park 22 in what was their first real chance of the second half.
From a lineout, the visitors drove forward and back row Alan Douglas got the touch-down. Clark missed the conversion.
Park then incurred the wrath of the East Midlands referee when Chris Reekie was sent to the sin bin only minutes after coming on as a replacement for prop George Purdy.
With Northern on the attack they were penalised and John Scott took a quick tap and set off up field, catching the visitors on the hop. The pass to Smith set the Park full-back in space with Zak Appleby-Rutter on his left shoulder.
At first it looked as though Smith was looking for a switch with the Park replacement winger, but then stood up the last defender and popped the ball to Appleby-Rutter who took his debut first XV try well.
Ponton was then sin binned for repeated infringing and for a period Park were down to 13 men.
Northern were then awarded a penalty on 80 minutes which they kicked to bring them within five points and secured an important bonus point.
There was enough time left on the watch for the restart which Northern gathered and progressed up field. A knock on brought the game to an end.
On Saturday the 1st XV travel to Halifax to meet league leaders Old Brodleians.
WEST HARTLEPOOL STAGS 24
PERCY PARK LIONS 31
PERCY Park’s second XV win overshadowed the firsts’ victory over near neighbours Northern, only by virtue of the fact that to the non-partisan observer it could have been considered a shock result.
The Lions were promoted to the Candy League division one after winning division two in style last season. The Stags won division one without losing a game.
The Candy Leagues – named because the aim was to attract sides from Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire – is now mainly contested by Durham and Northumberland sides, but the single league has grown to two with club second XV’s taking part.
Park had lost both previous Candy games so far this season by only a single point, and after they had conceded 19 quick unanswered points against the Stags realised the task ahead of them.
Park players dug deep and came back to level the scores at half-time 19-19.
In the second period Park took the lead in a game which was eventually won with a bonus point 31-24, with tries coming from Matthew Ovington (2), Adam Fidler (2) and Kai Downey Stevenson. Conversions were by Paul Spowart (2) and Simon Greatham.
There were also strong performances by Thomas Turnbull, who captained the side, Jack Davidson, and Andy Dunn, who played out of position at prop.
n In the other senior game of the afternoon, Percy Park Marauders travelled to Sutherland Park to play Novos III and won convincingly 96-26 in their first league game of the season.