Amateur outfit kicked-out of league after 'disgraceful' scenes against Wigan club
An amateur club have today been booted out of their competition after "disgraceful" conduct in a match against Orrell St James last weekend.
Widnes outfit West Bank were punished after ugly scenes which saw OSJ winger Gaz Gough hospitalised and visiting fans confronted after the full-time whistle.
St James won 16-13 at West Bank to claim the NW Men’s Premier Division title for the first time.
But their achievement was overshadowed by chaos on and off the pitch which sparked an investigation from the NW Men’s Management Committee.
On Wednesday, the RFL removed West Bank from the 2018 competition on the recommendation of the NW Committee, with no right to appeal, given they had previously been warned about their conduct following a complaint made by Shevington Sharks.
“They were approached in April and asked to smarten-up,” said NW Men’s League Chairman Stuart Prior.
“It is more from a spectators’ point of view than a playing one.
“No one has the right to verbally threaten an official, player or other spectator with the intent to cause harm.
“There was no alternative but to remove them, though they can apply for the 2019 competition, though whether that application will be accepted will be under review.
“It’s sad when it comes to removing clubs.
“We want as many people playing as possible, and the game is supposed to be enjoyable.”
St James were set to face fourth-placed Haydock in this weekend’s play-offs while West Bank would have hosted Thatto Heath Crusaders A.
But West Banks’ expulsion from the league could open the door for fifth-placed Ashton Bears to enter the play-offs.
Orrell St James coach Sean McHugh had earlier said OSJ would refuse to face West Bank - at any level - if action wasn't taken by the league.
He said: “They are a disgrace to the league and the sport and don’t deserve to be allowed to continue to play this sport or in this competition.”
West Bank have been involved in similar incidents this season, with other clubs preferring to concede points than play against them.
Steve Dillon, vice-chairman of Shevington Sharks, said they lodged a complaint with the RFL - via the NW Men’s League - after their match in March.
“Last year we went and it was horrible, and we were hesitant about going back, but we went, and nothing had changed,” said Dillon. “It was a disgrace, people were being threatened. I thought there’s no point people saying they shouldn’t be in the league and not doing anything about it, so we complained to the league.”
St James coach McHugh added: “All season clubs have been crying off when scheduled to go to West Bank because of their brutal style of play, and they have been getting the games by default. Shevington cried off a couple of weeks ago because they didn’t want their very young side to take a physical hammering, and who can blame them.
“But we had beaten West Bank once at our place, and with the Championship on the line we were not going to let the bullies win and give them the game and the title by default. Instead we travelled to their ground and weathered everything they threw at us.
“But it wasn’t a game of rugby. It was horrendous.
“It was like a throwback with players wading in and throwing punches, and after the final whistle, their spectators started charging across the pitch to get at our fans.
“It was horrendous.
“But the lads stood up, played the rugby that they could and came out with the win. It was brave and courageous performance amidst some terrible intimidation, and I am proud of everyone one of them.
“But I felt dreadfully sorry for the referee, Gareth Palmer, who tried his best to keep it under control, even though he is only relatively young. In the end we gave him an escort from the field, and to my mind there is absolutely no place for that type of reaction in sport – any sport.”
Widnes West Bank have been approached for comment.