Old shows the new way

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The Independent Online
Middlesbrough 11

Newcastle Gosforth 39

Middlesbrough and Wasps share the distinction of providing England with more outside-halves than any other club in the country since the Second World War. Boro's impressive contribution to this endowment is three. Rob Andrew and Alan Old started their careers at Acklam Park, and while Phil Horrocks-Taylor began as a Wasp he won the last two of his 10 caps when with Middlesbrough.

Well before Andrew first appeared in the maroon colours - alongside, lest it be forgotten, Rory Underwood - the Teesside club, languishing uncomfortably close to the relegation zone in North Division One, were showing signs of debility.

The advent of leagues in 1987 has merely accentuated their decline as a force in the North-east, where they are now overshadowed by Saturday's opponents and West Hartlepool.

In his first season as Newcastle Gosforth's director of rugby, Old is conscious of the problems facing his former club. "When I was at Boro we never lost to West. But they are driven by aggressive ambition and, unless you develop a similar attitude, it'snot easy to compete."

Middlesbrough's coach, Bernie Coyne, himself a product of the Old era, remains optimistic despite the sort of difficulties which have an echo in club-houses throughout the land. "When we were a good side, West were building," he said. "We remained complacent and didn't recruit. But we learned and our youth policy is beginning to bear dividends."

It is too much to expect that it has yet borne another Old or Andrew, but Ian Bircham scored all Middlesbrough's points with a performance which drew deserved praise from Horrocks-Taylor: "Ian is a neat little footballer, has good hands, excellent anticipation and kicks well."

Bircham's contribution, notable as it was, kept Middlesbrough in contact for almost an hour, though it was not enough to prevent Old's youngsters from pulling ahead. With sufficient line-out ball to have won several games, Newcastle were unexpectedly pegged back to 11-11 by Bircham's 47th-minute try; it proved to be Middlesbrough's parting shot.

The Kiwi Richard Arnold bullocked over for the visitors' second try which heralded the entry of 46-year-old Colin White - an England prop as long ago as 1984 - who replaced Peter Curry, before the hooker Andy Hetherington claimed the third.

White's deft pass earned prolonged applause and brought the best try of the match for Ian Whitfield, while Ian Chandler's second score atoned for his mistake in allowing Bircham to cross.

Middlesbrough: Try Bircham; Penalties Bircham 2. Newcastle Gosforth: Tries Chandler 2, Arnold, Whitfield, Hetherington; Conversions Clark 4; Penalties Clark 2.

Middlesbrough: P Williams (capt); C Farquar, M Thomson, A Hunter, R Laviolette; I Bircham, N Poole; I Walker, A Duffy, J Littleton, M O'Halloran, J Margach, S Brownless, T McGrath, S Passman.

Newcastle Gosforth: J Murray; R Wharton, R Wilkinson, I Chandler, D Briggs; P Clark, S Douglas; J Smith, A Hetherington, P Curry (C White 60), A Mularkey, R Metcalfe, I Whitfield, S Cassidy, R Arnold (capt).

Referee: K. Bracewell (Selby)

Three New Caledonian players were sent to prison on Friday for kicking and punching a referee after a regional championship final in the French territory. Edouard Pilioko, Raymond Oupane and Sonny Finau were sentenced to six months jail, with five monthssuspended. Four other players received six-month suspended terms for the attack on 29 October.