Rugby Union: Alexander's brag time

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RUGBY earned a fifth-round visit to West Hartlepool in the Tetley's Bitter Cup with a 26-17 win yesterday over Jewson National League One rivals Reading. Colin Alexander, a wing forward, and the Western Samoan centre To'o Vaega scored the home team's two tries while the left-wing Andy Clark went over for Reading. The other points came via the boots of Martin Davies and Joe Czerpak for Rugby and Jason Dance for the visitors.

Saracens and Newcastle can go eight points clear at the top of Allied Dunbar Premiership Division One today if they both win their home games against Harlequins and London Irish respectively. Wasps, victorious in their last two matches after a run of defeats, play host to Gloucester, who welcome back the French wing Philippe Saint-Andre after a two-month absence.

Ambitious Rotherham moved up to fourth in Division Two after a 32-26 victory at Waterloo. Guy Easterby, the visiting scrum-half, weighed in with two tries and his fellow half-back Simon Binns supplied 12 points. London Welsh remain a point clear in Jewson National League One after disposing of Lydney 24-13 at Old Deer Park. But Worcester are still on their heels following a 32-12 success at Nottingham.

Home clubs seemed to enjoy themselves in the Welsh Rugby Union Challenge Trophy yesterday. Cardiff's success apart, there were three other victories plus Llanelli's remarkable 40-40 draw with the Argentine side Tucuman at Stradey Park. Swansea, for whom Richard Wintle ran in a hat-trick of tries, were involved in an even higher-scoring game before beating Rosario, also from Argentina, 51-31. Cordoba, the third Argentine side in action, also lost, 29-12 at Bridgend, while Newport overcame Spain 13-0 in a bad- tempered encounter.

Caerphilly extended their lead over Aberavon in the Welsh National Division One to seven points with a 47-20 home win over Pontypool and Ballymena maintained their two-point edge over the champions Shannon in the AIB Irish League with a 27-12 success over Ulster rivals Dungannon. Shannon stayed in touch by winning 12-11 at Constitution.

After going more than two years without a Tennents League defeat in Scotland, the champions Melrose suffered their second setback in a fortnight when they lost 20-17 away to Currie. Melrose are now second in the table, a point adrift of the new leaders Watsonians who won 31-20 at Heriot's FP.