IT WAS an historic homecoming all right, though certainly not celebrated in the manner West Hartlepool would have hoped for. When West last played at Victoria Park in 1908 it was the Victoria Ground. Since then it has been the home of Hartlepool United, West's new landlords.
The great and the good of Hartlepool were there, including the mayor. All it needed was for Peter Mandelson to kick-off but London Irish spoiled the day by playing some irresistible rugby to run out convincing winners and provide West with an idea of what to expect now they have returned to Division One.
West's only reward for some early enterprise was two penalty goals but from then on Irish pulled themselves together.
Nick Harvey pinched a West line-out, Kevin Spicer threaded his way through some indifferent tackling to put Peter Richards across for the opening try. Justin Bishop got the second after great work by Conor O'Shea. Niall Woods converted both.
Woods then banged over two penalties before gathering his own kick ahead for a superb individual try, which he converted to leave West trailing 27-6 at the break. Having not done themselves justice in the first half, West scored two tries but Irish collected two more by Brendan Venter and O'Shea. Woods converted both and kicked a further penalty for a tally of 24 points.
West Hartlepool: Tries John 2; Conversions Belgian 2; Penalties Vile 2. London Irish: Tries Richards, Bishop, Woods, Venter, O'Shea; Conversions Woods 5; Penalties Woods 3.
West Hartlepool: E Farrell (C Webb, 58); H Bishop, P Greaves, J Connolly, S John; S Vile (P Belgian, 18), T Nu'uali'itia (capt); S Sparks, A Peacock (S Whitehead, 60), P Beal (B Cullinane, 73), B Fuller, R Schrader, J Ponton, S Cassidy, M Brewer.
London Irish: C O'Shea (capt); J Bishop, B Venter, R Todd, N Woods; J Brown, P Richards (K Campbell, 73); P Rogers (M Worsley, 52), R Kirke (M Howe, 52), K Fullman, N Harvey, M O'Kelly, K Spicer, K Dawson, R Gallacher.
Referee: N Yates (Bowdon).Reuse content