Rugby Union: West passion squashes Wasps

West Hartlepool 21 Wasps 17

WHEN A SENIOR West Hartlepool official announced recently that the club had turned the corner it could be taken, as before when we have heard this sort of thing, that they were preparing to head down yet another cul-de-sac.

But now we must to believe them. For this tumultuous first victory at Victoria Park, which ended Wasps' tenuous hold on third place in the Premiership, was founded on the impressive self-belief which surfaced last week in defeat at Newcastle.

West never let Wasps settle on the ball, disrupted their continuity, and defended with rare passion. West counter-attacked whenever the opportunity arose and made a thunderous start, which would have been more impressive had Steven Vile kicked a 40-metre straight penalty.

However, West maintained their foothold in Wasps' territory and, eschewing a shot at goal from the next penalty, Vile kicked for the corner. Philippe Farner took a clean catch and James Ponton was driven over for the try. Vile converted.

Even at this early stage there was an urgency about West's approach work, and their tackling lacked nothing in its accuracy or determination. In this respect, where Duane Monkley led by example, Peter Tanginoa's dumping of Lawrence Dallaglio raised a cheer which could be heard down the coast in Middlesbrough.

Until now Wasps had not pieced together an attack worthy of the name. When they did, Peter Scrivener's pass to Kenny Logan was so palpably forward that the Wasps forwards could barely believe their luck when the movement was allowed to continue into the corner. Five scrums later and the immensely fortunate Scrivener crossed for a pushover try.

It would be another 48 minutes before Wasps were allowed a second slice of good fortune, when Logan's conversion of Dinos Alexopoulos's try went in off the left upright. And, although Nick Greenstock got a third try for Wasps, it was in the fifth minute of injury time, and the game had gone beyond them.

When Toby Handley raced into the left corner for a try just before the break, Wasps were looking thoroughly rattled, none more so than Logan, who missed with two straightforward penalties. After Vile had slotted two penalties, and Emmet Farrell drilled over a dropped goal to take West up to 21-5, Wasps were searching for answers. They never looked as if they would find any; West knew them all.

West Hartlepool: Tries Ponton, Handley; Conversion Vile; Penalties Vile 2; Drop Goal Farrell. Wasps: Tries Scrivener, Alexopoulos, Greenstock; Conversion Logan.

West Hartlepool: E Farrell; J Benson, S John, P Tanginoa, T Handley; S Vile, T Nu'uali'itia; J J Van Der Esch (P Beal, 70), S McDonald, S Sparks, P Farner (capt), T Collier (M Salter, 80), J Ponton, D Monkley, M Brewer.

Wasps: J Lewsey; P Sampson, L Scrase, R Henderson (N Greenstock, 56), K Logan; A King, M Wood (A Gomarsall 56); A le Chevalier, D Macer (A Alexopoulos 65), W Green, M Weedon (capt), S Shaw (A Reed, 65),L Dallaglio, P Volley, P Scrivener (E Rollitt, 61).

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).

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