Rugby Union: Vile day for West

West Hartlepool 21 Newcastle 32
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The Independent Online
THE North-east rugby fraternity, such as it is, could have asked no more from this high-speed cup derby, with both sides committed to entertaining the biggest rugby crowd yet seen at Victoria Park.

The previous best was 2,800 for the Premiership derby in October and even with around 1,000 more in the ground yesterday there are still doubts that the region can continue to sustain two top-flight clubs.

Both are fully conscious of the need to spread the gospel and after recent accusations of negative tactics in their pursuit of respectability, West were determined to put on a show.

They do not have a Va'aiga Tuigamala or a Tony Underwood, however, and while the Newcastle wingers provided the biggest thrills, West had to rely on the boot of Steve Vile to keep them in touch.

Newcastle aimed another boot in the direction of Garath Archer's backside by leaving him out for the second successive week. There has been talk of a shoulder injury, but in truth they are sick of Archer conceding penalties.

Not that it made much difference as they provided Vile with four simple opportunities in the first half to keep West's interval deficit down to 17-12.

Penalties were exchanged shortly after the break, but then came the decisive moment and what a cruel twist of events it was for West. Vile tried to keep a promising attack alive by flipping the ball up off the ground, only to see it intercepted by Archer's replacement, Hugh Vyvyan, who showed good pace for a 6ft 6in lock in galloping 60 metres to the line.

After scoring on his league debut at Sale last week, the Newcastle student is clearly going to make it difficult for Archer to regain his place.

Newcastle roared into an early 10-0 lead but weren't helped by the loss of a badly dazed Jonny Wilkinson, who had already shown several touches of class as well as landing a touchline conversion of Tuigamala's fifth- minute try.

The Samoan showed he is much more than a battering ram as he came off his left wing, glided inside then out, and scored in the right corner.

After Vile reduced the gap to one point Tuigamala almost made the line again and with flanker Jimmy Cartmell following up to score, Rob Andrew added the conversion and then kicked a penalty to put Newcastle apparently in control. They needed Vyvyan's try, however, to relieve the growing tension and as Vile continued to chip away at their lead, a fourth try was required to make certain of a quarter-final place.

Gary Armstrong, now captaining Newcastle, broke away in his own half and Andrew made good ground before finding Stuart Legg with an inside pass which sent the full-back on a 30-metre run to the line.

West Hartlepool: E Farrell; J Benson, P Tanginoa (P Greaves, 73), J Connolly, S John; S Vile, T Nu'uali'itia; S Sparks (P Beal, 73), S McDonald (S Whitehead, 80), K Fourie, P Farner (capt), T Collier, M Salter, D Monkley, J Ponton.

Newcastle: S Legg; T Underwood, M Shaw, R Andrew, V Tuigamala; J Wilkinson (P Massey, 13), G Armstrong (capt); G Graham, R Nesdale, M Hurter, D Weir, H Vyvyan, R Arnold (P Walton, 59), J Cartmell (S O'Neill, 76), R Beattie.

Referee: N Yates (Cheshire).

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