Stimpson plays hero and villain

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Gloucester 17 West Hartlepool 16

So the Cherry and Whites hang on by the slenderest of stalks - and it is not going to get any easier. Not that West Hartlepool were pushovers; how they have not won a Courage league match this season defies belief. This is a side that can, and does, play rugby.

Regardless of whether they stay up, Tim Stimpson, their captain and full- back is destined for greater things. He possesses power and pace, and used them to devastating effect. Whenever West Hartlepool spread the ball wide the tentative Gloucester backs looked worried, as well they might.

That the invaders were ultimately kept at bay was down entirely to Stimpson and he left Kingsholm kicking himself. His injury-time try, which silenced the usually vocal locals, was forgotten when he messed up the relatively simple conversion.

The crowd erupted into mocking howls and yells of relief. But Gloucester had to undergo three further agonising minutes of injury time before the two points were safely in the bag. But it was robbery. West made all the running, playing to their strengths (their threequarters) and exposing the inadequacies of the Gloucester backs. The home pack - for whom Phil Greening was outstanding at hooker - dominated, but their hard work was too frequently wasted.

Would that West had someone as dynamic as Greening in their pack. They did try. And if the prop Mike Shelley was not exactly poetry in motion when he scored West's opening try from a first-half tap penalty, he certainly was effective. In the end though it came down to kicks at goal. Gloucester's full-back Tim Smith landed three out of four before he left the field with suspected medial ligament damage, which may have ended his season. Poor Stimpson succeeded with two out of four penalties, then fluffed that vital conversion.

Gloucester: Try Beim; Penalties T Smith 3, L Osborne. West Hartlepool: Tries Shelley, Stimpson; Penalties Stimpson 2.

Gloucester: T Smith (L Osborne, 48); P Holford, M Roberts, D Caskie, T Beim; M Kimber, B Fenley (L Beck 54-56); A Powles, P Greening, W Bullock, D Sims (capt), R West, P Glanville, I Smith, P Miles.

West Hartlepool: T Stimpson (capt); O Evans, P Hodder, C Lee, A Blyth; A Parker, S Cook; P Beal (S Sparks, 52-55), T Herbert, M Shelley, P Evans, K Westgarth, R Leach (D Lockey, 73-75), A Brown, D Mitchell.

Referee: C Rees (Twickenham).