Tough road for Foster

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The Independent Online

Orrell 20 West Hartlepool 10

When Barry Forster took over as West Hartlepool's director of rugby in the summer he said he was hopeful that his new club would improve on last season's results and look for a place in mid-table.

Orrell almost certainly removed the hope from that progress and West, after seven successive defeats, are now looking at a painfully swift return to the second division. Indeed, after Newcastle's latest setback there is a real possibility that both the north east's leading clubs will be relegated.

If the bookmakers are offering only short odds on that interesting double, the next question to be answered is: who will accompany West? Not Orrell, according to their Yorkshire-born captain Paul Johnson. "With five first- choice players injured we anticipated a real struggle up front," he said.

"But there's so much grit and pride at this club, that even the outsiders like me get affected by it. And in tight games at the bottom of the table, we can dog it out with anybody."

It is this mental hardness that West lack. The backs allowed themselves to be closed down too quickly in midfield, the ball was too frequently given up in contact and West's tackling, like Tim Stimpson's goalkicking, was woeful.

Not that Orrell are any great shakes, but at least they make the best of what they have. All 15 tackled as if their lives depended on it and only one try was conceded; a tapped-penalty move allowing Dave Mitchell in. In return Orrell scored two. The first claimed by Steve Bibby after a concerted rolling maul. The second, by scrum-half Austin Healey, was a gem; fully deserved and brilliantly executed.

Unless, or until, West can summon a massive improvement, the executioner awaits.

Orrell: Tries Bibby, Healey; Conversions Mason 2; Penalties Mason 2. West Hartlepool: Try Mitchell; Conversion Stimpson; Penalty Stimpson.

Orrell: S Mason; L Tuigamala, I Wynn, P Johnson (capt), G Smith; P Hamer, A Healey; P Winstanley, A Moffatt, P Mitchell, S Bibby, C Cooper, J Huxley, S Hayter, P Manley (S Griffiths, 55).

West Hartlepool: T Stimpson; O Evans, J Williams (T Knowles, 59), C Lee, A Blyth; A Parker, S Cook; P Lancaster (capt), T Herbert, M Shelley, C Murphy, D Mitchell, R Leach, R Wainwright, A Brown.

Referee: S Piercy (Goole)