Rugby Union: Newcastle in need of greater quality control

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The Independent Online
Newcastle Gosforth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

Orrell. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

WITH nothing much to play for except northern pride in this rearranged First Division match, Newcastle - already relegated after just one season in the top flight - have belatedly discovered the form which could have kept them there.

Newcastle have never fully recovered from their harsh initiation to First Division realities in September, when they crashed to Orrell, 42-12 at Edge Hall Road. The downward slide continued until, two weeks ago, Mick Mahoney, their director of coaching, paid the price for failure and was dismissed.

Since then, Newcastle have won at London Irish and beaten Orrell, to suggest that it has all been Mahoney's fault. The truth, as the first-team coach, Steve Gustard, is quick to acknowledge lies elsewhere. 'We were naive; me, Mike and everyone else at the club. Going up as Division Two champions we knew it would be difficult, but not as hard as things have turned out.

'We've used 42 players in our league matches this season and only about a dozen of them are up to

Division One Standard. We need more quality and fresh talent.'

Gustard will hope that one of the elite on whom Newcastle depend heavily, will make a full recovery before attempting to revive his, and the club's, fortunes in next season's Second Division. The former England B scrum-half Steve Douglas dislocated his right ankle in the dying minutes of a depressingly poor game.

Douglas's fearful injury came as Steve Bibby was being driven over the line to score Orrell's second try. If Gerry Ainscough had succeeded with the conversion, Newcastle's thunderous defensive performance would have gone unrewarded.

Newcastle Gosforth: Try Frankland; Conversion Johnson; Penalties Johnson 2. Orrell: Tries Hamer, Bibby; Conversion Ainscough.

Newcastle Gosforth: D Bennett; D Casado, R Wilkinson, I Chandler, T Penn, D Johnson (capt), S Douglas (M Tetlow, 81); M Fraser, A Hetherington, P Vanzandvliet, J Fowler, F Mitchell (G Archer, 40), R Hoole, N Frankland, G Clark.

Orrell: S Taberner (capt); I Wynn, P Johnson, M Farr, P Hamer; G Ainscough, D Topping; P Winstanley, G French, M Hynes (D Southern, 49), C Brierley, C Cooper, P Manley, S Bibby, H Parr.

Referee: G Davies (Liverpool).