Rugby round-up: Irish take a walk

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The Independent Online
THE Irish internationals Jim Staples and Gary Halpin walked out on their London Irish team-mates just before the kick-off of their match against Bath yesterday in protest at coach Hika Reid's decision not to include fellow- international Simon Geoghegan in the side. Geoghegan criticised the club's coaching and management a month ago, but has also suffered a toe injury which has kept him out.

The Bath-bound winger declared himself fit and arrived at Sunbury expecting to play, but was told by Reid that he was not wanted. Staples and Halpin decided to catch an early flight to Dublin for an Ireland squad training session. London Irish management averted a mass walk-out by other senior players after lengthy negotiations, and the remaining members of the team put up a fine show on the pitch, going down 32-31.

Yesterday's most significant matches were at the bottom of the Welsh First Division. Pontypool, Aberavon and Dunvant all kicked off knowing that they could end the day relegated.

Despite the danger, it is hard to imagine Pontypool's players quaking in the coach on the way to Cross Keys, who have not managed to beat anyone in the league all season. In fact Ponty made pretty heavy weather of the fixture, and owe their First Division survival to their full-back Jason Williams, who kicked eight penalties in their 24-17 win.

Aberavon had a much tougher time at home to Pontypridd. With Dunvant beating Bridgend 23-13, they needed not only victory but at least three tries to stay up. Wing Simon Hutchinson scored one in the first half to give Aberavon hope, but Pontypridd poacher David Manley crossed for his 16th try of the season in the second half. Crispin Cormack's conversion completed the 7-5 victory and condemned Aberavon to Second Divison rugby next season.