Rugby Union / Courage Clubs' Championship: Saracens left stretched on tenterhooks

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Saracens. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41

London Scottish . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

THE bar was full, the home supporters were wearing satisfied smiles topped with pinta foam, but the little room at the back was almost sombre as John Davies, the Saracens club coach, analysed the win over London Scottish. Surely 58 points and eight tries deserved a better reception than this? But Davies had only two points to savour and they are not likely to be enough to be a First Division saviour.

The Welshman and his first- team coach, Mark Evans, were left to calculate that even two more wins, against London Irish and Bath, may not be enough and that if they go down they risk losing five of their better players.

'Let's not pussyfoot, let's name names,' Evans said. But he did not, saying only that the pressure on Justyn Cassell, Darren O'Leary, Dan Dooley, Chris Tarbuck and Eric Peters was from on high if they want to play for their countries.

Evans also thought that perhaps the site for the club's new ground should be Sydney instead of Potters Bar. He had a point. Saracens, although being made to look even better by their opponents, had a rampagingly mobile afternoon on the dry firm turf with the back row especially impressive and the old (is he really only 34?) warrior Lee Adamson winning line-out ball and scoring a try.

But relegation is creeping upwards from Rugby at the foot to West Hartlepool and to the North and South Circular candidates above them, Sarries and Scottish, in the big chop which will see nearly one third of what are meant to be England's premier clubs tumble.

The Scottish looked as though they could hardly be bothered to get out of bed except for the front row which, after Paul Burnell was woken up by an eyebrow-splitting smack in the first couple of minutes, spent the rest of the afternoon in livid confrontation with anything that moved except the ball.

Afterwards, the Exiles looked for no excuses and were keen to point out that the missing Mark Appleson and Iain Morrison were under special pressure to tour with Scotland to play sevens in the Far East because Murrayfield hosts the first World Cup Sevens in April.

They face the Irish, Bath and Northampton in the run-in and seem resigned to going down. A mid-term clash of views has led first to Andy Cushing and then Alastair McHarg resigning as coaches. Exit, also, tactical and motivational direction. Neil Stammers, a club spokesman, knows they will succeed in the long term. 'To quote Fred Astaire,' he said, 'we'll pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.'

Saracens: Tries Wilson, Adamson, Dooley, Crawley, O'Leary, Buckton; Conversions Tunningley 4; Penalty Tunningley. London Scottish: Tries Millard 2; Conversions Wichary 2; Penalty Grecian.

Saracens: A Tunningley; D O'Leary, J Buckton, D Dooley, S Reed; G Hughes, B Davies (capt); R Andrews, G Botterman, S Wilson, M Langley, L Adamson, C Tarbuck, B Crawley, J Cassell.

London Scottish: S Wichary; N Grecian, M Sly, L Renwick, C Henderson; R Cramb (capt), D Millard; D Signorini, L Mair, P Burnell, D Cronin, R Scott, N Provan, D White, D Leckie.

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).