Rugby Union: Hartlepool go West

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The Independent Online
EVEN though it was the first day of the Courage Championship, the relegation die may well have been cast at Brierton Lane where West Hartlepool lost a tight League One battle to their visitors and likely fellow strugglers Orrell 19-17.

In blustery conditions which posed problems throughout, the newly promoted West Hartlepool would still have scraped victory had their full- back, Kevan Oliphant, landed an awkward penalty in the dying seconds. It always seemed that place kicking would be decisive in this scrappy contest, and Oliphant missed three of his seven attempts while Orrell's marksmen, Simon Langford and Gerry Ainscough, were also off target three times between them.

Orrell took the initiative in the second half with Ian Wynn scoring a try when released by Paul Johnson. Hartlepool regained the lead when their right-wing Glynn Evans went over, but a Langford penalty left Hartlepool with an early taste of the toils to come.

In League Two, the pre- season favourites Saracens and Wakefield edged to narrow opening successes, away to the erstwhile Midland giants Moseley and Coventry respectively. The battle of the Exiles saw London Irish come out comfortably on top of London Scottish at Sunbury while the newly promoted Fylde overpowered Nottingham 33-18. Newcastle-Gosforth, aiming for a swift return to the top flight following relegation last season, made a poor start, losing 18-13 at Blundellsands to Waterloo.

In the Pilkington Cup first round, Esher, enjoying a revival under the coaching aegis of the former England centre Simon Halliday, beat Bridgwater & Albion 11-0 for their first win in the competition.

The right-wing Will Pegg scored all Esher's points - two penalties and a well-worked try - but their joy was dampened by the late departure of the former Rosslyn Park fly-half Mark Jermyn with a knee injury.

The main upset saw Scunthorpe make light of a three- division gap to see off Kendal, of League Five North, 27-21.

Melrose began their defence of the McEwan's Scottish League with a 22-9 home win over Currie, but Jed-Forest, who have lost their Lions scrum-half Gary Armstrong for the season, went down 37-18 at Watsonians. Ebbw Vale moved second in Division Two of the Heineken Welsh League following a 17-12 win at Penarth.

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