Irish fight to famous victory

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London Irish 11

West Hartlepool 10

IN A muddy, frantic dogfight in the best traditions of both clubs, second division London Irish clung on for the narrowest of victories and a place in the last four of the Cup. The underdogs just about held off a ferocious attack from first division West Hartlepool.

Irish utilised their greater power in the front five and superior pace in the backs, particularly in the centres where Rob Henderson and Paul Flood contrived jinking runs in conditions that made sliding easier.

Tim Stimpson, the young West full-back, apparently sees himself in an England shirt for years. Yesterday he didn't convince that he's what England's needs - he tried to run out of trouble and instead handed Irish the position from which they scored.

When he went off his replacement, the wily Mark Ring, immediately made a difference. Ring was one of the game's trickiest operators in his long years in Welsh rugby. He had lost none of his cunning yesterday with neat trips and changes of direction that brought West back into the game.

He came on as outside-half as the second half started. Shortly afterwards he pushed his side steadily upfield to get a penalty try when the centre Andrew Blyth was obstructed going through on a grubber kick over the line. Ashley Parker converted. It brought West back into the game they looked well out of.

In the first half, London Irish had built up a decent lead with a fierce wind behind them. Their scrum-half Tim Ewington darted round the scrum for a try early on. Michael Corcoran kicked a conversion and a couple of penalties.

With a Stimpson penalty already on the West score sheet, the one-point margin remained for the last frantic half-hour. Ring tried a series of desperate, fruitless drop-goal attempts. But with the Irish captain Gary Halpin whipping the second division side to greater feats of defence, the line just held.

London Irish survived the onslaught. West go out, and no doubt down a division in the league as well.

London Irish: C O'Shea; M Corcoran, R Henderson, P Flood, J Bishop; O Cobbe, T Ewington; L Mooney, R Kellam, G Halpin (capt), D Peters, A Meadows, A Dougan, C Bird, B Walsh. West Hartlepool: T Stimpson (capt); J Williams, A Blyth, P Hodder, M Wood; A Parker, S Cook; P Beal, T Herbert, M Shelley, C Murphy, K Westgarth, R Leach, A Brown, D Mitchell.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).