Quins in element

Orrell 17 Harlequins 19
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The Independent Online
HARLEQUINS never tend to think of themselves as getting knocked out of the Cup, just offering the trophy to others on temporary loan. After yesterday's heart-stopping display they remain on course - just - to retrieve what they regard as their rightful property. But only by the skin of their teeth. Orrell matched the London side in tenacity and vigour throughout.

The two sides scored two well-worked tries apiece. Only in taking half- chances did Orrell let themselves down. Their normally reliable full-back, Simon Mason, at times kicked as though his laces were tied together. As the game came to a climax with two points separating the sides, the home wing, Graeme Smith, failed to hold a ball with the line and ample space ahead of him.

The lead changed hands six times and better kicking from Mason or Jim Staples opposite him would have secured a result much earlier. All four tries were in the first half. For Orrell, the winger Smith and the centre Ian Wynn crossed. The first try ended a sparkling sequence after the Orrell scrum-half, Austin Healey, tapped a penalty near his own line, ran around the Quins defence before passing inside. Eighty yards on, Smith was there to finish off the move.

Healey has switched from the wing this season to fill the large gap left by Dewi Morris. He has brought a winger's strengths and occasionally weaknesses to the position. He darts elusively where Morris would have engaged in close frontal assault. Yesterday, though, Healey did occasionally pass like a winger, offering his outside-half a variable service at variable heights from the ground.

Quins, in contrast, looked primarily to the pack, particularly the fearsome front row of Jason Leonard, Andy Mullins and the impressive hooker, Simon Mitchell, who continually battered forwards, ably abetted by Mick Watson - in the second row because of Quins' injury difficulties.

And behind them was Will Carling, playing a crucial role in the Quins comeback. Carling broke a couple of tackles to set up their first try, creating the room for wing Darren O'Leary to score. He then found himself in space with the line at his feet. The outside-half Paul Challinor took over Quins' kicking after Staples had failed and his marginally more reliable boot tipped the balance.

The habitual Cup skill - and luck - of Quins keeps them on a well-worn route to Twickenham. Where Orrell threw care and the ball to the wind in adversity, Quins kept their heads.

Before the match Quins' captain, Jason Leonard, said it would not be an "after you, Claud" type of game. Nor was it. There were odd incidents of thuggery, with Watson lucky to stay on as victim in one case and perpetrator of a horrific tackle in another.

The bad boys though could not extinguish the sparkle of a park full of skilful, determined players. The old pattern reasserts itself: Quins will not win the league but they may win the Cup.

Orrell: S Mason; R Mathias, I Wynn, P Johnson (capt), G Smith; P Hamer, A Healey; J Russell, A Moffat, P Mitchell, C Cusani, C Cooper, J Huxley, A Bennett, S Bibby.

Harlequins: J Staples; W Carling, W Greenwood, S Bromley, P Challinor; R Kitchin, J Leonard (capt); S Mitchell, A Mullins, M Russell, M Watson, G Allison, R Jenkins, I Pickup.

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).

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