Rugby Union: Grayson's pay-off

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The Independent Online
Northampton. . .22

Waterloo. . . . .3

WATERLOO must rue the day their outside-half Paul Grayson decided to pack his well-used boots and seek fame - if not fortune - in the First Division. Yesterday, he ungenerously repaid his old club by dispatching them from the cup without a smidgeon of sentimentality.

He clinically kicked the penalties, dropped the goal and played the crucial part in both the Northampton tries that did for his old team-mates as surely as he had helped them shunt both Bath and Orrell out of the cup last season.

Grayson, in his new colours, kicked three penalties before dropping a long goal to build up the Saints' unbeatable cushion. He launched the miss move that generated the try which hammered yet more nails into the Waterloo coffin. To dispel any delusion of giant-killing grandeur, he sent an outrageous reverse pass in his own half to start the move which culminated in Northampton's second try. Nick Beal finished off both tries, racing round the opposition.

The result really stemmed from a simple difference of class - the chasm between first- and second-division rugby was just too wide. It was nowhere greater than in the pack, where the formidable - sometimes unsaintly - Saints' front row bent the opposition double. The experienced John Olver and Gary Pearce can stand their ground with the best, while the loose-head, Gavin Baldwin, is the sort of solid trooper any forward would prefer to play alongside rather than against.

Tim Rodber returned to the back row after damaging his shoulder in England's heroics against New Zealand, and reinforced Northampton's loose play, closing down the Waterloo options, stopping them playing the fast and furious game on which they planned to rely. Behind the forwards, the Saints backs were solid in defence and a shade faster, a shade more coherent in attack.

And yet, and yet . . . Northampton never really shook off their recent lethargy. Their backs - Beal excepted - did not show the skill and penetration to beat the best, nor did the pack really produce the bite to savage the top dogs. After all, Waterloo in the cup were probably not the same challenge as Leicester or Bath, their next two formidable league tasks.

Northampton: Tries Beal 2; Penalties Grayson 3; Drop goal Grayson. Waterloo: Penalty Swindells.

Northampton: I Hunter; H Thorneycroft, M Fielden, J Fletcher, N Beal; P Grayson, M Dawson; G Baldwin, J Olver (capt), G Pearce, N Edwards, S Foale, D Merlin, T Rodber, M Steffert.

Waterloo: S Swindells; G Meredith, N Hill (N Roberts, 74), M Craig, G Fraser; T Handley, C Saverimutto; S Turner, M Hayton, S Peters, N Wilkinson (capt), S Fletcher, D Blythe, J Ashcroft (S Beeley 80), P Buckton.

Referee: A Reay (RFU).