O'Leary runs up winning treble

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The Independent Online
Harlequins winger Daren O'Leary scored a slick hat-trick as the Pilkington Cup favourites survived a fierce fight-back by Second Division Rotherham.

Sitting on a comfortable 22-9 lead at half-time, Quins seemed to have the game won - especially when their stand-off Thierry Lacroix added a penalty six minutes after the restart. But then Rotherham produced their best rugby to score two tries in 12 minutes and bring the tie back to life.

First, the winger Nick Miller raced half the length of the field to touch down and then, after a sustained spell of pressure, their lively centre Steve Burnhill forced his way over. With Dean Lax adding both conversions to make it 32-23 Quins' nerves were jangling, but Lacroix steadied them with a 70th-minute penalty goal, while Dan Luger finished things off four minutes later with his second try.

Another hat-trick winger was Sale's Tom Beim, as his team crushed Orrell for the second time in a week. Sale repeated last Saturday's eight-try demolition, with the outside-half Simon Mannix slotting seven conversions to add insult to injury - he missed that number in the previous match. Orrell had fielded a revamped back-row for this game in an attempt to compete, but their ball-winning ability was again lacking, allowing Sale to coast along for the last half-hour.

No slacking for Northampton though, who needed every ball-winning inch of the returning Martin Bayfield, back in first-team action for the first time in 10 months, as they held off Derek Eves' spirited Coventry side to win 26-17.

Their hooker, Allen Clarke, suffered a broken finger and is out of the Ireland side for Saturday's Five Nations' Championship match against Wales. Clarke, was chosen by the Irish as a replacement for their captain, Keith Wood, who was injured in the defeat by France.

In the Swalec Cup, holders Pontypridd crushed Fifth Division hopefuls Felinfoel 90-10, with Neil Jenkins running up a personal total of 30 points. But it was far from plain-sailing for nine-times winners Llanelli. The Scarlets were given a scare by First Division new boys Caerphilly, who came back from 20-3 to go down fighting 20-17. Scrum-half Rupert Moon scored two tries for Llanelli.