Newcastle Gosforth. . . . . . . . . . . . .6
ODDLY enough, the change of vehicle appeared appropriate. Gone is the sleek Mercedes sports car, Will Carling rolling up for league work at The Stoop in a Range Rover. Add on the bull bars and if rugby ever went mechanised then the England captain would find himself perfectly equipped to tackle today's midfield clutter.
Mechanised? Well, some would certainly argue that the game has become far too mechanical and that back row workaholics are enjoying a field day. 'I grew tired of the abuse,' Carling said, reflecting on the passing of a sporting image. In any case, the new wagon is 'ideal in heavy traffic. People tend not to argue with you.'
He then steered the conversation towards rugby. 'Do you think they'll change the laws again? It's become almost impossible to score tries.' You do not have to convince us, Will. Just to confirm the frustrated centre's view, Saturday's match was indeed tryless, another fine example of the game disappearing up an impasse of its own making.
Carling and company can find no way through. Even lowly Newcastle Gosforth, without a win all season and destined for the drop back to the Second Division, have caught on. They shall not pass was surely their motto, though in reverse they found the Harlequins defence just as impenetrable at a time when they should have been enjoying a distinct edge.
Five minutes after the break, Quins were firing on one cylinder short of the full eight. The lock Alex Snow, following two warnings from David Matthews, had finally been sent off for continuing his private battle with Richard Arnold, the visitors' spike-haired and decidedly spiky No 8 from New Zealand.
Quins also withstood the loss of Chris Sheasby, who had taken one knock too many in an abrasive forward game, at the interval. Sheasby's successor, though, was greeted with a great cheer and the clicking of cameras. Peter Winterbottom, lately of Harlequins Gentlemen, was helping Quins out of a back- row injury crisis by sitting on the bench.
When the call to arms came, he did rather more than that, which was typical of the former England flanker. A less familiar face, although just as welcome, was that of David Pears. A succession of misfortunes that include a broken jaw, slipped discs and knee ligament damage have kept him on the sidelines in the league since tackling Bath in the September of '92.
'I was just happy to come through unscathed,' the full- back said. He looked a little rusty, as you might expect. Goalkicking for him is out at the moment because he wants to keep the pressure off his knee. Instead, Paul Challinor landed four penalties to two from David Johnson to give Quins the points, which admirably summed up Carling's view of the modern day crush.
Harlequins: Penalties Challinor 4. Newcastle Gosforth: Penalties Johnson 2.
Harlequins: D Pears; D O'Leary, W Carling, G Thompson, J Alexander; P Challinor, C Luxton; S Brown, B Moore, A Mullins (capt), A Snow, S Dear, T Coker, C Sheasby (P Winterbottom, 40), B Richardson.
Newcastle Gosforth: D Bennett (D Cassado, 36-39); T Penn, I Chandler, M Tetlow, M White; D Johnson (capt), S Douglas; P Vanzandvliet, N Frankland, M Fraser, J Fowler (R Metcalf, 73), F Mitchell, R Hoole, R Arnold, M Corry.
Referee: D Matthews (St Helens).