Rugby Union: Newcastle 156, Rugby 5

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The unequal contest faced by most rugby teams in Courage League Two this season was underlined yesterday when Newcastle ran up a cricket score.

Rob Andrew's expensive band of internationals and glittering wannabes savaged Rugby Lions to the tune of 156-5 on an afternoon of prodigious scoring in the top two English divisions.

The home side, a mere 73-0 ahead at half-time before stepping up yet another gear, ran in 24 tries. Leading the way, as he has all season, was the Scotland and British Lions scrum-half Gary Armstrong with a hat- trick which lifted his tally to 11 tries in five league games.

Newcastle's three other hat-trick heroes were their captain Dean Ryan, hooker Ross Nesdale and prop George Graham while director of rugby Andrew weighed in with 18 conversions

Tony Underwood, Matt Tetlow, Nick Popplewell and John Bentley each claimed two tries and the other touchdowns came from Tim Stimpson, Andrew Blyth, Steve Bates and Doddie Weir. Rugby's only solace was a try of their own from Richard Pell.

Newcastle's astonishing performance totally eclipsed the national leagues' previous record winning margin, the 91-21 victory achieved by Harlequins at West Hartlepool last season.

Ironically, another League Two side, Coventry, also broke the record yesterday with a 102-22 home win over Nottingham which was made to look quite ordinary in the light of Newcastle's exploits. Harlequins, not to be outdone, went within two points of their benchmark with an 89-18 thrashing of Orrell while Richmond, League Two's other big spenders, clobbered Moseley 87-15 at The Reddings.

Coventry clocked up 14 tries including four from right-wing Andrew McAdam and a hat-trick for player-coach Derek Eves. Richmond helped themselves to 14 tries as well with hat-tricks from Jim Fallon and Scott Quinnell, whose brother Craig also went over twice.

With London Scottish losing 31-23 at home to Blackheath, Newcastle went to the top of the table with Richmond leapfrogging the Exiles into second place.

Harlequins apart, the scoring was more sedate in League One where there were morale-boosting wins for Saracens and Leicester. Sarries always had the edge at Bristol where they won 21-11, thanks largely to two tries from their giant wing Kris Chesney. And Leicester overcame stubborn resistance at West Hartlepool with a 30-18 success in which John Liley's kicking was the difference between two sides who scored three tries apiece.

In Scotland, champions Melrose maintained their 100 per cent record by beating Heriot's 62-18 and Munster regained Ireland's inter-provincial title after a tense battle with Ulster.

Chris Rea, page 26