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Remembering the year when West topped the table

The West Hartlepool squad of 1984.
The West Hartlepool squad of 1984.

Football is not the only sport which has a tremendous following in Hartlepool.

The town is known for its rugby traditions and we will spend the next few weeks looking at teams which have built up such a great history.

Action from West in 1984.

Action from West in 1984.

First, we go back to 1984 when West topped the Merit Table against the likes of Gosforth and Sale.

Season highlights included a 9-9 draw at top-of-the-table Vale of Lune which led to a string of results in which West were never beaten.

Our reporter at the time said: “At any level, West have lost very few games this season even when they have had to field makeshift sides because of county call-ups.”

There were a few low points including a 13-9 reverse to Gosforth and the third round exit to Orrell in the John Player Cup, but our reporter added: “How fortunes change in rugby.

At the time of that game, Orrell were unbeaten in the Merit Table and expected to do great things in the John Player Cup. Since then, things have turned sour for Orrell while West have gone from strength to strength

Hartlepool Mail reporter, 1984

“At the time of that game, Orrell were unbeaten in the Merit Table and expected to do great things in the John Player Cup. Since then, things have turned sour for Orrell while West have gone from strength to strength.”

They quickly forgot the cup loss to overcome Harrogate 19-13 and triumphed 12-6 over Liverpool to put themselves within striking distance of the top of the table.

West were standing second and stayed there through to March 17 when they beat Wakefield 16-13 to go top for the first time that season.

But one short period was to make all the difference.

Orrell were crumbling while West faced three matches in a week. Wakefield away was the first, then came Headingley at home and Roundhay at home.

The Brierton Lane outfit were up to the task and won all three matches. They were firmly in command at the top of the Table and did so well, they won a national Team Of The Week award.

By now, Sale were the only real challengers to West’s dominance but, as our reporter said, “the ball was in the Brierton Lane court.”

The campaign was rounded off nicely with a marvellous 23-9 win at home to Sheffield.

And as our reporter commented back in 1984, the championships was theirs for the first time and probably not the last.

The skipper that season was Charlie Bentley and it was a great year for Graham Cook, the forward who did so well, he was called up for his country. He was a non-travelling reserve for the Calcutta Cup match with Scotland at Murrayfield.

Another star who made an impression was Billy Neesham who was also being predicted for England honours.