Cold comfort for losing Winnington

Winnington Park 0 Wasps 57
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THE result of this match was less surprising than the fact that it took place at all. Wasps are blazing away towards the brave new world of professional rugby, while at a members' meeting at Winnington Park only a fortnight ago, the players voted to remain unpaid, though to mark the occasion the match fee of pounds 2.50 which they normally pay to play was waived by the club.

The clubs are in different worlds, so the Wasps' win by nine tries and six conversions was only to be expected. Playing in yesterday's white- out was not.

In situations like these it is the custom to congratulate the visiting team simply for turning up, both sides for braving the Arctic wind chill for 80 minutes, and the committee for having the foresight to keep the pitch covered. Well, hear, bloody hear.

Winnington, who lie fourth in the Fifth Division North, were determined that nothing should interfere with their big day. What used to be the rugby section of the ICI recreation club, but now has a ground and an identity of its own on the outskirts of Northwich, has strong ties with the local community, and they were able to scrounge tarpaulins and plastic sheets from local factories to cover the pitch on Thursday night.

As the other ties were cancelled, so the limelight intensified, and from 8.30 yesterday morning 200 members worked to clear the covers and the snow. Among them was Dewi Morris, previously Winnington's main claim to fame - it was here that the Welshman went through his naturalisation period. Someone brought a JCB, another a flame thrower and the result was a pitch etched out in ice and snow, but with just enough give to make it playable.

The surface did enough to obliterate class differences in the opening minutes, and there was some raucous applause from the 3,000 crowd, who seemed pretty realistic about their club's chances, when Winnington chased a rolling ball down the touchline. But within 20 minutes it was clear that their number was up. Three times Jon Ufton, the Wasps' full-back had appeared in the attack - once in the midfield and twice on the right wing - and had scored a try each time. The Winnington defence was so tightly stretched that it couldn't cope with an extra man. Guy Gregory converted twice and with a quarter of the game gone Wasps were 19 points ahead.

From time to time when Wasps relaxed their grip Winnington would produce some skirmishing in midfield, and on one occasion John Farr, who has played scrum-half for the Midlands, put Wasps under genuine pressure with a curling run. It took the mass ranks of the Wasps' forwards to hold him on the line but the tide was against Winnington. A tap-down by Richard Kinsey to Kevin Dunn at the line-out produced a fourth Wasps' try, another Gregory conversion and a half time score of 26-0.

With this cosy lead the second half was more difficult for Wasps since their concentration wavered, and Winnington got among them, Farr in particular. Within a few minutes he was unlucky not to score himself and then not to send right-winger Adrian Bird over in the corner.

Once Wasps were jogged out of their complacency, they began running around as if they were in training. Aaron James, cutting through, produced a try for Shane Roiser on the left wing. Then Damian Hopley first burst over from a tap penalty and then ran clear from the halfway line to score a couple. Not to be outdone his brother Phil Hopley on the right wing took Wasps comfortably past the half-century with two tries of his own.

Winnington Park: R Oliver; A Bird, S Ogdon, M Farr, J Owens; G Lloyd, J Farr; D Allcock, I Taylor (capt), I Davies, P Rees, D Nicholls, M Bebbington, N Yardley, R Sproston.

Wasps: J Ufton; P Hopley, D Hopley, A James, S Roiser; G Gregory, S Bates; D Molloy, K Dunn, I Dunston, M Greenwood, R Kinsey, M White, C Wilkins, L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: J Wallis (Somerset).