Lion-hearted Weir surely south bound

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Newcastle 37 Richmond 17

It may have been a Second Division match, but there was plenty of class on show - more than 20 internationals on the weekend when the British Lions selectors were sitting down to finalise their list of 35 for the forthcoming tour of South Africa.

And if Doddie Weir does not make the trip it will be a travesty after the tremendous performance he put in to help Newcastle inflict a first league defeat of the season on the leaders, Richmond, and boost their promotion bid.

Weir stole the ball on opposition lines-out, stole in for a try and, in short, stole the show. His partner, Garath Archer, who, according to the Newcastle captain, Dean Ryan, has had a massive season back in his native North-east, did his share of damage, too. Their performance summed up the difference between the two sides.

Newcastle wanted it from the start - Ryan opening the scoring from an early line-out - and Richmond woke up to the desire far too late in the second half, when Newcastle were already lengths in front.

Sadly, Ryan is resigning himself to spending some time on the quarter deck watching his crew battling for promotion. He will be helpless as he works his way back to fitness after damaging knee ligaments. But he saw enough to conclude: "I would be surprised if Weir, Archer and Alan Tait were ignored by the Lions selectors.

"As a club we are very proud of our set-piece work, and in particular our line-outs. And Weir and Archer are top line-out operators. I've been coaching these guys and playing with them, they are world class. Both are major candidates to go on tour. They can perform at every level."

Archer, who certainly did his Lions chances no harm but is more of a certainty for England's tour of Argentina, was full of praise for his second-row partner and said: "Doddie is playing superbly."

The pair certainly provided a plentiful supply of possession which Newcastle, cannily directed by Rob Andrew, put to good use. In the back row Pat Lam, the Western Samoan, was everywhere, capable at times of doing everything. His tackling was ferocious, his handling contrastingly soft but telling, his pace in any space devastating.

Andrew said: "Pat has given us a further dimension, one that we were lacking. He has an exceptional footballing brain." And of course, out in the midfield lurked Tait and Va'aiga Tuigamala, a No Through Road and a Dead End for opposing backs. Tuigamala had the added advantage of being a distraction.

Richmond could not afford to let up on covering the Western Samoan for a second. Even though he could not shake off his minders he drew enough cover to allow the Newcastle forwards more room to manoeuvre and they duly obliged, scoring all their side's tries.

From a defensive point of view both sides were exemplary. The Richmond centre Allan Bateman is out of the top drawer and has to be a certainty for South Africa. He also looked dangerous on the offensive, and his quick thinking led to one of Jim Fallon's two tries for Richmond.

Newcastle: Tries Ryan, Popplewell, Archer, Weir; Conversions Andrew 4; Penalties Andrew 3. Richmond: Tries Fallon 2, Clarke; Conversion Mason.

Newcastle: T Stimpson; J Bentley, A Tait, V Tuigamala, T Underwood; R Andrew, G Armstrong; N Popplewell, R Nesdale, G Graham, G Archer, D Weir, P Lam, D Ryan (capt, S O'Neill, 59), R Arnold.

Richmond: S Mason; J Fallon, S Cottrell, A Bateman, S Brown (E Va'a, 77); A Davies, A Moore; J Foster, B Moore (A Cuthbert, 19), D Crompton, C Quinnell, S Atherton, A Vander, S Quinnell (L Jones, 70), B Clarke (capt).

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).