Pears in despair

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The Independent Online
Harlequins 21

Orrell 25

HARLEQUINS should never have lost this match and David Pears knows this only too well. A dreadful afternoon with his kicking meant that Quins have lost four of their last five games. After their winning start to the season, this losing business is becoming something of a trend.

Orrell's first away victory of the season was achieved with impressive determination, a more reliable kicker and a smaller mistake count. But the mistakes and penalties they did give away were no matter, for Pears was powerless to punish them.

The good news for Quins - and you had to look hard for it yesterday - was that Jason Leonard played well and surely answered the questions over his fitness for next Saturday's international against South Africa. There was one area - the line-out - in which the home side did excel, and with Alex Snow and Mark Russell plucking out of the air anything that Brian Moore threw at them, it made you wonder why Quins have been trying to tempt Martin Bayfield to join them. At the back of the line-out, Chris Sheasby was also in complete control, though ironically it was one he failed to catch that led to Quins' early try.

It was a score that Orrell are unlikely to enjoy watching on video as Rob Kitchin, for all the impressive pace and angle of his run, should never have been allowed through. He simply scooped up the loose line-out ball and then enjoyed the privilege of having the opposition defence part before him.

Orrell's try, nine minutes later, should not really have been allowed to happen either. Graeme Smith broke inside from the wing to set up the score and barely a hand was laid on him. It was Simon Mason who finished the move in the corner. He failed to convert his own try but succeeded with a succession of other penalties and was the clear winner in the kicking contest that this game turned out to be.

Poor Pears got his first two but then missed five in a row. He started to take practice swings but it only helped the ball to hit the post (twice), and did not help it through them. This, unfortunately, was where the game was lost: Mason got five out of six penalties and Pears finished with three out of 10. The try count remained level at the end, each side scoring in the last 10 minutes.

Orrell scored the first of these late tries, Steve Taberner going over in the corner, and this set up an exciting finale with Quins chasing hard but never quite catching up. Peter Mensah reduced the deficit with five minutes to go, the scoring pass from Crawford Henderson after an impressive move through the backs, and though Harlequinsagain got close to the Orrell line, they never quite got over it.

Harlequins: C Wright; D O'Leary, W Greenwood, P Mensah, C Henderson; D Pears, R Kitchin; J Leonard (capt), B Moore, A Mullins, A Snow, M Russell, M Watson, R Jenkins, C Sheasby.

Orrell: S Mason; L Tuigamala, J Naylor, P Johnson (capt), G Smith (S Taberner, 15); P Hamer, A Healey; P Winstanley, A Moffitt, P Mitchell, S Bibby, C Cooper, J Huxley, P Manley, A Bennett.

Referee: G Warren (Gloucester).

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