Rugby Union: McCarthy inspires Orrell

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West Hartlepool might have known their luck was out yesterday when their scrum-half, Phil Harvey, was rushed to hospital before the start of their Courage League One match away to fellow strugglers Orrell.

Harvey had badly cut his lip in an accidental clash of heads with his team-mate Kevin Oliphant, who was unhurt, in the visitors' changing-room just a few minutes before the kick-off. He was then driven to Wigan Hospital for stitches and an X-ray while his place in the team went to Mark Roderick. After the X-ray had revealed no further damage, Harvey was discharged and travelled home last night.

Meanwhile, West Hartlepool lost 22-15 despite scoring two tries to their opponents' one. Orrell's victory, their first in the League this season after eight successive defeats, was largely due to a sparkling, 17-point debut by their new Welsh fly-half Matthew McCarthy, who was signed from Dunvant last week.

Eclipsing his opposite number, the former Welsh international Mark Ring, McCarthy, who played for Cambridge in the 1994 Varsity Match before having spells with Neath and Llanelli, kicked two penalties, three second-half drop goals and a conversion to scrum-half Steve Cook's 37th- minute try.

West Hartlepool briefly led after their exciting young wing, Michael Wood, crossed in the 14th minute for a try which was converted by the Welsh centre Chris John, who later went off with a knee injury. But they were restricted to just two further scores - a second-half penalty by Matthew Silva and an injury-time try by the former rugby league wing Gerald Cordle.

In another match between sides in the lower echelons of League One, Gloucester beat London Irish 29-19 at Kingsholm thanks to superb kicking by their fly-half Mark Mapletoft.

Both sides scored two tries but Mapletoft landed six of his seven place kicks plus a drop goal while David Humphreys was on target with only three attempts. The Irish international centre Rob Henderson ran in both the Exiles' tries while Gloucester's touchdowns came from the scrum-half Scott Benton and the centre Martin Roberts.

In the fourth round of the Pilkington Cup, Reading earned a home tie against First-Division Saracens on Saturday week with an emphatic 50-3 victory over visitors Widnes. The League Three side scored seven tries, including two from their scrum-half Andre Bachelet, the former US Eagles captain, while Stuart Beeley, the Widnes player-coach, was sent off seven minutes from the end for kicking the Reading No 8 Martin Hart in the back.

Llanelli set a new Welsh National League scoring record with a 97-10 thrashing of the bottom club Newbridge. The former Wales captain Ieuan Evans led the way with four of their 15 tries and back-row forward Andrew Gibbs weighed in with a hat-trick against his former club.

The deposed Wales fly-half Neil Jenkins kicked 28 points as Pontypridd hammered Bridgend 53-9. But of greater significance for the Welsh selectors, with next Sunday's international against South Africa in mind, is the news that the Bridgend centre Gareth Thomas, scorer of a spectacular, 80-metre try against Australia last weekend, suffered a suspected fractured palate and could be out for a month. "He's had his two front teeth knocked right back," said his team manager Steve Brown.

In other First Division games, Caerphilly put up a brave show in their first league meeting with Cardiff before going down 34-20, Newport beat Dunvant 45-22 and Treorchy lost 17-13 at home to Ebbw Vale.

Watsonians took advantage of the postponement of champions Melrose's game at Currie to draw level with their rivals at the top of the Scottish Tennents Championship by winning 35-31 at Boroughmuir.

Shannon opened their bid for a third successive Insurance Corporation League championship in Ireland with a 22-14 victory away to Young Munster.