Rugby Union: Rowell relishes his touching return

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West Hartlepool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

Bath. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38

HOMECOMINGS are rarely as sweet as this. The Hartlepool-born Jack Rowell, Bath's coach and once a goalkeeper for the Lister Street Junior School football XI and No 8 for the undefeated West Hartlepool Grammar School XV of 1954-55, was genuinely touched by the welcome he received at a reunion dinner on the eve of this match, which took his side a step closer to a fourth Courage League title.

Big Jack was looking up the touchline from the Sea End, when John Dixon - another of Hartlepool's favourite sons - cleanly won a line-out to send Simon Mitchell into the corner. Unfortunately for the home side, and to Rowell's relief, Mitchell put a foot into touch and West's chance to go at least nine points clear was lost.

'We came here without underestimating our task,' Rowell said. 'West might not have won much, but no one has rolled them over. However, thanks to our back row, who kept us in the game, we eventually pulled clear to put together our best team effort of the year.'

There were also a couple of rather special efforts from England's outside-half, Stuart Barnes, and Jon Webb's understudy at full-back, Jonathan Callard. Barnes and Callard scored all Bath's points; and fully deserved to, for behind the scrum they had a hand in everything.

For West to have realised any chance of pulling clear of the relegation zone, they needed a good start. Steve Havery provided one with a smashing try after Owen Evans had brilliantly wrong-footed Adedayo Adebayo. John Stabler added the goal points to Havery's try with a magnificent touchline kick, before converting his only penalty chance. Barnes and Callard ensured that West were unable to build on their early gains, though they competed to the last breath in a vivid match.

'What I found so gratifying,' Rowell enthused, 'was not just the victory, but the standing ovation the crowd gave us. That meant a lot.' No wonder he felt at home.

West Hartlepool: Try Havery; Conversion Stabler; Penalty Stabler. Bath: Tries Barnes 3, Callard 2; Conversions Callard, Barnes; Penalties Barnes 3.

West Hartlepool: K Oliphant; O Evans, C Lee, P Hodder, D Cooke; J Stabler (capt), S Havery; P Lancaster, S Mitchell, P Whitelock, J Dixon, K Westgarth, P Evans, A Brown, M Watson.

Bath: J Callard; A Swift, P de Glanville, I Lewis, A Adebayo; S Barnes, R Hill; G Chilcott, G Dawe, V Ubogu, N Redman, A Reed, A Robinson (capt), J Hall, B Clarke.

Referee: D Leslie (Manchester).