West win against all odds

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AFTER 17 months and 22 attempts, West Hartlepool have finally won a match in the Courage League. Last season's whitewashed wooden-spooners, who were only spared relegation from the top flight for political reasons, ended the gloom of their long-suffering supporters at Brierton Lane yesterday when they saw off big-spending Saracens, 25-16.

West owed their victory to a late burst of scoring against opponents who were also reprieved from the drop at the end of last season, by the decision to increase League One from 10 to 12 teams. Their three tries came from their player-coach, Mark Ring, New Zealander Ivan Morgan and Chris John, who also kicked two penalties and two conversions, while Saracens' two tryscorers were Manu Ebongalani and Richard Wallace.

Ring, a former Wales centre, said afterwards: "That was an unbelievable effort, especially as we were playing against the wind in the second half. We trained last summer with the athletics coach Frank Dick and I doubt whether there is a fitter side than us in the country. We still have work to do on our skills and we need more bulk, but this is a great psychological boost. We're not getting carried away though - we've got to go to Bath next Saturday."

Northampton swept Orrell aside, 41-7, with a brilliant second half performance at Franklins Gardens. Despite playing with the wind in the first half, the Saints were restricted to one try, from Harvey Thorneycroft. But after half-time they posted six tries inside 26 minutes to record their third win in four games this season. Tim Rodber started the avalanche and was soon followed over by the recalled full-back Ian Hunter and England scrum- half Matt Dawson.

Orrell, without former All Black fly-half Frano Botica, who has joined Llanelli, pulled back a try through centre Lua Tuigamala before Northampton collected three more tries - two by Ireland centre Jonathan Bell and one from flanker Don Mackinnon.

More fireworks can be expected at Sunbury this week from the London Irish coach, Clive Woodward, after the Exiles slumped to their third defeat of the season, 25-19 at home to Sale. Woodward, who wielded the selectorial axe after last weekend's thrashing by Harlequins, watched with dismay as Sale helped themselves to three tries - through Neil Ryan, Mark Warr and Gareth Stocks. The Exiles' captain, Gary Halpin, scored his side's only try in the first half.

League Two leaders Newcastle gave Blackheath, the team in second place yesterday morning, a 61-0, 10-try hammering, with British Lions scrum- half Gary Armstrong adding two tries to the four he scored last weekend against Nottingham. Newcastle debutant John Bentley, the former Great Britain rugby league wing, also claimed a brace of tries. The only other unbeaten League Two team after three games are London Scottish, who beat Waterloo, 42-30, with John Steele contributing 22 points.

Bridgend took over at the top of the table in Wales with a 59-13 win over champions Neath, which included eight tries. Cardiff continued their revival by scoring 10 tries in a 64-11 victory at Newbridge which lifted them to third place, while the home side had Julian Derrick sent-off. Phil Ford, 35, another former Great Britain wing, made a try-scoring return to union for Pontypridd in their 25-10 win at Dunvant.