Rugby Union: O'Leary's double dose for Richmond

Harlequins 41 Richmond 12
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The Independent Online
IT IS possible that Richmond, bedevilled at home by revolting residents, could share the Stoop ground of their neighbours Harlequins next season. It is one of several options and, if it happens, it might be a sound move financially, but perhaps they should go the whole hog and merge the teams. It may be their best chance of producing a successful XV.

Despite considerable resources, both clubs are languishing in the nether regions of the Premiership with nothing left to play for this season except self-respect. Richmond had a lot less of that yesterday after suffering their ninth defeat in 14 matches in the league.

In the current climate of blaming the coach driver when the wheels come off, the directors of rugby, Andy Keast of Harlequins and John Kingston of Richmond, have not been walking under any ladders recently. They may be under-achievers in the capital on a Tottenham Hotspur scale, but Kingston has already received a vote of confidence from the executive, who are at pains to point out that this is not to be confused with soccer-speak's euphemism for the kiss of death. However, that was before this latest set-back.

As for Keast, he suggested that the Premiership is the "strongest competitive league ever". He added: "This is good for English rugby and I do not agree with certain RFU officials who believe the game needs ethnic cleansing." An unfortunate phrase, but presumably he was referring to the number of foreign players in the Premiership.

Quins welcomed back Thierry Lacroix after injury (and Chris Sheasby from Wasps) and the Frenchman contributed 21 points, 16 of them in the first half. Playing with a strong wind, Quins established a 31-0 lead at half- time, scoring four smart tries, although at times the Richmond defence, conspicuous by its absence, seemed to be having a sly drag behind the bike sheds.

Nick Walshe created the first try with a break from a scrum, presenting Daren O'Leary with the freedom of the Stoop before Lacroix created one for Bill Davison and then scored himself, beating Matt Pini as if he wasn't there. When O'Leary scored his second try and Quins' fourth he did the same to Ben Harvey.

Richmond, whose anaemic display can only partially be excused by an under- strength team, at least got a couple of tries in the second half but they never looked like staging a serious comeback, especially when the Quins' centre, Peter Mensah, had the IQ to pick up a loose ball and score under the posts.

On Keast's ethnic front, the good news for Quins is that Zinzan Brooke was at the ground and his sheer presence seemed to raise the performance of the forwards, with Sheasby and Davison outstanding. Brooke will be responsible for coaching the forwards from next week, the not so good news being that he is not eligible to play until next season. It's all to do with his contract with the New Zealand RFU.

England's leading clubs, in their on-going skirmishes with the RFU, are themselves becoming experts on the subject of players' contracts, particularly when it comes to the fine print.

Yesterday, Harlequins could afford to omit the Wales lock, Gareth Llewellyn, and they were also without their Lions' hooker, Keith Wood, who was doing sterling service for Ireland in Paris. Richmond, on the other hand, could ill afford the absence of Scott Quinnell and they made the mistake of beginning the match without Scott's brother, Craig, the Lions' hooker, Barry Williams, and the Wales A scrum-half, Andy Moore.

Harlequins: S Stewart; D O'Leary (H Harries, 72), J Keyter (T Tollett, 40), P Mensah, D Luger; T Lacroix (capt), N Walshe; J Leonard, T Billups, A Yates, B Davison, L Gross, A Leach, C Sheasby, L Cabannes.

Richmond: M Pini; J Fallon, J Wright, M Deane, D Chapman; A Davies, B Harvey (A Moore, 40); D McFarland, A Cuthbert (B Williams, 59), J Davies (D Crompton, 59), A Codling (C Quinnell, 40), C Gillies, R Martin, B Clarke (capt), R Hutton.

Referee: A Spreadbury (Somerset).

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