Rugby Union: Hands-on Brewer

West Hartlepool 23 Wakefield 13
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The Independent Online
MIKE BREWER could hardly have timed his playing comeback to better effect as West Hartlepool brushed off Wakefield's faltering challenge in this delayed and largely disappointing Tetley's Bitter Cup fourth-round tie at Brierton Lane.

The former All Black back-row forward delayed his West debut until half- time, replacing another New Zealander Ivan Morgan, who had until then been massively influential. The wonder was that West at this stage were only ahead by 8-6. Ultimately Brewer was upstaged by another Kiwi, Steven Vile - once of Auckland - who kicked West to victory with six penalties to earn them a home tie with Rugby in the next round.

Since Brewer's arrival in the North-east as West's director of rugby, he has tried to inculcate the need for his team to keep the ball in hand at all times. Interactive rugby is his creed and the lessons appear to have been learned as West began by moving the ball at will despite the slippery conditions. By the time Emmet Farrell had exploded down the left touchline in a weaving 40-metre burst, they were three points down, Greg Miller having kicked a penalty, but they were soon on terms when Wakefield were drawn offside and Vile drilled a superbly judged penalty 30 metres across the wind.

Although Wakefield then regained the advantage with Miller's second penalty, the West forwards had started to build up a fair head of steam and Morgan headed a drive which led to the opening try.

With all the Wakefield forwards bound in at the breakdown, West had a man or two over as the ball was moved quickly to the left. One loose pass went to ground but Farrell scooped it up one-handed for Michael Wood to feed Stephen John for the touchdown.

Although West had dominated both territory and possession, Wakefield could still have turned round in front had Miller not struck the left upright with an injury-time penalty attempt. Given two similar chances within eight minutes of the restart, Vile accepted both to take West 14-6 ahead.

Richard Thompson then pegged them back with a smart try, converted by Miller, to bring the Yorkshire men to within a point, before another penalty by Vile briefly calmed West's nerves. It was another 17 minutes before Vile struck again on the stroke of time when he kicked his sixth penalty to seal victory.

West Hartlepool: E Farrell; M Wood, A Elwine, J Connolly, S John; S Vile, T Nu'Ualitia; S Sparks, A Peacock, P Beal, P Farner, M Giacheri, J Ponton, S Cassidy, I Morgan (M Brewer ht).

Wakefield: N Summers; J Flint, M Woodward (P White 77), P Maynard, R Thompson; G Miller, D Scully; Lancaster (D Hardcastle 44), T Garnett, R Latham, S Croft (K Yates 61), P Stewart, M Greenwood, G Wilson (A Brown 61), C Elisara.

Referee: N Yates (Bowdon, Cheshire).

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