Rugby Union: McGeechan refuses to give up the chase

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The Independent Online
Northampton 44

London Scottish 13

IAN McGEECHAN has not built his coaching reputation on being second best, witness two victorious Lions tours and a Grand Slam with Scotland. So even if Northampton look destined to be Premiership runners-up to Leicester, at least McGeechan showed his worth by coaxing a punishing second-half performance from his nearly men.

It is another season without silverware for the Saints and if the continuing investment of Keith Barwell is to be rewarded more tangibly they need to add a couple of new players to augment the established spine of the side in Nick Beal, Matt Dawson, Tim Rodber and Pat Lam.

It is perhaps invidious to isolate Northampton's attritional approach in the first half which preceded them cutting loose later. After all, their staccato bursts of forward drives may just have been designed to soften Scottish up. Whatever the case, three tries in the first 11 minutes after the break all but settled the outcome.

Some say the top division is moving towards a closed shop of financially viable clubs and that those in the corridors of power may not be fretting over the threatened demise of London Scottish. Perhaps that would allow what would appear to be more of a going concern in Bristol to take over, but the argument will no doubt rage on.

The collective noun for London Scottish players must be a "confusion" right now. They may yet be overhauled by Bedford, although it is unlikely, and face a play-off with none other than Bristol, if the latter finish second in Allied Dunbar Two.

Bearing in mind that Bristol are covering the Exiles' wages with a reported option to take a controlling interest, that would make for a fascinating end-of-season confrontation, not to mention a repeat of the tie that relegated Bristol last year.

On the pitch, Lam demonstrated his knack of being in the right place at the right time for Northampton and his back row combination with Budge Pountney and Grant Seely held sway over the Exiles' break-away trio.

At times it seemed as if Lam was playing to his own game-plan but two tries for Pountney completed a thoroughly agreeable week for the Scotland open side. On Monday he was at Murrayfield to pick up the Five Nations Trophy and the following evening there was a first-ever Premiership win at Wasps.

Here, Pountney's predatory instincts bore fruit in the 42nd and 49th minutes. First Pountney followed up after Simon Fenn had cut down a tryline- bound charge by Lam from a pass by Matt Allen. Then the Northampton No 7 rounded off a slick move stemming from Rodber's off-the-top line-out tap.

When Craig Moir plunged into the corner for another try after 51 minutes the match was firmly in the bag. Scottish's battling spirit earned them a try from the replacement Ian McAusland but they were finished off by tries from Lam and Dawson in the last four minutes.

Northampton: N Beal; C Moir, A Northey (D Dantiacq, 51), M Allen (A Blyth, 79), B Cohen; A Hepher, M Dawson; M Volland (M Hynes, 40), F Mendez, M Stewart (C Johnson, 65), J Phillips, T Rodber (capt, S Hepher, 58)), G Seely, P Lam, B Pountney,

London Scottish: M Binns (I McAusland, 40); K Milligan, J Bonney, R Eriksson, C Sharman (J Phillip, 40); J de Beer, G Easterby; P Johnstone, D Rudham (D Cummins, 65), P Burnell, E Jones, M Watson (G Manson-Bishop, 65), S Fenn, S Holmes (capt), R Hunter (T Davies, 65).

Referee: C Rees (London).

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