Orrell out-flanked

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LAWRENCE DALLAGLIO put aside the distractions of English rugby's ongoing soap opera to strengthen Wasps' grip on qualification for next season's European Cup, one competition which looks as though it will definitely go ahead no matter how the domestic feud resolves itself.

The 23-year-old England flanker contributed two tries as he led the north London side to a confidence-boosting 51-16 victory over Orrell at Sudbury in Courage League One yesterday. Wasps' five other tries came from Chris Braithwaite, Nick Greenstock, Shane Roiser, Lawrence Scrase and Guy Gregory, who also kicked five conversions and two penalties.

Orrell, who went into yesterday's game with ambitions of their own concerning the all- important fourth qualifying spot for the European Cup, trailed only 17- 11 at half-time following a try by Paul Hamer and two penalties from the Ireland full-back Simon Mason. But a try by Luis Tuigamala was all they could muster after the interval as Dallaglio and his men ran riot.

Sale stayed level with Wasps on 16 points thanks to a 44-13 thumping of bottom club West Hartlepool. But their inferior points difference, coupled with the fact that their opponents in the final two matches of the season are Leicester and Bath while all that remains for Wasps is a couple of meetings with West Hartlepool, would appear to leave them with little hope of appearing on the European stage.

Despite the probability that they will have to settle for finishing fifth, Sale gave their supporters plenty to cheer as they ran in six tries, all scored by different players, while West Hartlepool, plunging to their 15th successive league defeat of the season, could only manage a penalty try plus a conversion and two penalties from Jon Benson.

The European Cup apart, though, the leading clubs must wait to discover which fixture list they will fulfil next season - the RFU's or their own alternative version. Meanwhile, normal service was resumed at Franklins Gardens where Northampton, whose early-season pyrotechnics have given way recently to one or two less spectacular victories, confirmed themselves as League Two champions with a 69-5 thrashing of Waterloo. London Irish will accompany them back into the top flight after their 46-23 success at Blackheath and the 45-11 defeat of London Scottish, their only rivals, at Newcastle.

In Wales, Cardiff took advantage of their rivals' involvement in the Swalec Cup semi-finals to hammer Swansea 59-0 and climb to second place in the Heineken First Division, just two points behind the leaders Neath with a game in hand. The St Helens' faithful were silenced as Cardiff scored nine tries including two each for Wales wings Simon Hill and Nigel Walker.