Harlequins outbid humble Orrell

Orrell 9 Harlequins 23
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The Independent Online
SINCE rugby is still no more professional than it was last season - which, perhaps, is not saying much - it would have have been a mistake to expect stardust to have settled on Edge Hall Road during the summer. This was more or less where we left off last spring: Harlequins still trying to prove that they are at least equal to the sum of their talented parts, Orrell still looking as though they are struggling against insuperable odds, and the whole game casting doubt on whether such players are yet really worth their professional salt.

Surprisingly Orrell almost went ahead with a try in the opening minute when James Naylor, trying to kick ahead, found the ball rebounding into his hands from some unfortunate's face. This time he took to his heels and put through his full-back, Simon Mason, who was stopped only just short of the Quins' line. But this was no straw in the wind. From this point Harlequins collected themselves often enough to build up 18 first- half points without reply. David Pears, the kind of reassuring influence that Orrell badly needed, kicked them into the lead with a drop goal and a penalty. And then they added two tries, the first deeply embarrassing to Orrell.

With the home side on the attack, Paul Hamer sent out a pass which hit Ian Wynn on the head, and diverted the ball to Will Carling.The England captain did not have a particularly conspicuous game, but this time he set off upfield to give Simon Mitchell, his opportunist hooker, a try. He also had a hand in the try which his scrum-half and acting captain, Rob Kitchin, set up in midfield and finished off by the posts.

In the second half it looked as though the Quins' abiding fault of wavering concentration would cost them, if not the match at least some loss of face. As they flagged, Mason kicked Orrell back into the contest with three consecutive penalties. But those were the last shots in Orrell's locker, and Harlequins sufficiently remembered their traditions to put Darren O'Leary, via a fine run by Peter Mensah, across for a relieving try.

Orrell admit that they are in for a difficult season. Over the past four or five years they have lost an entire team through natural wastage, and now have very little reserve talent to call on in case of injury. The sudden switch to open rugby has not helped. They have told the senior players that there is no money in the kitty to pay them wages, though they can have perks: tours with first-class hotels, for instance. The team has accepted this, but for how many more seasons?

A number of would-be recruits and junior players have been enticed away by lower division clubs which have promised to pay. The one glimmer of light in the distance is that should Orrell find the money to pay players, they are in a perfect geographical position to bid for players from more impoverished minor rugby league clubs.

Orrell: S Mason; J Naylor, I Wynn, P Johnson (capt), P Horrocks; P Hamer, A Healey; P Winstanley, M Scott, J Cundick, C Cooper, C Brierley, C Cusani, J Huxley, S Bibby.

Harlequins: J Staples; D O'Leary, W Carling, P Mensah, S Bromley; D Pears, R Kitchin (capt); S Brown, S Mitchell; A Mullins, A Snow, P Thresher, M Russell, R Jenkins, C Sheasby.

Referee: C J Harrison (Milton Keynes).