Quins quash rising

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WILL CARLING was given a tough welcome back to the Courage League yesterday when Harlequins were made to battle at Saracens before securing a 13-6 victory that kept them third in the First Division.

The England captain showed no ill-effects from the knee injury that forced him off during England's victory over Wales two weeks ago, but he did need treatment for a hand problem.

He was quickly shown that it would not be an easy afternoon against the side third from bottom of the division, as Andy Lee gave Saracens a seventh- minute lead after Mike Watson had stopped the wing Kris Chesney with a high tackle. Paul Challinor levelled the score two minutes later but there was half an hour gone before he put Quins ahead with another penalty.

Harlequins then began to show their superiority but they did not generate points and were caught out by an interception by the Saracens scrum-half Philip Friel. They were penalised under the resulting pressure and Lee made it 6-6.

However, Quins replied by also stealing possession, but more profitably. Their centre Peter Mensah charged down a kick by Lee and went over for a try that, with Challinor converting, finally gave Quins a decisive lead. Not that they were comfortable still. Saracens launched a determined late onslaught, and it was in making one of a number of covering tackles that Carling hurt his hand.

Gloucester had a field day at Orrell's expense, producing their best performance of the season to ease their relegation worries with a 27-0 victory at Kingsholm. Dave Sims, their captain, led by example with a thundering performance in the tight in a match that has put a different complexion on their Pilkington Cup quarter-final to be played at home against Wasps next weekend.

Martin Roberts and Tony Windo scored tries, with Gareth Fenwick supplying 14 points with his boot on his debut at full-back and Martyn Kimber chipping in with a drop goal.

Vernon Pugh, the chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union, said yesterday that delegates of leading clubs will meet Welsh officials in Cardiff tomorrow to talk about the financial structure of the game in Wales. "We all need to sit down to discuss the problems which clubs feel at the moment," Pugh said.