Rugby Union: Va'a bangs another nail into Hartlepool coffin

West Hartlepool 35 Richmond 36

WHILE RICHMOND have been talking up their chances of making it into Europe, West will be happy to remain in Hartlepool after all the talk of them playing somewhere else next season. Whether it will be in Division One of the Allied Dunbar Premiership next season seems extremely unlikely.

Earl Va'a banged over a fifth penalty to consign West to defeat just as it seemed as if Steve Vile had almost single-handedly snatched victory, having scored all but five of West's points.

Not that Richmond have any reason to feel especially pleased with themselves. All three of their tries came gift-wrapped, and, unless they can perform any better than this, a better target for them might be the Eurovision Song Contest.

Richmond expected this to be the easier of the two matches in their four- day stay in the north-east. They even rested one or two of their first- choice players in preparation for the game at Newcastle on Wednesday.

Given that West had won two and drawn the other of their previous three home league games, this may have seemed a mite over-confident of John Kingston's side. But Kingston's judgement looked spot on when the worst of West's defensive frailties were exposed by Va'a, as the Samoan carved a great hole in their mid-field to put Jason Wright across for a soft try.

By converting the try and adding three penalties, Va'a put Richmond in control after half an hour, during which West had only a penalty from Vile to their credit. Vile kicked two more before the half was out; the third as Richmond's Dave Quinn was white-carded for a professional foul. But West could draw nothing from their numerical advantage, Va'a added another penalty, and Richmond turned round 19-9 to the good.

Within three minutes of the restart, Dan McFarland was sin-binned and this time West made Richmond pay, driving Mike Mullins over for a try. Vile converted to add to his fourth penalty and suddenly West were on level terms.

Although the splendid Vile kept them in contact with two more penalties, West's propensity for conceding dumb tries was to let them down again. Lee Best and Barry Williams were the beneficiaries, before Vile put West ahead for the first time in the match with a try, conversion and his seventh penalty.

West Hartlepool: Tries Mullins, Vile. Conversions: Vile 2. Penalties: Vile 7. Richmond: Tries Best, Wright, Williams; Conversions Va'a 3; Penalties Va'a 5.

West Hartlepool: E Farrell (G MacLure19); J Benson, M Mullins, J Connolly ((P Greaves 38), S John; S Vile, T Nu'uali'itia; S Sparks, S McDonald, P Beal (K Fourie 52), P Farner (capt), J Ponton, D Hyde, D Monkle, M Brewer.

Richmond: L Best; N Walne, A Bateman, J Wright, S Brown; E Va'a, A Moore; D McFarland, B Williams, D Crompton, B Cusack, C Gillies, D Quinn, J Barfoot, B Clarke (capt).

Referee: S Piercy (Goole).

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