Rugby Union: Holmes rules roost: London Scottish 27 Newcastle 17

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THE GAME may be going to hell in a hand-basket but nobody has told London Scottish. The Exiles, ripe for a takeover from Bristol, outplayed the reigning champions Newcastle Falcons in a performance of some substance and skill at the Stoop yesterday.

John Steele, London Scottish's admirable coach, is hoping that if Bristol gain promotion to Premiership One a takeover would not be necessary. However, in a brief letter to supporters, Tony Tiarks, the London Scottish chairman, with barely enough ink left in his pen after signing all those cheques, wrote: "We have now formalised arrangements with Bristol and all members will receive the details shortly. Our main aim has been to protect the team's future whilst providing time to come up with a Scottish solution."

Tiarks, who spends most of his time in Monaco, added: "We have found it impossible to pay for everything, especially with our disappointing crowds."

Disappointing maybe, but not disappointed. Yesterday a crowd of 2,101 saw the Scottish record their seventh victory of the season. The more uncertain their future, the greater the pride in performance. They have now beaten the European Cup holders Bath, the English Cup winners Saracens, and the League champions.

What the Scottish and Newcastle (perhaps these two clubs should merge and form a brewery) have in common are chairmen who are sick and tired of the discrepancy between income and expenditure. Sir John Hall, the Newcastle chairman who is domiciled in Spain, last week put the Falcons up for sale.

Although West Hartlepool are keen on a North-east merger, David Campbell, a director and the leader of a group representing the old Gosforth club from which the Newcastle Falcons rose, has resigned from the board citing conflict of interest.

Whatever happens, London Scottish are determined to compete in the Premiership, at least for this season. Newcastle knew they were in for a torrid afternoon when Simon Fenn went over for the first try after the ball had been recycled for about the 10th time.

Then, midway through the first half, Paul Johnstone added another after good work by Rob Hunter. Jannie de Beer converted and added a penalty to give the Scottish a 15-3 lead at half-time. It could have been double that: misfortune or dropped passes prevented tries for Conan Sharman, Kenny Milligan and Simon Binns.

Within seconds of the re-start an attempted clearance by Rob Andrew was charged down by De Beer who came within a fingertip of scoring. Nevertheless, the Scottish, faster, smarter and clearly more committed, increased their lead when Guy Easterby scored their third try and then the outstanding Simon Holmes got the fourth in the 67th minute, at which point they led 27-3.

Newcastle at least made their prospectus more appealing to the potential purchasers, scoring long-range tries through Martin Shaw and Stuart Legg near the end of a match which was never in their reach.

London Scottish: S Binns; K Milligan, J Bonney, R Eriksson, C Sharman (I McAusland, 79); J De Beer, G Easterby; P Johnstone (M MacDonald, 48), D Rudham (D Cummins, 48), P Burnell, E Jones, M Watson (M McAtamney, 40), S Fenn, R Hunter (T Davies, 48), S Holmes (capt).

Newcastle: P Massey (S Legg, 71); T Underwood, M Shaw, R Andrew, V Tuigamala; J Wilkinson, G Armstrong (capt); G Graham, R Nesdale, M Hurter, H Vyvyan, G Archer, S O'Neill, R Beattie, J Cartmell (R Arnold, 69).

Referee: C Rees (London)