Rugby Union: Grayson makes a serious impression

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The Independent Online
Midlands. .9

North. . .31

THEY could have borrowed a line from Zulu, when the one- legged private turns to the colour sergeant and inquires: 'Why us, Sarge?' The answer is perfect: 'Because we're here, lad.' It was a bit like that at Northampton yesterday.

What a shambles. Not this match, but the postponement of the decider between London and the South-West, which was still being sorted out on Wednesday night. No one can now see when the game is going to be played, though 16 April has been mentioned. It could just disappear, which would really upset CIS, the new sponsors who are pumping pounds 750,000 in over three years and want a match between two fully representative sides at a prestigious venue.

In the meantime, back to Northampton where events concerned some sort of a trophy - the wooden spoon - and the players appeared to be taking it seriously.

They served up some pretty lively rugby, particularly the North. Where Paul Grayson's goalkicking had kept them in touch with the All Blacks at Anfield, here it was their try- scoring feats that caused a buzz.

In the first half there was a certain symmetry about their scoring. John Steele would land a penalty for the Midlands and the North would come straight back with a try. On the first occasion Kevin Simms put Neil Ashurst over and then Michael Jackson's surge into the line opened the way for John Sleightholme. Finally, Simms himself intercepted Harris's telegraphed pass and went in unopposed.

From then on the North, with the wind now behind them, sailed home on the boot of Grayson, 21 points on Tuesday and another 16 here. Which just left Ed Morrison, England's top referee, to be carried off after 78 minutes with an ankle injury. He now misses handling Wednesday's match between the South of Scotland and the All Blacks at Gala.

MIDLANDS: J Steele (Northampton); S Hackney (Leicester), S Purdy (Moseley), F Packman, H Thorneycroft (Northampton); J Harris, A Kardooni (Leicester); G Baldwin (Northampton), R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson (Leicester), S Lloyd (Moseley), J Wells, D Richards (Leicester capt), C Millhouse (Northampton). Replacements: A Kerr (Moseley) for Thorneycroft 12-17 min; I Skingsley (Bedford) for Lloyd 68 min;

NORTH: M Jackson; J Sleightholme (Wakefield), J Fletcher (Northampton), K Simms (Liverpool St Helen's, capt), R Underwood (Leicester); P Grayson (Northampton), D Scully (Wakefield); P Lancaster, S Mitchell (W Hartlepool), S McMain (Sheffield), J Dixon (W Hartlepool), C Cusani (Orrell), C Vyvyan (Wharfedale), A MacFarland (Sale), N Ashurst (Orrell).

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol). Replacement: P Wakefield (London) 78 min.

Scores: Steele, (pen, 9 min, 3-0); Ashurst/Grayson (try/con, 10 min, 3-7); Steele (pen, 16 min, 6-7); Sleightholme (try, 18 min, 6-12); Steele (pen, 20 min, 9-12); Simms/Grayson (try/con, 21 min, 9-19); Grayson (pen, 51 min, 9-22); Grayson (pen, 59 min, 9-25); Grayson (drop goal, 65 min, 9-28); Grayson (pen, 67 min, 9-31).

(Photograph omitted)