Two world wars and a cup final battle royale

The early 1900s brought change in both players and venues for West Hartlepool Rugby Club.

Wednesday, 14th September 2016, 1:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th September 2016, 3:37 pm
Action from a West Hartlepool match in the early 1900s.

Chris Cordner continues his look back at the first 100 years of West.

West’s fortunes varied on and off the pitch, with everything from a change of ground to the First World War playing a part.

The official programme of the 1906 visit of Stade Francais.

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They left Foggy Furze once more and spent a season at a pitch next door to the Victoria Ground.

But war came and stopped all proceedings. It was only in 1919 - after a meeting at the Seamen’s Institute in Church Street - that it was resolved to play again.

West were back and began picking up trophies once more - first the Second XV Cup against Westoe.

Notable names in the club’s history arrived, such as Gordon Arthur (captain in 1924-25), the Aarvold brothers Carl and Brian, Siddle and EW Dyer who worked “extremely hard” in the seasons that followed.

The official programme of the 1906 visit of Stade Francais.

Carl Aarvold played in five tests for the Lions against Australia.

Second and third team success were matched in 1927-28 by the first team which was hailed as “the best for a few years”.

Things got even better in 1930-31 when the side recorded 20 wins and two draws, but then came a downturn in the early 1930s.

It was interrupted by a successful 1935, with Harry Herbert leading a team that notched up 525 points on the pitch with only 156 against.

But injuries meant massive change two seasons later, and only three of the side which started the campaign were still playing in January.

Yet just as West were developing and evolving, another world war interrupted proceedings, and the county rugby authority ordered the suspension of activities.

Back they came in 1946 and achieved one of their finest moments in the Durham Senior Cup two years later. It was not without its drama though.

It happened at Ashbrooke in Sunderland in the final against Westoe.

A special train was laid on for supporters who got to see a hard-fought first encounter which finished 0-0 after 100 minutes - notable in part for Jack Maughan’s game-saving tackle at the corner flag which ended with him having to have splinters from the post removed from around his eye.

The replay was back at Ashbrooke, and our report said it was played as if it was a continuation of the first fixture - Westoe first dominating, then West coming more into the game.

This time, there were points and they were all West’s. A Syd Guthrie drop goal and tries by Tom Metcalfe and Norman Wilkinson meant an 11-0 victory. The cup was coming to West for the first time in 45 years.

* Watch out for more on West’s history in the coming weeks.