Rugby Union: Northampton push through

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The Independent Online
Northampton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

Newcastle Gosforth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

BETTER a lion than a Christian. Newcastle Gosforth were given such a dreadful mauling at Franklins Gardens yesterday that it is hard to gauge the extent of the psychological damage inflicted upon them.

The Northampton forwards were in complete control at the line-out, where Martin Bayfield was a veritable tower of strength. They had so many points at which to aim, and if it was not Bayfield then it was odds-on that it would be John Etheridge or Tim Rodber. In the scrum, too, Northampton held sway with John Olver taking countless strikes against the head.

Their scrummage was irresistible and so was their mauling. Little wonder then that four of the five tries scored on a greasy surface were by the forwards, two from the ageless Wayne Shelford and two for Gavin Baldwin, who appears to have broken out of the muscular strait-jacket which tended to restrict so much of his movement about the field.

It was clear from the very first scrum that Newcastle Gosforth were in for a thoroughly uncomfortable afternoon. If their resistance was low at the beginning it was almost non-existent by the close when Northampton were contemplating pushover tries from a range of fully 30 yards. But full credit to the Second Division side for succumbing only once to the temptation to collapse the scrum.

Their determination in defence was just as admirable and even when the Northampton backs were weaving their most intricate patterns in the final quarter, they could find no way through Newcastle's barriers. Ian Chandler at full-back and Mark White on the wing put in a number of thunderous tackles inches from their own goal line. And Ross Wilkinson lost no opportunity in testing the quality of Northampton's midfield mettle, although it must be said that the opportunities were few and far between.

The finest tribute that can be paid to them, however, was that Harvey Thorneycroft was the only Northampton back to slip through the net. Had John Steele been remotely in harmony with his boot then the margin of victory would have been greatly embarrassing to a side which still aspires to the First Division. But he was successful with only three kicks at goal, two penalties in the first half and the conversion of Baldwin's first try.

Into the freshening wind in the second half he was unable to convert any of Northampton's three tries, two of them pushovers by Shelford and one by Baldwin, who showed both pace and skill in scooping the ball off the ground after Olver had been in the vanguard of yet another cavalry charge.

If it was a day for the Northampton forwards, the backs were ever alert to the many opportunities offered to them, Ian Hunter, Matthew Dawson, Frank Packman and Thorneycroft injecting pace and power into everything they did.

Northampton have just signed Paul Grayson, of Waterloo, for next season, which will give them formidable strength in depth; and there is the exciting prospect of England's next half-back pairing playing together with one of the country's most ambitious and best organised clubs.

Northampton: I Hunter; N Beal, F Packman, R MacNaughton, H Thorneycroft; J Steele, M Dawson; G Baldwin, J Olver (capt), G Pearce, J Etheridge, M Bayfield, P Walton, W Shelford, T Rodber.

Newcastle Gosforth: I Chandler; T Penn, R Wilkinson, N Robinson, M White; D Johnson, S Douglas; R Fuller, N Frankland (capt), P Thompson, S Gibbs, A Meadows, G Clark, R Arnold, E Jobling-Purser.

Referee: T Spreadbury (Somerset)

Scorers: Steele (pen, 5 min, 3-0); Baldwin / Steele (try / conv, 12 min, 10-0); Steele (pen, 27 min, 13-0); Johnson (pen, 30 min, 13-3); Thorneycroft (try, 35 min, 18-3); Shelford (try, 50 min, 23-3); Baldwin (try, 55 min, 28-3); Shelford (try, 76 min, 33-3).

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