Round-up: North-east going West

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The Independent Online
RUGBY in the North-east may be awash with money and high hopes, but in terms of results the region can rarely have been more depressed. Newcastle are propping up League Two in the Courage Clubs Championship, and things are no better down the road at West Hartlepool.

After seven matches in their League One campaign, all West have to show for their efforts is seven defeats. Their latest demise came yesterday at Orrell where the outcome was in the balance until five minutes from the end when the home side's scrum-half Austin Healey produced the only memorable moment of an otherwise forgettable afternoon. With his threequarters queueing up outside him, Healey dummied inside and ran on to score a brilliant try behind West's posts.

Until then, Orrell owed their slender lead to the fact that Tim Stimpson, West's much-vaunted young full-back, had an off day with his kicking, including a miss from in front of the posts. He did, however, land one penalty and converted Dave Mitchell's first-half try. Orrell's other points came via a Steve Bibby try, and two penalties and two conversions from Simon Mason.

A winter of discontent also beckons for Saracens, who lost 24-9 at home to Sale. After trailing 6-3 at the interval, the visitors stepped up a gear with three second-half tries from Jos Baxendell, Neil Ashurst and Christian Saverimutto. Rob Liley kicked a penalty and three conversions while Saracens replied through an Andy Tunningley drop goal and two Andy Lee penalties.

Second-placed London Scottish lost their 100 per cent record in League Two by drawing 16-16 at Blackheath. In League Three, Richmond lead by four points after demolishing Otley 46-3.

The new Heineken League leaders in Wales are Cardiff following their 60-19 victory at Abertillery. Welsh international wing Steve Ford scored three of their nine tries and fly-half Chris Johns amassed 24 points.