Rugby Union: Coker stokes fire

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Harlequins. . . . .52

Basingstoke. . . . .3

IT WAS a case of Basingstoke boys against Harlequins men at the Stoop, confirmation of the vast gulf that exists between Division One of the Courage league and Division Five South, where the visitors reside.

Quins ran in nine tries, six of them in the first half, and the Hampshire team, in the biggest game in their 45-year history, were never in the hunt from the moment the Australian international lock Troy Coker scored Quins' first try in the eighth minute. Still, Basingstoke, who had not reached the fourth round of the Pilkington Cup before, gave a reasonably good account of themselves. They tackled ferociously and even managed to mount promising attacks at the end of each half.

The scrum-half Paul Goodall looked a well organised player and the stand-off half Hamish Rushin supplied some neat kicks and a cool head under pressure.

But the Basingstoke forwards could not mount a serious challenge against a Quins pack containing four internationals. Simon Dear ruled the line-outs and his fellow lock, Coker, was the game's dominant figure, masterful at ripping the ball from mauls and continually emerging from scrums and line-outs to race down the middle of the field, with Basingstoke players hanging ineffectually on to him like Lilliputians to Gulliver.

Outside the scrum, the right wing Daren O'Leary was a constant menace. He scored a fine hat-trick of tries, including the best one of the match when he took a pass inside his own half, curved out to the left wing, then cut back through a crowded midfield to score near the posts without a finger being laid on him.

Coming on the half hour, it was his second and Quins' sixth, the forwards Chris Sheasby, Andy Mullins and Dear having added to Coker's initial score, providing a vivid demonstration of the mobility of the Quins front eight.

Gavin Thompson, Paul Challinor and O'Leary, with his third, added second-half tries and Basingstoke's only response was a well-struck penalty by the captain Richard Rowledge. Nevertheless, they left the pitch to a standing ovation from their supporters.

Harlequins: Tries O'Leary 3, Coker, Sheasby, Dear, Mullins, Thompson, Challinor; Penalty Bray; Conversions Challinor, Bray. Basingstoke: Penalty R Rowledge.

Harlequins: K Bray; D O'Leary, J Keytor, G Thompson, J Alexander; P Challinor, B Short; J Leonard, B Moore, A Mullins, T Coker, S Dear, M Russell, C Sheasby, R Jardine- Brown.

Basingstoke: R Rowledge; N Pattison, M John, D Rowledge, S Denning; H Rushin, P Goodall; P Bridgeman, I Lillington, J Ford, A Ralph, G Hurst, P Hawkins, M Culley, M Raine.

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).